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The latest from the Clipper Race from our ambassador Xi Yuan.

6 Jan 2020

China’s Xi Yuan shares his latest news from on-board Sanya after their passage to Freemantle following the start collision in Cape Town

The Southern Ocean has treated us well, way better than I expected before the race. Maybe I should hold my word since there is a new low‐pressure system arriving later today and wind could be as strong as 70 knots. Who knows how well or bad I will cope with it?

On our boat we have a three‐watch system, my daily routine are as follows, all in UTC:

• 0000 ‐ 0400: On deck watch

• 0400: Breakfast

• 0400 ‐ 1200: Eight‐hour long rest (Seven and a half hours of sleep for me)

• 1200: Lunch

• 1200 ‐1600: On deck watch

• 1600 ‐2000: Support watch (cooking dinner plus sometimes I got called up on deck to help with sail change, etc)

•  2000: Dinner

•  2000 ‐ 2400: Four‐hour rest (another three‐hour sleep in my case)

Today is the last day of my dinner duty, so far I have cooked 9 times in this race, no more on board cooking for me. Don’t get me wrong, it was great fun cooking for so many people, apart from once, when I got seasick so bad that I could not move! Thanks to our on‐board media crew Guan for lending a hand. That saved us from hunger, despite receiving a complaint from another crew about not doing the cooking, it was totally worth it.

So far it was pretty good, cooking only takes me half an hour to prep and another half to cook. Since I did most of the cooking, my teammates were kind enough to allow me to skip the serving duty which in total gives me around 2.5 hours of reading time every day. So far, I have finished 3 out of 5 of my planned reading for this leg which I am very proud of. I was deeply worried that I wouldn’t finish my goal at the beginning, as I wasn’t feeling too well due to seasickness ‐ luckily that’s all gone. I would highly recommend one of the books I’ve just read, it’s called Sex in the Sea written by Mariah J. Hardt. It has nothing to do with us sailors but all about marine life and to be specific, its reproduction. I believe there is no better place to read this book than floating on the top layer of the ocean.

On deck work can be fulfilling, in the past three days, my morning watches were racing headsail change from Yankee 3 to 2 on day 1, racing Headsail change from Yankee 2 to 1 on day 2, Yankee 1 lowering, hank repairs and put them back up again on day 3. It takes around two hours to finish these tasks which keeps our four‐hour watch time very busy. Maybe it doesn’t sound much but it truly is hard work. Just imagine this, our Yankee 1 is 168.43 m2, it usually takes 5‐6 people to drag it down, the wind and waves aren’t helping at all, because we are racing most of the time we need to remain on the target course and this only makes it harder. Every time we finish, we are all exhausted, there is no exception.

Luckily this year we have the Spinlock Vito life jacket, which is the best you can get in the market. Apart from all the essential features required by law, they have additional lights to make it much easier to spot. It is straightforward to put on and take off, and very comfortable to wear, not as the traditional life jacket which all the weight lies on your neck, its weight is distributed evenly, just like a compact backpack. The hydrostatic firing head is very reliable, we have had zero misfires on our boat so far.

My biggest surprise of the journey so far is how boring it can be on deck. Most of the time, we have 1 helmsman, 1 supporting helmsman/main trimmer/spotter, one person on Vang when we go downwind and maybe a grinder, the rest of the people don’t have much to do. In Southern Ocean, it can get very cold, it took most of our energy to stay warm not leaving much room to socialise. People are asked to stay on deck unless the weather is at it worst even if some of them are just sitting in the cold and doing nothing. Literally nothing! To me this part is truly a waste of time, these are the hours that I can never get back. During the cold hours I felt meaningless. I m not in any way making the boat go faster, on the contrary, I believe this slows us down. When people are fatigued, they become inactive, move slower, prone to make mistakes, and risk injury to themselves and people around them. I think we should all be at our best when on deck, whether this is the whole session or only 20 minutes it does not matter. We all have our physical constraints; everyone does their best. As long as we are in no way making the boat slower, we are good!

Fortunately, the weather has improved in the past few days and we did manage to squeeze in some chatting, so its not totally wasted. I do miss my family and friends a lot, can’t wait to speak to them in time. Tomorrow is a new day, still half‐way to go. Hopefully, everything turns out to be fine.

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