It has been a long leg so far and we still have a few more days sailing left to go.
We rounded Santa Ana Island at the end of the Solomon Islands chain in great spirits and closed the group in front to take the lead. We then spent four days battling intense heat and light fickle winds, barely managing to keep the boat moving at all, let alone in the right direction. There was nowhere to hide from the sun, the whole fleet struggled and the only thing keeping us going was that we were keeping hold of the lead and we knew our fans and followers would be sending us their support.
Then we moved towards the doldrums and we suffered at the fate of thunder and lightning squalls. Intense rain and big wind shifts not only caused us sleepless nights but some sail damage and a loss of the lead. We were positioned in the middle of the fleet alongside race leaders Mapfre and Dutch Team Brunel and we thought we were in good company. One night of relentless activity and we found that those to the east had gained, those to the west had gained and us in the middle had been left floundering. It was the biggest lesson in mental resilience I have ever had to undertake and I needed to carry my team with me.
The fact was we still had a boat behind us - Brunel, there was a lot of sailing left to go – 2,500 miles and lots can happen in that time. We had islands, reefs and atolls to negotiate and some monsoon strong winds before this leg was over. We have to keep pushing and making sure we beat Brunel to the finish even if the others were beyond our grasp.
So now we are coming to the end of the Micronesia Islands and we will cross the Mariana Trench. Tomorrow we will be passing over 'Challenger Deep' - the deepest part of the world's oceans ever surveyed. It is a reminder that 70% of the earth's surface is water and the reality is we have only explored about 5% of that. We have so much more to learn from our world's oceans and we sadly can already see an increased influence of human disregard.
The amount of rubbish floating past us has increased on this leg. I know from experience of the last edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, that this will get worse as we close the Luzon Straits between the Philippines and Taiwan. We already seem to pollute our oceans so easily, while being unaware of the much bigger implications this can have on ecosystems. Especially if we consider the fact that the bodies of water making up the world's oceans are so much bigger than we know about.
Onwards to Hong Kong - ETA 20th January.
Dee and Team TTTOP