My greatest fear starting this race would be that I would be the one to go overboard, didn’t happen! Whoop whoop! Ok, so my ‘bar’ was low, but this leg was always going to be hard and dangerous. We’ve had broaches, phenomenal storms, freezing cold and hurricanes. We came through them laughing and unbeaten. We didn’t get a winners pennant, which was a disappointment, but the boat and we came through with a few bumps and scrapes but nowt to worry about. That’s a good result innit!
Arriving in QingDao was fun, the port and yacht club couldn’t have been more welcoming and I had a few days with the crew enjoying the city before joining the boat proper-like. Best thing about QingDao was the people who were so keen to engage and ask questions about life in the UK….simple stuff, such as what do you eat? How does your Medicare work? They were helpful and treated us like distinguished visitors. I showed a school of teenagers around the boat who had prepared a series of questions in English to ask me….”so , distinguished visitor to my city….would you prefer to referred to as a sailor or a warrior?!” They were adorable to the point that a short while after they had left one young girl returned with a beautifully calligraphic letter thanking me. It was full of (she said) inspirational quotes to lift my spirits with things got difficult. I’ll treasure that…even if I can’t read the quotes as they’re in Chinese.
So, we left and started sailing, my sailing sis Becca waving goodbye as we left QingDao behind.
The sailing wasn’t bad, took a week or so if I’m honest for the training to come back and although it made the journey a bit longer the slow going at the start due to fishing vessels, seaweed snarls and fog meant it gave me a wee bit of time to re-learn and refresh the stuff I’d forgot.
I had an amazing watch team….Nano , from Uruguay was my watch leader and I have learned so much from him, and Maz the queen of the cockpit who has passed her knowledge of how to work ropes and lines to me. Mikey Star has taught me how to repair and stitch sails (which I really enjoy…I know, right!), Neil welcomed me to the boat and showed me what’s what, Mikey shoulder from the West Country, has vastly increased my knowledge of pasties and their history, Lovely Dan, the best sailor and funniest drunk I think I have ever met and last but not least Taff, my lovely welsh fireman who helped me get through the super cold night watches with dexercise (exercising at 45 degrees is tricky) and rock choir. We discovered that we have a rare and seriously debilitating condition…..we can’t sing and only ever know the first line and chorus to every song ever written. It’s a curse but we endured! I’m not sure it was as much fun for the poor buggers that had to listen to us! Sorry guys!
The crew on the other watch were awesome too with a couple of honourable mentions to Kathy, my competitor for mother of the leg award, the kindest person I think I know, and Fretts, my bunk buddy and real life buddy and flat mate in port.
So what have I discovered? I not a natural sailor and I have to work very hard to understand the technical side of sailing. Not a problem and it doesn’t stop me enjoying myself….there is so much expertise on the boat and people are always willing to share . That’s said I still have a fair bit of time on the boat to go, so I have the luxury of time on my side.
I am a little accident prone…..when the boat bumped a wave I poured scalding water out of the kettle onto my leg and now have a battle scar. I’m going to tell people it’s a shark bite as its way more sexy. I also fell or rather, flew, from one side of the saloon to the other….fortunately my head broke my fall as I hit the wet locker. James and Dodge, our medics, wee awesome and the event passed without any drama, but I still have a lumpy head 🤕. Dr Dodges bedside manner is famous….’do you have a pulse? You’ll live!’ Surprisingly reassuring and welcome when you have injuries that you’d think about taking a duvet day for at home. You can’t have duvet days on a 24 hour racing watch system as at some point your bunk buddy will need your bed!
I didn’t get seasick…..that’s a relief!
I like the sea, it’s mesmerising, never still and sailing at night with a black sky and stars brighter than I have ever seen them is just plain overwhelming at times. Couple that with dolphins chasing the boat, covered in glittering phosphorescence, both spooky and cheeky at once. They are clearly curious about the boat and we spent a good hour just eyeballing each other. Just thinking about how truly special that was gets me all teary!
I get teary a lot! I haven’t been sad , a touch homesick at times, but i find the emotions that I have experienced, hourly,daily on this race are intense. This is like some weird social experiment where you put a load of people on s super stressful environment, not unlike being churned in a tumble dryer set to ‘bloody baltic’. My way of coping was to take an hour at a time, a watch at a time, and to try desperately hard not to take anything that annoyed or upset me below deck at the end of my watch. I also cry when I’m happy, and when I see beautiful things like whales and dolphins. I even tried my finding Nemo Dory whale voice……pretty unsuccessfully tbh!
Cold is not for me. I have NEVER been so cold in my life, there were times when it was so cold we couldn’t do more than an hour on deck. I’d come down and take the hours break before I went back up again just to get rid of the painful tingling and burning in my hands. Sometimes it didn’t stop. I came off watch one day and couldn’t drink my soup off the spoon as my cold shakes were shaking the soup off the spoon. Thanks to Maz for rubbing my limbs back to circulation and Lance for the loan of the hot water bottle. Seriously a life saver. At times I had layers on layers, and would wake up from my 4 hour off watch in my super toasty sleeping bag wondering how much I could pay a crew buddy to cover my shift and leave my in the only warm place on the boat!
So much has happened , I’ve learned so much about myself. I’m braver than I thought I was, I’m stronger emotionally than I thought. And I’m small! An emerging theme throughout this trip has been my height……
Started with Nano, when he couldn’t see me behind the helm saying ‘Lyndy Giggs, you are small’ and it went from there. If you need a small ease on a line, you do a ‘Lyndy ease’, if you want a really small ease, you do a ‘Lyndy pinkie ease’ etc etc. I’m thinking of trading my sleeping bag in for a grow bag!
So how do I feel about the next leg, sailing through the Panama Canal and into New York? Excited and more confident about how much more I can contribute to the boat which is a nice, nice feeling!
I’m excited that Paul’s going to be there, I didn’t even begin to comprehend that distance without contact is bloody hard. Really bloody hard, but I know he’s proud of me and that matters a lot and has really helped get through some of the tougher days. Will be one helluva emotional reunion.Paul so get the tissues ready!
And last but not least, thank you all for your best wishes, it’s hard to find time in a busy racing environment to respond to them all, but it helps so much to know you’re watching , that you care and continue to support me in the biggest undertaking of my life.
Keep watching and thinking pink!