I was damp and cold and hadn’t showered for more than a week. Even the inside of my sleeping bag seemed soggy and my socks had a slight pong.
What’s more, we’d hit a raging storm with 70 knots/80 mph of wind whipping up 30ft waves.
However, we’d hit the halfway point on Leg Two on the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and my spirit was a little sunnier at the prospect of reaching dry land again.
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MailOnline Travel’s Sadie Whitelocks took part in Leg 2 of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. Her yacht journeyed from Punta del Este in Uruguay to Cape Town with a crew of 23 people
An example of some of the conditions Sadie and her crewmates faced, with waves washing over the yacht. At one point they hit a raging storm with 80mph winds and 30ft waves
A shot of the bright Punta del Este racing yacht Sadie journeyed on from Uruguay to South Africa
I’d signed up to journey 3,000 nautical miles from Punta del Este in Uruguay to Cape Town, crossing the inhospitable South Atlantic in a bid to add ‘sailing’ to my repertoire of adventuring exploits.
I’d been told the challenge was no ‘Champagne sailing’ and more like a ‘rough whisky’ – and that analogy was proving to be correct.
It was quite a cram with 23 of us onboard the 70ft Punta del Este-sponsored yacht and we were racing against ten other boats to make it to the finish line.
I’d undergone four weeks of training – a mandatory requirement for the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race – but nothing could have prepared me for the wrath of the open ocean.
There were a limited number of coffin-like bunks, which meant Sadie and her watch team had to share these with the other watch group
There were two hand pump toilets on the 70ft yacht (left). Sadie said after the race, her shrivelled hands were a reminder of the voyage she’d completed (right)
I’d imagined dreamy sunrises, glowing sunsets and flocks of birds swooping alongside our vessel.
Instead, 50 shades of grey bobbed before me for the majority of the time with a sparse scattering of albatross occasionally making an appearance.
At night I’d imagined seeing a magnificent canopy of dazzling stars.
But the only twinkles came from the bioluminescent squid that dragged along in the water and occasionally jumped out on deck.
However, being in the hands of Mother Nature and powering through a desolate wash of water proved to be a real thrill.
During my watch duty – we operated on shift patterns of four hours on, four hours off – I often sat out on deck being battered by the salty spray admiring the power of the planet.
The waves that bashed over me were most welcome as we had no shower for the duration of our 16-day crossing.
The yacht had been stripped back to basics, with two tiny bathrooms decked out with hand pump toilets.
One bathroom had a small mirror so we could check our windburned faces.
A rare sunset during Sadie’s journey across the South Atlantic
The skipper of the Punta del Este boat, Jeronimo Santos Gonzalez, looks out to the ocean as a crew member takes to the helm
Sadie said she’d expected pretty basic culinary dishes at sea but David Watkins, who was in charge of creating a menu booklet, had included some pretty delicious recipes. Above, a meal is served in the galley
On the bedroom front, there were a limited number of coffin-like bunks which meant we had to share these with the other watch group.
The saloon was the other public space, with a minuscule galley at the centre of things.
It was here I spent quite a bit of time attempting to dry out.
I’d kept my luggage to a minimum to save space.
This meant I had to recycle four pairs of underwear, reuse socks and pick bits of clothing that wouldn’t get saturated.
Key pieces of kit included a very warm sheepskin-lined hat from Seattle outfitter Filson, some sailing boots from Musto, a cashmere scarf from Mongolia, a deodorant stick and several packs of wet wipes.
The saloon area onboard the boat with the tiny galley at the centre of it. The cupboards had nets on to prevent items from falling out
I also had three chocolate bars stashed away for emergencies.
When it came to food, like the cleaning and logbook duties, we took it turns to play at being chefs for the day rustling up breakfast, lunch, cake and dinner for the entire crew.
To aid our culinary endeavours, the kitchens aboard the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race boats are kitted out with swinging stoves, which sway to the rhythm of the boat to prevent pots and pans from tumbling.
Throughout our intrepid trip, an impressive mix of meals were concocted.
I’d expected pretty basic bites, but David Watkins, who was in charge of creating a menu booklet, had included some fairly intricate recipes.
For lunch, there was everything from couscous with chorizo, mushrooms peas and asparagus to macaroni cheese with bacon and sweet potato and carrot soup, which required us to ‘peel and dice’ the vegetables by carefully wielding a knife as we balanced at an angle.
The hard chunks were then roasted, boiled and strained through a sieve to make a smooth liquid.
Tea breaks with moist cakes made from packet mix, meanwhile, kept us entertained in the afternoons.
And for dinner, people got rather inventive with the assortment of things they found lurking in the netted cupboards.
Sadie (left) with crewmate Kati Kaskeala (right) in the tiny galley area during their day of cheffing
Sadie’s crewmates Alejandra Alvira (left) and Mary Vaughan-Jones (right), showcase their Halloween-themed cakes
Sadie said the ‘feeling of relief at seeing land for the first time is something I will never forget’. Above, her reaction as Cape Town neared
Antonio Palacio from Uruguay proved to be quite a whizz in the galley and everyone fell silent with bowls of his hearty stew to hand.
‘What’s in here?’ I asked one day, trying to work out how his meal tasted so good.
‘Vegetarian sausages,’ he replied, adding that he’d found a few jars of faux meat.
Some people were less adept in the galley and I remember one morning, a crewmate attempting to make scrambled eggs in a frying pan and the runny liquid promptly slurping over the edge as we crashed through some large waves.
On another occasion, the porridge was overcooked and semi-cemented our teeth together, but it was deliciously warming all the same.
Another struggle was making the right amount of food for such a large group and one time I cooked with my crewmate, we were pushed to fill everyone’s dishes.
Having enough for seconds is an essential part of racing life, especially when you are burning up to 5,000 calories a day at sea.
Improvising: Sadie uses her hat as a tea cosy on the incredible swinging stove
By the end of the South Atlantic stint we’d run out of fresh fruit and our chocolate rations were depleted.
Muesli, biscuits and maple syrup were other popular picks.
The feeling of relief at seeing land for the first time is something I will never forget.
‘Land ahoy!’ someone shouted as Cape Town’s Table Mountain came into view – and there were fixed smiles all around as we triumphantly neared the shoreline.
Back on land, as I enjoyed the warm blast of a shower and walking on a horizontal surface, my voyage on the high seas seemed like a salt-drenched dream.
But my shrivelled hands and bruised body served as proof that it was no work of fiction.
The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is certainly no Champagne sailing but a rough whisky that promises to rouse new feelings, for better or worse.
Sadie’s place on the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race was supported by musto.com, the technical clothing partner for the 2019-20 and 2021-22 editions of the event. The race is set to finish back in London in August 2020. To follow race progress visit www.clipperroundtheworld.com.