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Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 23:27 GMT
Life on Ellen's boat
Kingfisher 2. Photo: Jacques Vapillon
Kingfisher 2 will be home to 14 people for two months
Kingfisher 2 watchleader Neal McDonald tells BBC Sport Online of life at sea with 14 people on board a 110-foot catamaran for over two months.

"As long as you keep your sense of humour, it's not that much of a hardship. There's always something to laugh about and you're too busy to sit around getting fed up."


Watch systems

Three four-hour watches: on, off and standby. Four men on each watch with skipper (Ellen) and cameraman separate.

On watch: Helmsman, trimmer and two others working flat out all the time. Sail changes will need the help of the standby watch. Emergencies will need everyone.

In the tropics you might not change sail for days but in the Southern Ocean you might do five changes in four hours.

Standby watch: Dressed and ready to help out on deck if needed.

Responsible for cooking, tidying up, and checking for leaks and wear and tear.

Off watch: Follows on watch. Generally asleep in bunks, though sometimes eating will creep into off watch.


Food

Roughly enough freeze-dried meals for 64 days, to which we add water and cook on a one-ring gas burner.

Kingfisher 2 crew members eat down below
Dining is not a cordon bleu affair

There are normally about six different meals so it does get very monotonous. After a while the only real difference is colour.

The diet is very calorific - about 5000-6000 calories a day - but you lose weight because there is no fat or bad things.

You also need vitamins and mineral supplements - in my last non-stop round-the-world race I was on 28-30 pills a day.

We may have one treat a day such as a muesli bar or bag of nuts. But there is strictly no alcohol.

If we have a few days' food left when we finish, we'll probably have made a mistake in our catering.

You're never starving - you can go 20 days without eating - but you're always thinking about food because it's a luxury.

We use a water-maker to turn sea water into drinking water.


Personal gear

It's a case of turn up in your sailing gear and away you go. No personal items such as books or personal stereos.

We wear a thermal underlayer, a thicker mid layer and then our foul weather gear - jacket and high-cut trousers - on top.

Kingfisher 2 watchleader Neal McDonald
McDonald is considering a spare toothbrush

The foul weather gear has really come on - if you're careful getting it on and off you can stay dry. But condensation down below is a problem.

The other problem is sweating. You must strip off before you get too hot otherwise you'll be in trouble when you get cold again.

I'll wear one pair of silk boxers, my sea boots and I'll take one change of socks.


Hygiene

In the tropics you can chuck a bucket of (sea) water over yourself or have a quick scrub-up under a raincloud before drying off naturally.

But the southern ocean is the most unsociable time - you don't wash because it's too cold.

Lots of people get pretty nasty rashes from sitting around in salty water. You have to treat it quickly.

The other key thing is teeth. We all have a thorough medical and dental check before setting sail but one thing you'd be lost without is your toothbrush.

This time I might even sneak a spare on.

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