Someone recently said to me: 'you'll experience a lifetime of emotions in the nine months of the Volvo Ocean Race.' She could not have been more correct, and at the moment, there is nothing but ecstasy.
It feels as if the team has climbed Mt. Everest, and have then run straight back down. At the moment there is relief, but more importantly there is an overarching sense of accomplishment, and with accomplishment often comes smiles.
The few days of 'down-time' we have had in Itajai has been spent simply relaxing and enjoying life, because that's another element that is vital to the race. Yes, we are athletes but we have stopovers for a reason: to reset and get ready for the next race.
Annie's birthday was on Saturday and she could not have been happier - her already infectious smile stretched from ear to ear - her best friends from the race and from home were with her to celebrate. Sam is also on cloud-nine as her feet have finally thawed and the pain of the Southern Ocean's freezing waters are washing away with every swim in the warm Brazilian sea. Carolijn is in heaven back home in Brazil with her son, partner, and mother - the food, the weather, and the way of life has plastered a smile on the sailor.
When Team SCA's sailors arrive in port and finally stop thinking 'sailing, sailing, sailing,' we become everyday women who look after their children, go shopping, play on the beach, go to the gym, enjoy company from family and friends and (most importantly) eat ice cream. We turn off our 'sailing brains' in order to help keep this entire experience real. After all, during the leg, we are very focused for weeks on end so taking out time for ourselves is essential to maintaining a healthy balance.
But the reality is you do feel a myriad of emotions during the Volvo Ocean Race. There is a common understanding amongst the sailors that you can quite often be on cloud-nine at sunrise and will be fighting-back tears by sunset. A bad position report, a broken sail, followed by a skilful sneak around, a good position report and a beautiful evening can all happen in 24 hours! We are at the mercy of Mother Nature, so often things are out of our control, however those emotional hours are best when left at sea.
The Volvo Ocean Race teaches all of us something new about ourselves. Like how much we can be pushed emotionally and physically or to what extent we are prepared take risks in order to fiercely compete in the race. Your mind switches into 'game on' mode when you step onto the boat, however it is how you deal with the emotional roller coaster that will get you to the finish line with a smile on your face and ready to restart days later.
Not only this, the important activity that we have been involved in with our sponsor, SCA, and local communities at our stopover locations has been a real eye-opener. In an extension of the work that SCA have been undertaking with its Velvet brand and the 'Three Trees Promise', which has already seen the planting of an extra six million trees around the world, Justine and Sally joined a group of 50 children from local schools in Itajai to learn about the importance of the environment.
The girls had fun throwing seeds into the undergrowth with the children to help replenish the forest of Palmito Jussara, a species of tree which is nearing extinction on the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil.
Seeing the difference that we can make around the world as we continue to engage with local communities is extremely humbling, and reminds us what we are fighting for as a team. It gives us the drive and inspiration we need to continue to develop, which is essential after a leg to move forward.
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