It is 8pm and I am in the back of a darkened minibus in Rio de Janeiro. The lights are off and I cannot see the faces of the strangers around me. However, this is not some bizarre kidnap story - we are in fact a group of football fans taking advantage of a tour to the Maracana - the stadium which will host the World Cup Final next year. An hour later, I am sitting in the stadium, alongside a guy from Paris and a couple from Switzerland, watching the local team Flamengo. It's long been an ambition of mine to go to the Maracana but I never imagined how hard it would be to get there.
My boat Switzerland finally reached Rio around lunchtime on the 9th after a 31-day stint crossing the Atlantic. That was a week longer than predicted at the start of the race because the Doldrums, the area near the Equator where winds often disappear, decided to expand and follow us as we headed south. It slowed us so much that we now have just three days to prepare our boat for the next race to Capetown which starts on the 12th.
We came tenth out of 12 in the race though few of the boats had the kind of problems we had. Our watermaker, which produces drinkable water from the sea, finally packed in after leaking for several days. Though we were able to get a large amount of water transferred from one of the other boats, we had to store it in bags and jerrycans which added considerably to our boat's weight. Water had to be rationed - so every few hours there was an unusual ceremony where crewmembers lined up to have their waterbottles filled up from jug. It was not an ideal scenario for an ocean racing team.
But there were some memorable moments - seeing a shooting star hurtle overhead as I steered the boat at night, crossing the Equator followed by a traditional sin-cleansing ceremony and watching a group of five dolphins break the ocean surface simultaneously just as we were launching an operation to rescue our all-important water funnel which had just fallen overboard. Some of our Race 2 crew have left us and have been replaced by others. They are keen to get started and hopefully their energy will give us the boost we need to put in a better performance in Race 3.
Finally, Flamengo beat Inter 2-1 and even though the Maracana was half full, the wall of noise from the fans should make it a special place to play at next year's World Cup.