© James Blake/Volvo Ocean Race
Read the latest updates from team AkzoNobel sail trimmer Emily Nagel as the crew make their way from Cardiff to Gothenburg on Leg 10.
Thursday June 14
Well it’s safe to say we found the wind. Rounding the top of Scotland we went from flat water and smooth sailing into slightly more chaotic seas. The current up there races round the top, at times giving us an extra 8 knots of boat speed. Unfortunately this leads to a rather unhappy sea state.
The plan was to drop the J1 straight away but with the sea state it was too rough to send anyone forward, so we opted to hold on to the sail longer and wait for a safer opportunity. Turns out this played to our advantage. The evening was tough to say the least, we were being thrown about the boat and everything onboard became difficult, helming, grinding, or even just moving across the deck.
Down below was equally stressful, both Justin and I passed on our normal evening freeze dried meal (which never happens) and you don’t want to get me started on going forward into the bow to use the toilet. While we were able to have some time in the bunk it was more about keeping our weight as far outboard as possible. It’s a little tricky to sleep when you're sliding around in your bunk.
When the breeze began to build again we had to make a change to a smaller sail, so all hands on deck! Pretty good thing we did, as soon the wind was constantly holding 35+ knots with some gusts in the 40s and we were still close reaching. Wet, bouncy and pretty painful at times. Stray waves would flatten you if you were caught off guard, folding you in half on the pedestal (I have some nicely bruised ribs) or in Martine’s case, laying her out flat on her back.
On the plus side though, we were absolutely sending it. Into the early hours of the morning Dongfeng appeared out of the fog, not in front of us, but to leeward, meaning we had rolled them. Now the only mission was to keep them behind and catch the next two boats.
We pushed hard, changing to the J0 at the earliest chance, rather overpowered at times but after the last leg we knew we could handle it. We managed to put some distance between TTOP, Dongfeng and ourselves but didn’t quite manage to catch those in front. We could see Brunel and Mapfre as they rounded the final lighthouse, but they were just out of reach so we would have to settle with third.
With one leg to go now it’s starting to set in that the race is almost over. It’s been an incredible year having the opportunity to learn from some of the best sailors in the world. It’s been brutal at times, heart breaking and an astounding mental and physical challenge. Yet at the same time a completely awe inspiring and addictive experience which really does get in your blood.
While I have no post-race plans as of yet, I know one thing for certain, I won’t be far from the water. There’s plenty of time for planning the future after the race though, right now it’s time to get ready for one final push. We may not be able to get a position on the overall podium, but that doesn’t mean we can’t steal one more podium place for the final leg.
One last sprint! Bring it on!
Wednesday June 13
Well that didn't go as planned. Despite the conditions not being as bad last night as originally expected things didn't exactly go our way. Justin and I came up on deck early evening to find ourselves in a completely different position to when we had gone to sleep. We hadn't had the best speed when we had been on deck and coupled with some tough shifts things had gotten worse while we slept.
It's always tough when this happens. Natural instinct is to blame those on deck but the key to a strong team is realizing that everyone has good and bad watches. Sometimes one driver might be better in some conditions than others but usually it's luck of the draw with the current conditions and the shifts that the other boats are getting. You quickly learn to just get up on deck and get on with it and figure out how to make the boat go faster – or in my case grind even harder.
Early this morning the conditions picked up and we had a few hours of blasting along on the J0. Fast and wet. Up to 30 knots of wind meant a couple of wipe outs but gave us a chance to chase the other boats in conditions that we've previously shown strong in.
Unfortunately the wind has since shifted round meaning we had to change off onto the J1. Quite an unpleasant task in these conditions as it means hanking it on to the forestay while getting smashed by waves. The annoying part is that at some point this is going to have to come down when we get to the top of Scotland as the conditions increase more.
With no furler it's a pretty physical task so bracing myself now for that pain! It's definitely those moments why we ask ourselves what on earth are we doing out here. But it's these challenges that make the race the race. We wouldn't be out here if it were easy. If we want to see pretty islands and dolphins there are much easier ways to do that!
Under 500 miles to go now but with a few more transitions plenty of time for position changes. Charging after Brunel and the red boats, it's not over yet...
Tuesday June 12
Day 2 - Who needs sleep?
Not more than an hour after I retired to the bow yesterday afternoon the breeze decided to roll in and once again we were off! In quite a panic stricken, only wearing thermals on the bow in 20 knots kind of way. Quite a sudden build! Only pair of socks are now rather soggy.... Worth it though as after placing ourselves inshore of the others we managed to get the wind first and set off for an evening of island dodging.
Chocolate, coffee and chocolate coated coffee beans. The secrets behind staying awake onboard when you're called up on deck every hour to tack. As shattered as we were though we were leading through the islands into the early evening and this spurred us on. The dramatic scenery helped as well. Sailing up through the islands was incredible. Especially when we passed the islands that the last Star Wars was filmed, "Punch it Chewie".
Overnight unfortunately Mapfre pulled ahead again. Lunch time today was a bit of deja vu as we reached the ridge of light winds and had to battle through, spinning in circles trying to keep ahead of the group behind.
Tensions are high now for the weather tonight. Brad and I spent last watch preparing the bow as much as possible. Despite the wind not coming for another 10 hours! It's strange how even after 40,000 Nm you still feel a little nervous seeing the high winds on the nav station. And everyone still hates getting wet. With only two days to go we are prepared to push hard. Even in heinous weather tonight we know it's only going to be another two days. Which is a weird feeling when the leg only just started!
Getting distracted now by dolphins on the bow. Definitely going to miss that after the race. Most of the team are awake at the moment, despite being tired, everyone's struggling to sleep, a lot of adrenaline being so close to Mapfre. Or they’re waiting for me to put out today's snacks...
Monday June 11
Day 1 - Across the Irish Sea
Not quite the high adrenaline start that the spectators were hoping for, drifting out of the Bristol Channel in three knots of breeze, but tensions were high none the less as the pressure was on the navigators to get us out of the channel before the tide turned. As we passed along the Welsh coastline the breeze did eventually pick up but brought a few tricky transitions for us as it went from two knots to 20 and, as we approached Ireland, before dropping back to two. This has meant not only many sail changes but lead changes as well. We’re now constantly leap frogging other teams having rounded the Fastnet rock literally right next to TTOP.
Now past Mizen Head we’re trying to get north, although the breeze has different plans. I can't complain too much about the light air as we know that by the time we get to Scotland we will be dealing with possibly 45 knots on our beam. It’s not going to be a comfy ride up there! There have been a lot of spectators along the way, with both dolphins and some Irish locals coming out to Fastnet to say hello! Justin has been looking longingly at the gannets and dolphins wishing he had a fishing rod. Now off to try and get some rest in the bow, which may be difficult with Simo's snoring!