How do you get some time to yourself when you are a liveaboard? Just climb the mast says Lu Heikell

Liz Wardley, Volvo Ocean Race legend, famously quipped she was just getting some ‘me time’ while suspended 30-odd metres above the deck at the top of the mast on a VO65 at sea. My guess is she probably had some other stuff to do while she was there, but the quote stuck with me.

At the start of every season I get to have some ‘me time’ on Skylax for a thorough rig check. The ends of each terminal are examined for loose or deformed strands, and each spreader end checked for wear.

Once up the mast I replace the wind transducer, the tricolour and the radar reflector which were removed for the winter. Once in place we check everything is working as it should and replace any failed bulbs on any other lights. Apart from reducing wear on the transducer bearings (ours is now nearly 20 years old), a winter down below keeps the lamp lenses and plastic housings out of UV light. The effect of UV on plastic, even modern polymers, shouldn’t be underestimated, especially under the Mediterranean sun.

Our GPS aerial failed after years out on the pushpit rail. Close inspection revealed a narrow crack on the now-brittle cover, which had lead to water ingress. Interestingly, the supplier of the replacement aerial asked us why it was outside.

‘Unless your boat is steel, there is no reason why it can’t be mounted below,’ he advised. Hmm, why didn’t I know that? He was right – for years now the aerial performed perfectly from the bulkhead at the foot of our bunk. It’s different now many aerials are AIS/GPS combined units which should be mounted as high as is practical, but it was a useful lesson. All our outside aerials now wear ankle socks to protect them from the sun. We change our socks every year without fail!

A man sailing a boat with a yellow hull

The Golden Globe Race has been a slow but asborbing contest. Credit: Nora Havel/GGR 2022

Liz Wardley is currently employed as boat captain on the Polish entry of The Ocean Race Sprint Cup, Wind Whisper. After winning the first leg from Alicante to Mindelo, they and all the other VO65 teams must wait until the IMOCA fleet of the Ocean Race ‘proper’ return from their circuit of Antarctica and an Atlantic crossing before re-joining the race in Aarhus for the short legs back down to the Med.

It is a far cry from previous editions of this famous race where these fully crewed racing machines would scream around the globe as a pack. Not that Liz is twiddling her thumbs – she is also preparing for a trans-Atlantic rowing adventure beginning in December this year.

I have been following the IMOCAs, complete with onboard reporters and state-of-the-art tech, but the indoor nature of these boats, and the high level of damage sustained by the fleet, quickly rendered the race into more of a small procession for me. Give me the Vendée Globe anytime.

I must admit I find the Golden Globe Race, tagline ‘Racing like it is 1968’ has really kept me engaged, even with extremely limited media coverage, and even higher rates of attrition. The idea of a bunch of solo sailors setting off non-stop around the world in Rustler 36s and the like has been a riveting slow-burner which just ended after more than 235 days at sea. Now that’s some serious ‘me time’.

But the race I am really looking forward to is the new Ocean Globe Race – a return of the original Whitbread RTW Race by racing yachts of the Corinthian era. Old names such as Pen Duick, Maiden and a bunch of old Swans will be taking another spin around the planet with nothing more high-tech than a sextant and a trailing log. And the best bit is that MDL Marinas have stumped up to host the race from the original port of Southampton. I can’t wait!

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