• Ducks In A Row

    Like ducks in a row we march south towards the Canary Islands. Rather unexpectedly, the binoculars continue to be our primary means of recon rather than the position reports. I’m not sure one “sched” has been read aloud to date; there’s no need when you can see everyone with your own eyes. The obvious question is how that’s driving the tactics, and as we roll into another jibe here—our third in the last hour of this busy night—it’s clear the answer is a lot. We are racing the fleet, tack for tack, jibe for jibe, and it is incredibly tiring for the guys. I’d say that’s the general mindset onboard right now: exhausted, begging for a rhythm, but really excited to be in the hunt. One watch you’re up, the next you’re down. Patience and consistency are going to be key for this mini-race through the Canary and Verde islands where the corridor of travel is quite narrow.

    Quote Charlie Enright

    “It’s good for us. The longer we stay together the more time we get to experiment different modes. High or low, different sail combinations… The more we can compare speeds, the more we can learn.”

    All of the comparison to past races, to the last race in particular, of course it makes you think. Yesterday, in the remnants of the night’s nastiness, my new boots—notoriously slippery with fresh rubber and chemicals on the sole—failed me. As I was coming down the hatch, one hand on my camera the other on the hanging strap from the ceiling, my feet lost their grip. All of my weight on my shoulder, it dislocated (as it does too often, an old ice hockey injury), I let go, and landed, awash in the bilge. Camera saved, I put my shoulder back in its place and then started bailing that bilge and the rest of the boat for the next hour. Never told anyone. Not that I would ever feel sorry for myself, but I chose to come back here for more and at that moment I started to wonder why.
    Yesterday passed just fine but last night’s sunset was as good as ever. Everybody noticed it, and Dave quietly acknowledged that this race gives you “just enough of them to keep bringing you back.” As I rattled off some 300-pictures in 20 minutes of intense orange sunset-fed obsession, I looked around and realized I was back doing something that made me really happy; why would I want to be anywhere else? The friends you make, the ways you challenge yourself—we all give up a lot to be here—sometimes it’s a shoulder, other times a family. But for most of us it’s ultimately worth it in the end. I left Alicante ready for weeks of sailing to Cape Town, but I think the reality of being a part of this great Race again is finally setting in.
    Amory Ross
    Team Alvimedica

    Onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. Photo by Matt Knighton/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race

    Photo by Francisco Vignale/MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race.

    Dave Swete and Nick Dana are in on a joke that nobody else seems to be privy to; humor is an essential part to life onboard, especially when the weather turns for the worse. Photo by Amory Ross/Team Alvimedica/Volvo Ocean Race.

    Xabi Fernandez and Andre Fonseca silhouettes sailing on a golden sunrise. Francisco Vignale/MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race.

    It's important to keep fresh water on your face to stop the build up of salt. Photo by Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race.

    Today was a special day. Not only are we all sailing together as a fleet—and pushing each other as a fleet—down the West Coast of Africa after an unexpected great day of sailing, but it’s also day four of leg 1. [Technically, it’s day three for everyone on land but four for us on the boat because we count the first day off as day one—this is really important for food bag ordering.] Day four is incredibly special because we begin to finally fall into a rhythm and a daily life.

    Our body begins to get used to sleeping in bursts—two hours at most, despite our four hours on/ four hours off schedule. A few of the sailors noted they haven’t had a full “off watch,” because they’ve been woken up because of a tack, sail change, or both at least once every time they tried to go to sleep. Obviously this can do a number on your body, and for a while your body feels like it’s fighting your mind every step of the way. And then, as if a light bulb finally switches ‘on’ for your body: you begin to feel comfortable sleeping in short bursts and operating on little amounts of sleep. Today, that light bulb turned on.

    Today, the crew have stopped harassing Libby for any new information about the fleet because everyone knows the “scheds” arrive at 1:15am/pm and 7:15am/pm.

    Today, we all began to adjust to the life of freeze-dried food and power bars. Today’s dinner is our favorite: Thai Green Chicken Curry. Today, I ate my last fresh orange for twenty more days. The orange wasn't even that good but I savored every bite nonetheless, and hoped I would not drop the last slice into the sea.

    Today, was a good day to use our TENA shower glove. If there's one massive advantage Team SCA has over the other teams, it's this: a shower. Ok so there's no running fresh water and our hair is sticking straight back but to feel clean after a few days of salt and sweat is an indescribable joy. It's also a good day to change clothes and check your body for any bumps, bruises, and rashes that might cause infection down the line.

    Today, we also saw dolphins. And we sailed by Team Mapfre so close we were able to say hello—quite friendly considering. I reckon they’re having just as good a day as us. After all, there’s something special about day four.
    Corinna Halloran

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