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Friday, 22 September, 2000, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Aboard ship: You quizzed the Global Challengers

BBC News Online's Hilary Bowden is taking part in the first leg of the BT Global Challenge aboard the yacht Spirit of Hong Kong.

A yachting amateur until a few weeks ago, Hilary has undergone a crash course to get her up to speed - and she is under the watchful eye of the boat's professional skipper Steve Wilkins.

What's life like at sea for a woman whose idea of exercise used to be hunting for the TV remote control? Does the skipper think she is measuring up? What's the weather like and have there been any scary moments?

Trying to use the bathroom ain't easy, neither is making a cup of tea. I have so many bruises I look as though I've done three rounds with Mike Tyson.

Hilary Bowden
All the yachts are now only a few days away from the infamous Grand Banks, off Newfoundland, the setting for the Hollywood film The Perfect Storm. In 1990 freak weather conditions led to waves over 100ft high in this region, already well-known among sailors for its big seas and strong currents.

Spirit of Hong Kong Skipper Steve Wilkins has decided to run to the south of the Grand Banks in an effort to avoid the worst weather. To do so Spirit of Hong Kong has surrendered its lead but the crew hopes to regain it in the final week.

We put a selection of your questions to Hilary and her skipper Steve Wilkins.

To listen to coverage of the forum, select the link below:


Questions for Hilary Bowden

Lisa Bulstrode, London: How are you surviving without chocolate and how is everyone else surviving your cooking?! - What is the food like?

Hilary Bowden: Actually, I'm not having to survive without chocolate. Some of the other boats decided to ban it but I was lucky enough to be on a boat with a chocoholic crew so we've had chocolate pudding, chocolate cake and chocolate flapjacks so it's been fine on that score. As for cooking, it's going okay. Each of us has to take a turn every seven days to cook in the galley. I've only done it once so far. It's not going too bad but I wouldn't say that I was the best cook in the world.

Colin Banks, UK: What are conditions like on board? How much room do you have to store your belongings? Were you restricted as to what you could take on board?

Hilary Bowden: Space is at a premium - there are 18 of us crammed in a relatively small area - so we have one small box where we can keep our personal stuff. There are also weight restrictions so we are limited in the amount of clothes that we can bring along.

Frank, Germany: Do you get sea sick, and if so how do you have any tips of how to cope with it?

Hilary Bowden: I was expecting to be sea sick but I've been really lucky so far. Some of the guys have been suffering but at the end of the day have just got on with it. Some have been taking homeopathic remedies and we also have anti-sea sickness patches.

Dan in Canada: What's been the scariest moment so far, and how did you handle it?

Hilary Bowden: I would say it's when you're on night duty, it's pitch black and the sea is getting quite rough. It gets very scary but adrenaline keeps you going.

Lucy Morgan, UK: What's the most difficult thing about living so closely with your team mates? What's been the hardest thing to master?

Hilary Bowden: The crew come from various countries including Canada, the US and France. They all have a good sense of humour and there have been no problems so far.

Jane, USA: What kind of training you had before the race?

Hilary Bowden: I've done a little bit of sailing on tall ships and dinghies but nothing on this scale before. Before I came aboard, I went down to Southampton for some sail training where they teach you all the basics, especially the importance of safety.

Colin, Birmingham: Have you seen much wildlife while at sea?

Hilary Bowden: We've seen loads and loads of dolphins, sometimes up to 30 and 40. The other day we even had a whale swim alongside the boat.

Questions for Stephen Wilkins

Harrison, England: What tactics have you got in mind for the remainder of the Atlantic leg and what chances do you think you've got of winning?

Stephen Wilkins: I think that we're in the position where the fleet is very much bunching up quite substantially so it's going to be very interesting in the last part of the race.

Judy, USA: What is morale like on board ship?

Stephen Wilkins: There's an excellent team on board and morale is very high.

BBC News Online Staff: What Hilary's like as a crew member?

Stephen Wilkins: She was a bit quiet to start off with but has become an integral part of the team.

Patrick, Germany: What's the first thing you'll do when you get back on dry land?

Stephen Wilkins: I'll have a well-deserved drink and a good meal.

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