Team SCA are now leaving New Zealand behind and we are heading towards the infamous Southern Ocean. We got quite a light start but the breeze has picked up nicely and we are moving fast in the right direction.
We are also very happy to welcome Sophie Ciszek onboard again, who has missed the last two legs due to a back injury. When you are tackling 30 foot waves, trying to acclimatise to extreme temperatures and battling mental and physical exhaustion, it's perhaps no surprise that the Volvo Ocean Race often produces casualties.
Sophie painfully herniated one of her lower back disks during leg two of the race between Cape Town and Abu Dhabi, which required urgent surgery on Christmas Eve. Since then she's been watching Team SCA race from the sidelines. However, following a remarkable journey of rehabilitation, she is ready to tackle leg five - just eleven weeks after her operation.
Her injury occurred simply doing what she does best, changing a sail, which shows you just how physically demanding the race can be. As we waved goodbye to Auckland, Sophie confided that being hurt in a team environment, where the team is still trying to race the boat as fast as they possibly can, yet being unable to help, was one of the hardest things she's ever had to do.
For dedicated sportswomen like Sophie, injury can destroy morale - even more so for those of us who are lucky enough to work as an integral cog in a big team machine. While Sophie's operation was 100% successful, the healing process can feel incredibly slow, especially when your team are progressing without you...
Sophie had an incredibly difficult month where she was unable to walk, so as not to arch her back, as well as a complete ban on any physical activity. As soon as this ban was lifted, Sophie has been working nearly all day, every day, in a bid to get stronger.
After some weight lifting, gym work and cardio exercise, Sophie was invited to come and join us in Auckland where she spent each day with our physiotherapist, pushing her limits to see how much she, and her back, could handle.
Thankfully, Sophie didn't have any problems, so she kept on pushing. After final approval from the doctor and the physiotherapist, Sophie rejoined Team SCA - and we couldn't be happier.
Sophie's courageous attitude brings to mind some inspiring activity that our sponsor SCA is currently undertaking with its Bodyform brand, which is all about pushing your boundaries and saying 'yes' to life. The activity is called 'Live Fearless', which is great, as it embodies exactly what we are doing as part of Team SCA! We are literally living fearlessly, and we hope our challenge can help empower women all over the world to dare a little.
We had a few days sailing as a team before the start of leg five and even won the Auckland In-Port race, which was an incredible confidence boost for Sophie. It also goes to show that hard work always pays off.
Leg five, going down in the Sothern Ocean and rounding Cape Horn, is one of the longest and toughest legs in the Volvo Ocean Race.
The experienced guys keep on telling us about the doom and gloom of the conditions, with strong winds, big waves and very cold temperatures to look forward to. For Volvo Ocean Race newbies like myself, it is fear of the unknown which is a bit daunting. Despite the nerves, I'm actually very excited!
Thank you for following us, and make sure you come and say hello on Twitter using the hashtag #teamsca or #livefearless!