James H details more of the latest trial that the crew have faced on deck...
"Bit of an eventful day yesterday. Most importantly, we are all still safe and well! An encounter with a squall this morning has left us without some crucial pieces of equipment, and a 500 mile limp to the finish over the next few days.
We had our Race4Rene spinnaker up and were absolutely flying in the morning, hitting the highest speeds of the race so far. Ten minutes later, we were hit by some savage gusts of wind and a spinnaker pole downhaul (rope mechanism that controls how much the spinnaker can fill with wind) failure later, we came the closest to going for a swim that we’ve managed so far. The timing was particularly unfortunate for those on the off watch, who were just beginning to wake up after their night shift. Miki was left frantically scrambling around deck in his pyjamas, and Ivo’s morning bathroom visit included an unexpected shower.
After some great work from all the crew, we were able to get back under control and on course, albeit having taken some damage. Our main sail tore itself apart, and the spinnaker pole has a pretty significant bend.
Thanks to the repair and mast climbing skills of skipper Gareth and first mate Elliot, we have managed to right the ship. Unfortunately, our combination of sails now looks like something you might pick up in a car boot sale. It’s not pretty, but so far it’s doing the job. So far we have managed to cling on to our position in the race, but it will take everything from all of us to hold on until the end!
We need the strongest winds possible to minimise our disadvantage against board with a full repertoire of sails. The upside is that there is far less risk of any serious incident now than before. Every cloud has a silver lining..."
Daily blog from Dan H today!
"As Fatboy Slim once said, “Eat, sleep sail repeat” (or something like that). Despite being almost two weeks in, the I0pm, 2am and 6am alarms never fail to confuse the crew. There are increasing mumours, perhaps premature, of what people will do when we get to St Lucia. What will come first, the cold beer or shower? I am not totally sure what is more important right now but the lingering musty smells suggests the latter. With only 4 days to go and sitting narrowly in second place, the abilities of the crew are being tested. Concentration is key throughout the days and nights to keep the boat moving steadily towards the Caribbean. At this rate a Tuesday arrival would be greeted to large amounts of enthusiasm. Morale and spirits within In the crew remain high. Any slight variation to the normal routine sparks excitement and curiosity.
There is definitely a curse every time the watch changes. The current watch often let the freshly awoken crew coming onto shift that their shift has been “easy sailing” and “not much has happened”. The following shift is promptly the complete opposite. Last night epitomised this. Shortly after a change over, a squall blew in over EH01. There were lightning quick reflexes from Miki who restored the correct boat angle and recover from a broach. Ivo, Jimmy, Max and myself hanging on hopelessly, hoping gravity wouldn’t send us for a late night swim (we were all strapped in too). Meanwhile the off-watch were awoken, finding themselves more or less on the ceilings of their bunks. A quick sail change ensued as Jimmy, helming at the time, unfortunately allowing the jib to smack the skipper in the face multiple times before an annoyed threat travelled down the length of the boat to not let it happen again. We laughed about the whole situation when our next shift started at 6, even making pancakes to cheer us up. Pygmy dolphins joined the morning party which also brought our first proper rain shower. The fast thinking members of the crew jumped out with swimming costumes, shower gel and towels in an attempt to remove some of the dirt and sweat covering their skin.
Simon and I decided it would be a fantastic idea to bake bread before lunch. Perhaps our tiredness and fatigue have made us loose the plot slightly but it promptly turned into a toddlers baking session, much to the disgust of ivo. Bread mix could be found in all corners of the boats kitchen as we played with the over the watered dough. We are still nervously awaiting the final products. On deck another lure is lost to a “monster” mahi mahi, our fishing game has not been living up the high expectations we had in our minds.
Personally, I have lost complete concept of time. The solid ground is a distant memory. Life beyond the boat seems strange and almost foreign. The Atlantic Ocean has become my second home. To think in just over a week I’ll be sitting back at my work desk like nothing had ever happened. But so much has, and this experience will be imposible to forget. The highs and lows both equally as important in such a gruelling adventure. Memories and friendships I will carry with me forever. However, I do very much look forward to cooking, cleaning and using the bathroom in a stationary room. Cleaning the heads in 25 knots of wind is, as one might expect, extremely unpleasant.
There is a reminder every time we go below deck to why we are putting ourselves through this. A photo of Rene, looking as handsome as ever, smiling and offering us encouragement for the last stretch of our journey. Perhaps it is this that is in the back of everyone’s mind. The suffering and struggles we are experiencing cannot even compare to what he went through in the last years of his life."
We're back with Harry today for our daily blog update. With less than 1000 miles to go, the crew have nearly on the final strait home - read more below....
"So it's day 12 on board HMS Race4Rene. Wind is still strong, and we have managed to speed our way to 2nd place in our category with just under 1000 miles left to go!
It has been an eventful few days at sea.
First mate Elliott has been teaching us his favourite French swear words, because as a group of young men we didn't quite have enough ways to insult each other.
We (James) managed to accidental gybe yesterday afternoon. Out of nowhere the boom flew across above our heads as we turned slightly too far away from the wind. Fortunately none of us were sat in Gareth's "danger zone", and all were unharmed, but we managed to snap off the vang (piece of metal holding the boom down). Luckily skipper Gareth managed to fashion a makeshift replacement out of some spare ropes, but unfortunately for the crew this has added a new and ridiculously loud sqeak to the boats repertoire of disconcerting noises made to make you anxious something terrible has happened while sleeping. I managed to get to sleep last night whilst listening to fan noises on repeat on my headphones.
Miki has developed a new bout of Miki flu and won't shut up about it. He has resorted to sleeping amongst the sails in his new illness boudoir.
We released a message in a bottle! We wanted to do this as a symbol of hope that no matter how isolated you might feel, there will always be someone to talk to. Fingers crossed this will be found in years to come and they will get in contact with us!
And finally, my personal favourite, Simon was hit in the face by a flying fish while having a cigarette on the deck.
I can't believe it's only 5 days left until we arrive in St Lucia. See you all on the other side!"
Today's blog comes from our very own Skipper, Gareth. Gareth has bravely taken on the challenge of leading a crew of novices across the Atlantic ocean - see how he thinks it's going so far by reading below!
"So today is my turn for the Race4Rene blog and what a trip so far. Before the start of the ARC the team came to Cowes to complete 4 days of training, followed by two more afternoons before the start... I was immediately impressed with how the guys picked up the skills needed to help them race across the pond, going from never being on a yacht before to taking up this massive task for such a great cause.
Each member has been putting their own stamp on the jobs at hand. My biggest concern at the start was the amount of helming under kite each of them have had, which would be the larger part of what they would be doing. The first few nights with out the help of the moonlight were hard but now they all jump at the chance to helm in the choppy sea conditions. Sometimes being the skipper feels more like being a mum; reminding the crew to keep the yacht clean, keep their kit in their bags and to clean up after cooking.
Everyday we have a happy hour where I cover the last 24hrs of racing, where I go over the amount of miles done, weather position in the race and what plans we have over the next 24hours.
We are now down to what I hope is the last week of racing, and at this point of the race it’s even more important than ever to keep us moving in the right heading with boat speed without damaging the yacht
The last 24 hours we have been taking things a little easy, just poling out a head sail with the main sail which is giving us a great angle to the waypoint and making it much easier to helm compared to the full on conditions of a kite. This is giving us a surf of up to 16kts. Now wwith over 1100nm to go we are pushing on to get in with 6 days time.
Wish us luck!
Today we have Ivo, one of Rene's old school friends. Read below to find about the moment where the crew finally experienced what it was like to have some proper sailing wind.
"I started off the afternoon shift today saying “what do I have to write about in the blog today, nothing has really happened”, which serves me right really.
Starting from yesterday afternoon, the wind hole that we found ourselves in for the previous few days had started to fill in and breezes were beginning to pick up. This was welcome news indeed, especially considering that the instruments were gloomily extrapolating from our sea snail pace that we were likely to still be bobbing around in the middle of the ocean come Christmas time.
Traditional greetings such as “Good morning” or “Hey how’s it going” were slowly morphing into things like “10 knots mate, 20 apparent” as people emerged from the hatch onto deck, normally accompanied by a grin and a smug brag about the top speed of the boat surfing down the swell.
Whilst daylight prevailed the mood kept up, and the unsophisticated predictions of our arrival time dramatically improved. Night time, however, lends a whole new set of challenges to what are very similar conditions during the day. The horizon disappears, the winds can be more changeable and the contours of the sea vanish leaving the helmsman to steer by ship’s compass and feel alone.
The store of rest built up by the crew during the quieter days of the race rapidly dwindled over night as rolling swells and some nervy helming forced many out of sleep and in one case Miki out of his bunk.
We were beginning to appreciate the toll that these favourable trade winds would extract from us in return for a faster passage and could now look forward to 8 days of surfing through the swell rather than 15 days languishing without wind.
It is at this juncture that I made my rather ill conceived comment about the uneventfulness of the day. We had opened the package given to us by Global Yacht Racing for when we reached our half way point at lunch and had happily donned the animal face masks, tooted listlessly on the party tooters and scoffed the mini toblerones and haribo contained within.
After lunch and the festivities subsided the off going watch descended to catch up on their sleep and my watch clipped in to begin our shift which started very promisingly indeed. The skipper was asleep below, the first mate was helming and we were making good ground over the undulating waves. Seemingly tired of this excellence we then managed to silently contrive between us to break some sort of record for how many times we could broach the boat in an hour. At the end of an hour and a half of helming that anyone would have been proud of, I crested a larger than usual summit, caught a gust to the beam and was blown mercilessly down the back of the wave sideways, all the while heeled over to an alarming extent and veering some 60 degrees off course in the process. In a matter of seconds, I had gone from being totally in control, to wild panic, to handing over the helm back to the first mate for him to sort out to finally sitting on my hands motionless and wide eyed in the cockpit trying vainly to pretend that nothing had happened. Downstairs in the cabins, the stunts on deck were being keenly felt and some admitted that they had been hanging onto the walls with drastic thoughts in their heads.
Not content with just one terrifying interruption to their rest we changed the helmsman and repeated our accidental aquatic buckaroo 3 further times with 2 more helmsmen before the hour was out. Dan was keen to avoid his turn at yacht ballet so went below to make a brownie tray bake for dinner. Alas Poseidon had it in for the humble tray bake as well, and the most violent of the broaches shed liquid brownie mix all over the gas ingress at the back of the oven and rendered the resulting dessert a contiguous wedge of biscuit-brownie-cake.
As I write this we have handed the ropes over to the other watch, have just finished dinner and are waiting to see if our newly discovered chocolate gradation pudding might just be the thing that will propel us through the week to a podium finish in St Lucia..."
Miki is our man with the blog today. Miki lived with Rene during their time together at Bristol University, and gives an entertaining insight into some of the challenges whilst crossing an Atlantic,,,,,
“Do you want to go on an adventure?”
What do you think I’m doing here Gareth..... (apart from raising awareness and money for our two great charities of course)
When the skipper asks you that question in the middle of the Atlantic you don’t say no. A slight problem arose during a sail change which required an innovative solution. Thankfully Gareth is not short of those, nor is he short of warm bodies to put in a harness and hoist up the spinnaker pole in a gentle breeze of 18 knots. Looking for any way to break up the vicious cycle of little sleep followed by pulling of some ropes, I became giddy with the idea of dangling up in the air and jumped into said harness without any persuading from the others. Parents I’m sure are glad to know that the manoeuvre (of which there should be a photo of below) worked splendidly and I managed to untangle the sheets (name for a rope) from the guys (another name for a rope).
As a whole the boat is in very good spirits now that we have some wind and are powering through the Atlantic. There is very little room for error if we are to make up the time lost during the wind barren days. The next week or so will be gruelling, concentration must be at an all time high however I believe we have in us provided certain individuals contain their excitement for excessive lean which might have resulted in me being thrown off my bed at 4.30 this morning.
Finally I would like to thank all our supporters, without you this amazing campaign would not have been possible.
P.S. can my housemates please remember to water my plants, thanks"
With week one done, we now tun to Max, René's dad, for today's daily update.
Max has been the driving force behind the community and concept of Race4Rene. His dedication to both our charities (Papyrus and Child Bereavement UK) and the crew has been awe inspiring to see, and we know that René would be extremely proud with everything that his dad and family have done in order to spread suicide awareness and create an environment where asking for help should not be as hard as crossing an ocean.
Take a look below to see Max's experience of the race so far:
"7 days at sea and love every minute.
We were treated with a pancake breakfast this morning, a perfect way to celebrate a week at sea.
The crew are gaining lots of experience as the race progress which will come in very handy as we chase down the competition to the finishing line. Not really a novice crew any longer.
James (Foster) received an surprise visit from Fiona the flying fish much to the delight of the rest of the crew. You had to be on board to appreciate this one, hilarious.
We adjusted our clocks on board by an hour today, one extra hour of rest for port watch. The clocks are turned back by an hour every couple of days, nice and gentle.
No showers for 7 days! Say no more...
Beard growing competition update: Simon is leading the proper beard category, Max the silver beard category and Jimmy is trying to figure out how this all works.
Such a special time with René’s friends on board, lovely to get to know everyone a little better. I am swapping watches tomorrow so I get to spend time with both watches. Wonder what René would make of all this?
We have a favourable weather forecast for tomorrow, looks like we finally get to ride those wild sea horses!"
Today's update comes from James Foster, who rowed with Rene at the University of Bristol Boat Club. Today marks a week since the race started, and the below gives a really interesting insight into how the first 7 days for the crew have gone.
"Firstly to my lovely mother, yes I am being careful, stop worrying!!
We are now nearly a week into the race and things have fallen into a vague routine. You’d think all the hours we spend on deck would get monotonous, but every day brings its own set of little things to enjoy, be it Harry directing people around the boat like a chessboard to try and squeeze an extra percentage of speed, or Simon’s electronic misadventures. If anyone is interested, there is a drone somewhere on the bottom of the ocean around two hundred miles off the coast of west Africa. Our skipper Gareth has been the perfect leader for our crew. He has known exactly when to remind us to sharpen our focus on keeping the boat going fast, when to radiate confidence in our progress, and when to come through with a round of chocolate biscuits if he knows we need it.
I am generally a pretty even-keeled person, but it has been a challenge at times dealing with the sense of powerlessness you feel when the wind decides not to show up. Knowing that even if we set the boat up right and sail it as well as we possibly can, there are boats hundreds of miles away who are tripling our speeds.
It’s been important to bear in mind that however frustrating the situation is, it has been made to feel worse because of the sleep deprivation and diet changes we’ve all been thrown into. No matter whether you’re sat on a boat in middle of the Atlantic, or just dealing with everyday life, even the smallest things are made harder to cope with when you’re running low on sleep.
Luckily, we have managed to maintain positive vibes after the initial shock to the system. There have been so many amazing moments sandwiched throughout that have constantly reinforced what a privilege it is to be out here. We have had almost daily dolphin visits, flying fish, and so much more. The overnight shift from Thursday really hit this home for me. Four hours at the helm gliding on calm seas, consistent breeze, clear skies, a new moon flanked by Venus and Jupiter, and the new Coldplay album on loop left me in disbelief about how lucky we are to be doing what we’re doing.
Things are looking up for the rest of the race. We crossed under the 2000 mile to go mark today. We had a tough couple of days in a wind hole, hitting as low as one mile per hour at times. When you’re sitting up on deck thinking about how you could outswim the boat at its current speed, it’s not a great sign! Forecasts are showing consistently strong breezes in our favour for the rest of the race, so we should hopefully claw back some places.
We have all got in a lot of hours on the helm and on sail trimming in calm conditions which should serve us well when the wind decides to show up again. We moved our clocks back for the first time today, a sign that we are making some inroads to the west! This was done by the highly scientific method of deciding it was too dark to be eating breakfast at 08:00 this morning and changing the time back an hour.
Finally, a big ol’ shoutout to the students and teachers of the King’s School Ely, who unless I truly have lost track of time are taking on a 12 hour rowing machine relay to fundraise the two Race4Rene campaign charities, Papyrus and Child Bereavement. Schools and universities have seen some progress in mental health awareness and support, but there’s still a long way to go.
With this in mind, it has been amazing to see how our campaign has spread through the school, not only in donations but in the conversations it has started. So many people with their own stories to tell, or just wanting to know more. It has genuinely been one of the most rewarding parts of the campaign so far for me. I hope today goes well!"
With nearly a week since the crew set sail, today’s diary entry comes from crew member James. James is a current student at Imperial and rowed with Rene during Rene’s time there.
"Today is day 6 of racing. The previous days now seem blurred, defined not by sunrises and sunsets, but by shifts on and off. The day breaks down into multiple shifts 6 hours long, or 4 hours at night, shared between 2 watches. The unpleasant 2am alarms and 10am bed times are made bearable by the incredible scenery. Though the sights rarely change, it’s hard to be bored of a sky illuminated by only starlight, and sunrises over an empty ocean. We’ve befriended various dolphins along the way, who I like to think are guiding us home. Their appearance is usually the highlight of any watch. I initially was worried about the sleeping situation: small, shared bunks hardly appeal, but the levels of fatigue endured make any spot seem like the softest mattress. I have found the logbook to make an unexpectedly comfortable pillow.
Low winds have prolonged our journey, and the prospect of rationing our resources looms. Hopefully we will make landfall in 12 days, or sooner ideally. Apart from these hardships the experience is overwhelmingly positive. If we weren’t trying to sail, the weather couldn’t be more perfect.
I’ve been trying to maintain my fitness for rowing with circuits on the deck, to the amusement of the crew. The crew have remained fervently amicable, with the poor winds having only minor impact on morale. Our purpose keeps us enduring the tougher times. Some parts of me don’t want to leave the glowing sun and cooling breezes of the Atlantic, but the thought of home has me counting down the days, so here’s hoping for some fair winds."
Today’s blog is written by Simon Stott (on Port Watch), one of Rene's oldest friends.
"Waking up to a sapphire blue sky with little cloud in sight, everyone seemed in great spirits. However, we were disheartened to find ourselves in a wind hole with only a mere 5 knots of breeze, simply bobbing around almost 300 miles east of Mauritania.... jeepers!
With Harry on the helm and Ian’s safe pair of hands trimming the kite, it allowed the rest of us to lean our weight on the front of the boat and settle for a good old lay down, a job done with pleasure!
Reading the mindfulness book ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle, I came across something fitting in my pursuit of better understanding the drivers behind depression. The premise of the book is set upon an important distinction of one’s ‘self’ and ‘mind’, the former being one’s true identity and the latter being only your portrayal of events (could even be described as fiction). This may seem abstract at first, but what it means is that we should only acknowledge the voices in our head and not let it define or taint the kind of person we are. What is left, is a space and ability to truly live and enjoy the present, liberating oneself from anxiety, self-judgement or ones own disappointment with themselves.
Looking far out into the distance with nothing but soft, calm and rolling waves - I was completely at peace. For once, not thinking about my bloody drone I lost in the sea on Day 2, the bucket of water I poured in through the hatch (wiping out a few electrics) whilst cleaning the deck, nor how many more days it’ll take us to reach the other end - I was well and truly happy.
Maybe this is me going a bit loopy at sea, but hey ho - still in good spirits!"