A letter from the Pindar Nipper

Sophie Luther describes her time on the Pindar boat heading for the Eqautor in the Global Challenge

Wednesday October 20th 2004, Author: Sophie Luther, Location: Transoceanic
It's eight o'clock in the morning and I am just getting off the second of my night watches. We are trucking along at nine knots down wind heading towards the Doldrums rapidly. After 17 days at sea we are nearly at the half way point and everyone of the crew has adjusted to life on our yacht, the mighty Pindar.

So, to go back a couple of steps.... a few weeks ago Pindar decided to sponsor Laurence Marriott's team for the Global Challenge race and as part of this, they had a space for the first leg. When Andrew Pindar rang to offer it to me - I jumped at the chance. It's over 6000 miles from Portsmouth to Buenes Aires and an excellent way of getting some more offshore miles under my belt. In between being accepted on the crew and actually leaving, I managed to squeeze in my Ocean Master theory at UKSA which has meant I have been able to do my sextant sights and get to practice some of my new skills while afloat.

Despite the race being primarily for amateurs and sailing for many of the crew being something they are fairly new too, there is still lots of new things for me to learn. I get to trim, helm and use the onboard systems as well as be part of the tactical decisions, which is one of the nicest things about this yacht - we all have a say in what is going on and are all fully in the loop with every part of the race. What better way to learn?

Despite the whirlwind of different events and experiences since winning the Pindar Sailing Scholarship only six months ago, I was definitely a bit apprehensive about getting onboard a yacht with 17 strangers who have all known each other for at least a year (if not more) but I have to say, it's turned out to be great. I have learnt how to be more patient and tolerant (as we all have I think) - being on a 72ft yacht in this heat with 17 others has meant that this is the only way to function without a total meltdown!!

In my own way I have found the pace different in comparison to the other yachts I have sailed recently but it's all about getting into the groove of the race.

I'll talk you through a typical day on board... We have 17 crew and our skipper and so we are split into two watches. While one watch sleeps and has their down time the other watch is up on deck racing the boat as hard as possible. The two watches then swap over, this allows us to be sure we are keeping the yacht at the peak of performance (or trying to, anyway)!

This watch system starts at half seven: for the off watch they first eat breakfast and then have to be up on deck at eight o'clock for a six hour watch. Lunch is at two, when there is also a watch change for the afternoon session of six hours. Through the night we have three lots of four hour watches. With this rotation it allows each watch to have an equal amount of night time sailing.

Food time becomes the most important part of the day and keeps morale high. The food is cooked by, what we lovingly call, Mother watch. This consists of two people (one person from each watch team) who, for a 24 hour period, have to cook all of the food, clean the boat from top to bottom and write the daily logs to sponsors and race HQ. They then get 12 hours solid kip which is quite a luxury!!

However there is a snag - sleeping at the moment is pretty impossible due to the heat. Not only is the general atmospheric temperature high but the galley produces so much heat from cooking that the boat is literally a suana - for the past few days, people have resorted to sleeping in the sail locker in the bow for want of a fresh breeze.

As will come as no great surprise, we also seem to be getting used to each others smells now.... At first the overpowering smell of sweat and stinky shoes was horrid in the cabins but now we hardly notice it! We are only allowed one shower per three days which is more of a lather up and sprinkle a little water over you affair but I have to say this is more than I was expecting so it was a pleasant surprise.

There is a lot more comfort on the yacht than I thought there was going to be. We have good food and everyone has their own bunk, we have things like Ribena and a snack bag each that is supposed to last us a week. It all keeps you going so I suppose it is worth the weight that carrying it on board adds. But, as on most of the yachts I have sailed on weight is always such a contentious issue, it seems a little bit strange to have
an oven and grill on a race yacht as well as a five ring hob!!!

The yacht itself is about 45 tonnes and it takes alot to get it moving in under five knots of breeze (you almost feel as if you are going backwards ) but in 15 and above you feel like you're moving at a decent pace. We have manged to get a top speed of 21.4 in about 40 knots but we are averaging about ten knots boat speed.

We all have our specific roles onboard during our watch, but as the weather is so hot we are all taking it in turns to trim the sails and drive in half hour blocks to maintain concentration and allow people to move into the shade. I find myself trimming the spinnaker quite often, but I am also enjoying teaching some of the others how to do this. As a legger it is important for me to help the core crew as much as possible, if I can show them how to do something a little quicker or make it easier then hopefully when they have 60 knots in the Southern Ocean, they will know that much more and it will be that little bit easier.

In my spare time I mostly eat, sleep, wash my one pair of shorts and my two T-shirts (yep I packed light!!) and try to get on the computer. As you can imagine 18 people trying to keep in touch with friends and family is a 24 hour process so time is limited (there is also a washing line power struggle between watches - but that is a whole different story!!).

We are chasing down Team Stelmar, with the 'Kids' (Team Save the Children) and 'Teletubbies' (Me to you) behind us - We are on a fast, forward run and with the rest of the fleet soon entering the 'parking lot' (Doldrums) there is all to play for.

From all on Team Pindar and particularly me - Until next time - Sophs aka 'Pindar Nipper'x

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