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Thread: 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race

  1. #241
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    Fighting To Keep The Food Down

    It’s Day 1 of Leg 4, and the red boat of Dongfeng Race Team arrows sharply into the swollen waves, sending spray, scattered, left and right.

    As French duo Eric Peron and Kevin Escoffier wrestle with a sail on the bow they are surrounded - and hit, hard, by a flurry of ice cold, watery punches.
    Just 24 hours since leaving the luxury of Sanya, the fight is back on.

    “It won’t be as easy as the last leg, I think,” laughs Kevin some moments later, drying off on deck, the yellow hull of Team Brunel visible close behind him.
    At the 1540 UTC position report, his boat sits at the front of the fleet, some 2.7nm ahead of second-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, and with a 10nm advantage on last-placed Team SCA.
    But their fight is not only with the opposition.

    Down in the dark of the galley, Horace looks worn and worried. Homesickness or seasickness, one thing’s for sure - his deep, measured breaths can’t quite hide the extent of his woes.
    Their fight is with their stomachs.

    “How do you feel Horace?” pokes Onboard Reporter Sam Greenfield, camera trained on the Chinese sailor.
    He looks down the lens, face sullen – he can barely summon the energy to speak.
    “Bleurgh,” Kevin mimes.

    And he’s not the only one. “Any sailor that tells you that they don’t get seasick is full of it,” writes Sam, afterwards.
    “Thinking about performing simple acts, like putting on my wet weather gear to go outside and pee, feels like squaring off on the starting line of a marathon across the Gobi desert.”
    Erwan Israel, the newbie on board the French-Chinese boat, sits at the nav desk.

    The fight is with the mind.
    “But after the first afternoon we were leading and it felt like, ‘phew’. The stress was evacuated and now I can enjoy this experience with the crew.”
    With that, BANG! slaps a wave against the hull. SLAM! and then another. The sea state is big – and it’s throwing the fleet around like toy boats in a bath.
    The fight is with the waves.
    Over on Team Alvimedica, who are fighting neck and neck with Brunel in fourth and fifth position, helmsman Alberto Bolzan stares into the horizon.
    “We know that we have a few tough days in front of us,” he admits. “We’re forecast about 30 knots or more – big waves.”
    “We have to be smart and use the boat in the right way, don’t break it, keep it safe.”

    The fight is with themselves – how hard can they push the boats?
    In third place is Spanish boat MAPFRE - and Xabi Fernández' crew, who started the race around Sanya bay poorly, have gotten themselves right back into the middle of things.
    “It wasn’t the best start, but this is a long and tough leg," he smiled at the nav desk this morning.
    In fact, sometimes it seems that the only safe havens onboard the Volvo Ocean 65 are the bunk, and the nav desk.
    “Inside the boat, it feels like being in a washing machine,” says Stefan Coppers, Team Brunel’s Onboard Reporter.
    “You have to hold yourself continuously with two hands to prevent from falling.”

    Team SCA skipper Sam Davies laughs. She did just that, with a bowl full of food.
    “I took a timed dive onto the nav seat next to Libby, with my dog bowl carefully in my hands,” she explains. “I nearly re-decorated the nav station.”
    “Libby looked nicely unimpressed, as if to say ‘you’re pushing your luck – do not pour your lunch on my computer’”.
    The girls sit at the back of the fleet, but just 1.6nm separates them from the opposition.
    It’s a drag race towards the Philippines, and whilst ever it stays this close, it’s anyone’s game.

    Well, as long as they can keep the boat in one piece.
    “Sitting in the nav station, Ian just referred to the South China Sea as the ‘sea of certain breakage’” writes Matt Knighton, on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
    “The past 24 hours have undoubtedly been the toughest of the race to date. The win on our bow has turned from mild and pleasant to nasty and unrelenting.
    “Unrelenting in that the unpredictability of what is in front of us is overwhelming – there’s no rhythm to the waves.”
    The fight is back on.

    “The beginning of a very important leg”
    MAPFRE begins a new leg in the Volvo Ocean Race. The fourth one. We left the dock in really good spirits towards the gigantic Buddha a few miles away from the Marina where the Race Village was set up. “It wasn’t the best start, but this is a long and tough leg” said Xabi Fernández.
    After rounding the Buddha mark we could make up a bit of the ground lost in the downwind towards the majestic statue. We stayed to windward of the fleet, waiting for the best moment to tack and get in the middle for the 20 knots beat to the Philippines.
    The wind started building slowly and so did the sea. So far I’m the only one who’s feeling seasick even after taking the pills. The guys are working really hard, “this is a very long and hard upwind and there are going to be a lot of place changes," says Rafa Trujillo.
    At dawn the wind built over 25 knots and we did a reef on the mainsail and peeled from J1 to J2. A lot of spray onboard and Ñeti, Carlos, Willy and Rafa did a quick and great peel. The boat is jumping for good and diving into the waves of the South China Sea. We expect at least another 48 hours upwind.
    Vamos MAPFRE!!

    Francisco Vignale

    Dear Grandma,
    Maybe I should have followed your advice. ‘Stefan, get a job in an office.’
    I think about this a lot now we just have left the port of Sanya. Pfff, here I am in these super-violent seas.
    "If it were easy, everybody would do it," smiles Gerd-Jan. Well, easy for him to say. That man was born for these kind of circumstances. 25 knots of wind on the nose and waves as high as one normally only sees in movies.
    And we don’t get much boat speed, dear Grandma. Upwind is not such a rapid angle with sailing boats. The boat has to fight its way against these waves, nose dive and crash though the wall of water.
    Inside the boat it feels like being in a washing machine. You have to hold yourself continuously with two hands to prevent from falling.
    The sailing suits hang dripping on the hook and the whole boat feels clammy. While our boys stack the bags to distribute the weight on the boat, they are being bashed to all sides!
    Well, I would give the top of my finger – chopped off without anaesthesia – to get the boat in smooth waters, if only for a moment.

    Did you know that this area where we sail, between China and the Philippines is notorious for its rough seas? Where we come from is in fact the warm hemisphere.
    And North China is now ice cold. All that cold air flows with great speed to that nice warm place. Actually just like you do in the winter, you go to Spain. Looking for the warmth attraction of the sun.
    And in those circumstances Johnny, Rokas and Louis tonight had to change a sail on the foredeck. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
    The nose of the boat crashed into the waves while the men were completely under water doing their jobs! In the dark! Heroes, I tell you. If you were 50 years younger, you probably would have wanted to give it a try? Haha.

    The kilo drop you passed is currently not for my stomach. But skipper Bouwe is happy: he loves licorice. Now that I think about it: he's one of the few who actually eats.
    Do all the others suffer in secret? Or are they still recovering from 10 days Chinese culinary misery? Grandmother, never go to China for the food!
    Would those Frenchmen onboard with Dongfeng also have eaten this Chinese food on the boat? That's why those guys go so hard, they want to quickly shore up! Maybe I should not pamper our boys too much in the coming weeks.

    Well dear Grandma, I'm going to go get some fresh air.
    Best of luck in the bridge card competition next Tuesday and see you soon.

    Stefan Coppers
    OBR, Team Brunel

    So, here is the skippers blog on day two of leg 4….
    Hello Earthlings!
    BANG, CRASH, SPLOOOOOOOSH as the waves crash over Team SCA. We have been out here for 24h now and finally we get what we came for - life at the extreme.
    Extreme angles of heel, extreme - ly WET, extreme levels of difficulty in doing ANYTHING on board. I just had my lunch (freeze dried roast chicken) and nearly re-decorated the nav station as I took a timed dive onto the nav seat next to Libby with my dog bowl carefully "gimbled" in my hands.
    Libby looked nicely unimpressed looking at me like as if to say "you are pushing your luck" "do not pour your lunch on my computer". We have some crew members struggling to find their sea legs, and so we are looking after them, if you get sick, you are allowed a Coke and Ginger Nuts, so there is a small bonus to the misery of seasickness…
    Despite the tough lifestyle, racing continues at 100% all the time on Team SCA. On my last watch we just did the most horrible of all the sail changes you have to do: the J1 to J2 change, a really really hard job requiring the whole team on the bow to wrestle the J1 down into its bag and off the foredeck.
    Life in the washing machine for the girls and Liz and Stacey did a great job organising the change and it went really well.
    We were happy to see that our change was better than that of Alvimedica next to us! Now we are expecting more wind and rougher conditions in the next 24h. I am about to jump into my bunk and get two hours sleep (if I am lucky).
    Right now I am EXTREME-ly tired that I know the constant slamming into the waves is not going to keep me awake at all - I will crank my bunk up to a high angle so I can't fall out and wedge myself between the hull and the bunk…. luxury!
    At least our great Team SCA boat looks after us, she is still dry inside and we take care to sponge out the bilges every watch so there is a small amount of dry comfort still!
    Speak again soon

    Sam Davies
    Skipper, Team SCA

    It’s an indescribable feeling of nausea that takes hold within the first 36 hours of a rough leg start, a stomach churn so permanent that it makes you incapable of doing anything, at least not well. Your body needs time to acclimate—time that in this case we didn’t supply—and whether you throw up or not doesn’t matter: the group universally feels like crap and it usually lasts until conditions improve.
    Your bunk is probably the only place you can calm the onslaught but the reality is you can’t climb in it. There are sails to change, a boat to drive, meals to cook, or a blog to write. Everyone has things to do and you just kind of have to tough it out and remember it always gets better…eventually!
    It hasn’t been as bad as we expected though, transiting the South China Sea, but the weather came on quicker than forecasted and we blame that for the shock to the system. 30 knots upwind in a deep and steep wave is uncomfortable but to be fast is another sort of struggle and it’s just not a kind of sailing that we’ve done much of before. There is very little familiarity to fall back on.
    But the slamming has eased up for now, a window I’m using to finally put finger to keyboard, and the sun has poked its head out of the clouds. Despite the deeply unsettled feeling in my stomach and the fact I haven’t been able to eat a thing since yesterday’s lunch—it’s easy to see we’re all really happy to be back out here as a team, in the mix and racing towards Auckland!

    Amory Ross
    OBR, Team Alvimedica

    Onshore in Sanya I caught wind of Team Alvimedica’s nickname for Pascal Bidégorry, our navigator.
    Jesus ‘F***ing’ Christ.

    Seb Marsset alleged an ability to walk on water during calm spells and pull the boat along, which I’ll testify I never saw myself, from deck or air.
    But JfC is resting up this leg, and in his place is former Groupama driver/trimmer Erwan Israel.
    And I won’t lie; as we left the dock yesterday without our Rain Man after racking in both a leg and in-port win during the Sanya stopover, I felt just a bit nervous.
    But that anxiety dissipated as soon as we turned upwind at the mother of Buddha statue, simply because I’ve been too seasick to think about anything racing related for the last 24 hours.
    Let me clarify. You don’t have to throw up to be seasick, and seasickness has many ugly heads.
    I call my particular brand the ‘sea sleeps’; here’s what it’s like: My muscles turn to jello after hours of bracing as the boat falls off wave after wave like a never-ending ride of the tower of terror at Disney.
    The very idea of eating makes me nauseous.

    Thinking about performing simple acts, like putting on my wet weather gear to go outside and pee, feels squaring off on the starting line of a marathon across the Gobi desert.
    But the plus is that I sleep like a gold plated champion no matter where I’m sitting, standing laying down on the boat.
    And when I wake up I feel great and then I go eat and take a pee before it starts up again.
    Any sailor that tells you they don’t get seasick is full of **it.

    I ask Erwan, sitting next to me at JfC’s navigation alter, if he’s ever gotten sea sick.
    “No, not really.” He says at first. “C’mon, never?” I persist.
    “Well, when I put on my foul weather gear down below I don’t feel great.”

    Bingo. Stage 1 sea sleeps. Charles is sleeping so I decide to introduce Erwan to my daily round of inquisitions.
    He’s very approachable and explains that we’re sailing upwind to the Philippines and that for the next 36 hours we’ll have building winds – up to 30 something- knots and bad sea state.
    Aka. another 36 hours on the tower of terror I ask how he’s coping with the new job.
    “I was really stressed the last evening because of the pressure of being navigator on this Volvo Ocean Race is a lot for me.”
    I ask about our position. Erwan shows me that the rest of the fleet is either behind us or to leeward. I’d been too comatose to notice.
    “But after the first afternoon we were leading and it felt like, phew. The stress was evacuated and now I can enjoy this experience with the crew.”
    I let Erwan get back to his calculations and reflect that although we’ve lost our JfC for this leg to Auckland it seems we’ve gained one of his apostles. I’ll let you know if I catch him walking on water.

    Sam Greenfield
    OBR, Dongfeng Race Team

    Azzam is rocking so violently right now; it’s hard to type a full sentence.
    The past 24 hours have undoubtedly been the toughest of the race to date. Since rounding the turning mark at the Buddha yesterday evening the wind on our bow has turned from mild and pleasant to nasty and unrelenting. Unrelenting in that the unpredictability of what is in front of us is overwhelming. There’s no rhythm to the waves.

    Throughout the night we’ve only been able to guess at what the sea state looks like. As soon as there is ten seconds of perceived calm water, the boat launches off a wave long enough to make everything free fall down below before slamming with a force that shakes the mast above. It reverberates through the entire hull.

    There’s no comfort in knowing the fleet is condensed to 5 miles and we’re all experiencing the same conditions. It only multiplies the probability that one of us will break something. Most of the tactical choices that will determine the leg will happen after rounding the Philippines; right now it’s a war of attrition to see who will make it in one piece.
    Sitting in the nav station, Ian just laughed referring to the South China Sea as the “Sea of Certain Breakage”. He would know, in the 2008-09 race both he and Chuny were forced to anchor with their teams in the Philippines after sustaining significant damage.
    Pointing to the foreboding dark red in front of us on the weather model, Ian remarks, “When we broke Green Dragon to pieces this was all black – 50 knots with 10m waves!

    Matt Knighton
    OBR, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
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  2. #242
    You would think they would all be used to mal de mer by now.

  3. #243
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    This week, the fleet is sailing through one of the most congested waterways in the world, dodging fishing boats, tankers and many other hazards.
    The teams also unfortunately witness the level of pollution surrounding them as they pass Singapore waters. Then the six boats finally exit close to each other in the South China Sea to sprint to their final destination…

    Life in the fast lane

    - Team SCA and Team Brunel gamble on northern route
    - Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing grab slim lead by early Wednesday
    - Download our app for the latest reaction from the ocean

    SANYA, China, February 11 – Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) and Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) have taken their courage in their hands with a push north for more wind in Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race as the fleet entered the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday.

    The two crews must wait around a week to discover if their tactics to head towards Taiwan – in apparently totally the wrong direction – have paid off. Early indications are that they could earn rich dividends on the 5,264-nautical mile (nm) leg from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand.

    The pair have taken a wider arc, further north, after exiting the Luzon Strait between Taiwan and the Luzon Island of the Philippines.

    It is a ‘fast lane’ route that will mean that they will sail roughly 300nm longer than their four rivals, but they are banking on better wind to propel them clear. Eventually.

    “So far, the weather models say they have got it right, but it will be six or seven days – or even more – before we know for sure,” said the race’s official meteorologist, Gonzalo Infante, on Wednesday.

    At 0955 UTC, the multi-national women’s crew and the Dutch team still trailed early leg pacesetters, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR), by some 120nm, but were already making inroads into that deficit.

    Infante added that the fleet would probably converge in the north Pacific Ocean in over a week’s time.

    “The danger for Team SCA and Team Brunel at that point will be as they enter a stretch of Doldrums, which can be random,” he said. “But they could well end up in a very strong position by the time they reach the South Pacific.

    “This leg is seeing more of a split in the fleet than we’ve had before.”

    The four-strong main pack is currently led by Walker’s second-placed crew, with MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP), Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) and race leaders Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) chasing hard. They are grouped within 4nm of each other. They have around 4,700nm to the finish.

    Mercifully, the sea state, which had been churned up by currents and winds running in roughly opposite directions in the South China Sea causing widespread seasickness, has been less uncomfortable for the crews in the past 12 hours.

    Team Brunel’s Onboard Reporter, Stefan Coppers, summed up neatly: “Imagine being on a roller coaster over 60 hours consecutively – that is more or less the feeling. You want it to stop, but there is no way out.”

    Computers predict an arrival into Auckland around March 1.
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  4. #244
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    Cashing In

    Leg 4 to Auckland. Day 7. Team Brunel has taken the lead. Their initial bet to take the northerly route early in the leg and sail hundreds of miles more is paying off. Now the two northern teams are cashing in. ”They are 4 knots quicker. I hope they don’t continue otherwise we have a lot of work to do.” says Will Oxley on Team Alvimedica

    Leg 4 to Auckland. Day 7. Yet another mechanical challenge onboard Dongfeng Race Team, when the halyard locking system broke in the middle of the night, preventing them from using their J1. After seven hours of work in the dark, a workaround with another halyard allowed them to put their J1 back up.
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  5. #245
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    Volvo: Cashing In

    "Even if they have to chop my arm off, I will sail to Cape Horn."
    The fear was there tonight for Gerd-Jan Poortman. At a sail change in the dead of the night, the bowman was caught by a wave and thrown against one of the upright dagger boards.
    Result: a ruptured eardrum in one ear and a bruised arm. Poortman was immediately placed in his bunk with a serious dose of horse painkillers. “I thought: Sh*t, the next leg is Cape Horn," said Poortman.

    Poortman is a specialist hitting hard on the dagger board. In 2006 this happened to him as a rookie on ABNAMRO TWO in the leg from Melbourne to Wellington.
    He broke his back and missed the leg passing Cape Horn. And with Team Delta Lloyd, the legendary leg was missed because the boat was broken. Completing the rounding of Cape Horn is for Johnny a race on it’s own.

    This morning Johnny reports on deck for his shift despite his painful arm for his battle with the elements. But skipper Bekking thought otherwise and ordered his bowman to stay inside. A similar remedy worked earlier this week excellent for flu-like Arrarte.
    Bekking feels sorry for the situation: "A sail change in these conditions is always risky. We slow down the speed from 25 to 17 knots. But the power of water is enormous, as you see. But Johnny'll be fine again."

    Stefan Coppers
    OBR, Team Brunel

    All work and no talk
    If you weren’t onboard Dongfeng Race Team the last 12-hours- well, consider yourself lucky.
    It hasn’t been all skittles and pillows.
    I asked Erwan to sum it up.
    “It was a sh*t night for us,” he said.
    Goodness Erwan, the news ladies can’t send that out, I considered, so I waited for Erwan to leave the nav desk and five minutes later Kevin sat down and I asked him the same question.
    “What a sh*tty night,” he elaborated.
    I guess Voltaire couldn’t have said it better.

    Here’s what happened. After dark the wind picked up and the sea got testy.
    The halyard locking system, or “silver dick”, as Kevin calls it, failed and we lost our J1. The crew hoisted the J2 fast but it wasn’t suited for the angle we were sailing, so we lost miles on the fleet.
    “Losing miles, breaking stuff, and it’s not our fault,” said Kevin.
    It was seven hours of work in total to figure out how to get the J1 back up on another halyard.
    But it revealed a significant frustration.

    “Maybe it should have been replaced in Sanya since other boats already broke this exact part – now we know it should have,” said Kevin.
    I asked the boss.

    “We did want it changed before but we were told it was ok and everything was in good shape,” said Charles.
    “I mean that’s part of the game,” said Charles. “To be able to prepare the boats. It’s two things. There is the Boatyard, but it’s also our boat and we could have seen it and changed it”
    Either way, it happened to us and as a result Azzam went from 9 miles ahead to 20 and Charles is back to swearing in two languages per string.
    I slept through sunrise, exhausted from a late night filming the mayhem, cursed myself because the previous two sunrises had been less than stellar and this one looked crisp and I missed it and I went straight to packing the food bag for the day.
    It’s Horace Chen’s birthday!

    There was a little card and a care package with candy stashed right up next to the toilet bags. I took the package and hid it in the same spot I’m stashing the last jug of nutella, figuring I’d wait for the day to simmer down and end on a good note.
    It was two days ago – on February 13th- the day Horace had picked all the flying fish off the deck.
    Sometimes he’ll venture back to my cave to put on his wet weather gear before watch. I don’t mind the company.
    So I was sitting at the media desk when Horace surprised me.

    Horace is notoriously difficult to get to open up. Kit and Black and Wolf have no trouble sharing their emotions, but with Horace everything is always good or fine. It’s frustrating for an OBR but the truth is that some people just don’t say much, like Thomas.
    He’s a workhorse with the stamina of a Jack Russell. He’s always one of the first on deck and he’s never late for a watch. Maybe he’s not a ‘media dream’, but then again, most sailors aren’t.
    His English is very stilted as he only learned to speak it in the last year.
    When Horace speaks English he talks he sounds like a Hollywood Kung Fu master, so I’m also amused to try and understand what he’s saying.
    And no, he doesn’t get the wax on, wax off joke.

    “Sam. I want tell you something. On this day. One year ago. Kit and I meet Charles and French sailors for first time in Hong Kong.”
    I imagined the Kit and Horace roaming around a Hong Kong shipping yard drooling over the Volvo Ocean 65 with nothing better to do. My friends and I have done the exact same in Newport countless time over: go and stare at boats you think you’ll never get to sail.
    “One year ago we see this boat for the first time. And today, I’m here sailing. It’s an amazing feeling.”
    I told him I know the feeling.

    “And I want to thank our Chinese sponsors for giving all us this incredible opportunity. Really. Without them Chinese sailors not get to do this.”
    I looked at Horace and said, “Do you have any idea how lucky you are?”
    “Yes!” he laughed. “So lucky. It’s incredible.”
    He walked away smiling all the way into his salt-water washing machine.

    That’s Horace. All work and no talk and celebrating his 23rd birthday on the Volvo Ocean Race.
    I was living in my grandmother’s spare bedroom and unemployed at 22.
    I think he’s onto something.
    Happy 23rd Birthday Mr. Chen.

    Sam Greenfield
    OBR, Dongfeng Race Team


    A week has passed since the start. We had a few days of great sailing conditions with no major incidents and the daily routines are settling.
    Life onboard Team SCA moves on rather smoothly for the moment. We had a few sail changes so sleep has been short but we go fast and in the right direction so everyone is in good spirit.
    Despite the fact that we are sailing in a completely different time zone than Europe life onboard is scheduled after UTC. This means breakfast at 17:30, lunch at 01:30 and dinner at 09:30.
    We welcome the sun around 22:00 and 12 hours later it's dark again. Apart from the sailing and the fact that we are constantly racing there are many things that are similar to life on dry land. It´s just a little bit upside down.
    The simplest thing at home can be quite complicated out here, like finding your way to the bathroom without hitting your head on the wall or making a cup of evening tea without pouring the boiling water over your hands instead of in the cup. My favorite is when you really put an effort.
    The meal is ready to eat and you find yourself what you think is a fairly secure place to enjoy it when the boat takes off and you go with it. You land with the bowl still in your hand but the food all over.
    The wind is very shifty for the moment and comes and goes from various directions. Sometimes it feels like the boat has stopped and sometimes we are up and running in 20 knots.
    It seems like this is the kind of conditions we can expect the next couple of days. It´s just to dig in. We have many miles to cover and we count them down one by one.

    Anna-Lena Elled
    OBR, Team SCA

    February 15: a day for sore teeth and heart-shaped candy hangovers, even on the high-seas.
    Too much sugar onboard and I’ve heard troubling signs of yesterday’s perfect romances already heading for the rocks.
    I made Housty’s coffee too cold this morning and Dave called Charlie out for not slinging his foulies behind the curtain because they don’t dry there, but inboard their weight isn’t utilized, but Charlie’s actually been good about it.
    A huge misunderstanding. Counseling is hard to find in the Philippine Sea but we’re working through (I keep saying there’s no fire without friction).
    Honeymoon hitches aside; boat speed over the last 48 hours has been really good. We’ve been fast compared to our southern-pack and it seems to come down to minimizing inconsistencies in our sailing.

    We’ve been much better at adjusting the boat to our liking, changing modes and trim to the changing conditions, sailing the boat the way we already know. There were some costly skeds where we were probably too absorbed in what the competition was doing, what modes they were sailing, worrying about their setup instead of ours.

    We’ve hammered it time and time again, the potential disadvantages of one design AIS-racing, but as Will said following another good sked this morning, “we just have to continue doing our own thing and keep focusing on what we need to do.” Well-timed words as the fleet again compresses towards the Northern Marianas.
    Brunel and SCA are cashing in, reaching down to our line having pulled the trigger on their potential gains to the north. The wind looks lighter that way in the coming days and we should all be together soon.

    The valuable lessons from the last week, about confidence in our testing and in our knowledge base and about sticking to a plan, at some point you need to begin exercising what you’ve learned and I think we’ve discovered that time is now.

    The next week will be more of the same straight-line sailing, east by southeast, with some island spotting and significant world history scattered throughout. Plenty to keep us distracted from the continued post-Valentine fallout!

    Amory Ross
    OBR, Team Alvimedica

    There are good noises on a Volvo Ocean 65 and there are bad noises.
    Many bad noises aren’t that bad at all – the jaw jerking sound of a running backstay being eased, the kettle whistling because it’s time for your watch.
    However, the sound our reaching strut made yesterday when it folded in half like a taco? That was a very bad noise.
    The sharp bang woke anyone up who was off watch and the sound was so loud it shook through the whole boat. Reaching through the Pacific at 20 knots, several tons of energy was suddenly released in a split second and the shock wave was felt by every hair on our bodies.
    The most amazing part of the breakage though, was how quickly everyone reacted.
    The gap between Dongfeng and us had been growing and shrinking like an elastic band all day and every second the strut was down was costing us precious mileage. Seemingly even before the sound had stopped everyone had their gear on to charge out into the whitewater on deck.
    The maze of action on the boat was astounding. The second strut was already on its way out of the hatch while Daryl was tightening a new pad-eye from below. We were back.
    Dripping wet and out of breath, Wendy and Ian were first down below after the fix. Ian joked, “Why do we do this again? For the fame and fortune?”
    “Fortune?” Wendy chuckled. “Nah, I do this cause I can’t sit behind a desk.”
    The latest sked showed we’d put on more than 10 nm on Dongfeng and Mapfre. Ian suspects there may have been gear failure on the rest of the fleet after the 25 knots of breeze throughout the night.
    Hopefully we don’t break another strut – we didn’t bring a backup this leg.

    Matt Knighton
    OBR, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
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  6. #246
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    Mar 2010
    SF Bay Area
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    Bugs And Broken Bits Hamper Volvo Crews

    ALICANTE, Spain, February 18 – China’s Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) were in no mood to celebrate Chinese New Year on Wednesday after being relegated to the back of the fleet for the first time since the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 started.

    Caudrelier’s crew entered the 5,264-nautical mile (nm) Leg 4 from their home port of Sanya to Auckland as overall leaders by a single point, following victory on the previous stage.

    However, the crew have been struggling to re-establish their grip on the fleet and the latest setback was a problem with their mast track, which has broken free in one area. The track attaches the mainsail to the mast.

    This is the third time this issue has hampered the team during the race. They have made a temporary fix with lashings to secure the track to the mast, but will want to make a more permanent repair as soon as they reach lighter winds in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

    Dongfeng’s French skipper Caudrelier was already not in the best of humours after opting against a more northerly route towards Taiwan, early in the leg, after exiting the Luzon Strait.

    One of his biggest rivals for the overall prize, Bouwe Bekking of Team Brunel (NED), left Dongfeng Race Team in their wake after deciding to take that navigational gamble, and on Wednesday, the Dutch boat still led the fleet by just under 50nm.

    “I was too conservative,” Caudrelier later conceded.

    Chinese sailor, Yang Jiru (English name ‘Wolf’), summed up the subdued atmosphere on board his boat on Tuesday night: “The condition we are in is not ideal at all, that’s why everyone’s disappointed and also a bit upset. We are all focusing on the race and therefore don’t have much desire to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

    “It’s just that we're not really in the mood to celebrate. The race is still very intense, especially since we are falling behind a lot at the moment. The only wish I have is to make a 'phone call with my family at midnight.

    “But if you ask me if I have any doubt (about what I’m doing), the answer is no, I don’t feel any regret.”

    Despite the glum mood, Dongfeng Race Team were certainly not out of contention altogether for good leg points (1 for first, 6 for last), with some 2,700nm left to sail before reaching their destination in New Zealand. At 1010 UTC, they had managed to cut 38nm off Team Brunel’s lead in the previous three hours and trailed by just 77nm.

    Fifth-placed Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR), who had also taken the ‘northern route’ with Brunel on this leg, but without making the same gains as the Dutch team, were powering along just 61.1nm behind the leaders.

    Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) were tucked into second place, 28.4nm behind Bekking’s crew, while Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) were making the most of their consistently good boat speed, 14.8nm further adrift in third.

    The pair had finished second and third in Sanya last month respectively, with Team Alvimedica securing their first podium finish in a race which has shown a steady improvement for them throughout.

    MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP), in fourth, 54.8nm behind, had one major cause for cheer – they have fixed, with the collaboration of Cobham and Race HQ, for their time being at least, a problem with an antenna and so have restored full communications with Race Control.

    This means that they too can receive all the weather data, the same as the other teams in the fleet. Prior to that, they had been sailing ‘blind’ since Saturday evening, unable to plot the optimum course based on the in-depth weather forecasts they were missing.

    The fleet is due to arrive in Auckland in around a week’s time on February 28-March 1.

    ************************************************** *************************************************

    ALICANTE, Spain, February 17 – Sickness on board, plus a couple of injuries, have put the crews of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet to the test as they make their way through the Pacific Ocean from Sanya to Auckland on the 5,264-nautical mile Leg 4.

    Pablo Arrarte (ESP) has been struggling with ‘flu on board Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED), and Justin Slattery (IRE) has been laid low by a similar virus on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR). However, both are now getting back to full fitness, according to their crews.

    Offshore sailors particularly fear sickness at sea since germs can so easily spread among the crew in the confined space.

    “This is threatening,” said Jens Delmer (DEN) in a message from Team Brunel, referring to the unfortunate Arrarte’s sickness. “We live in such a small space that something can spread easily to the group.

    “Because of the bad food and little sleep, everyone has a super low resistance. This is normally not a problem, because we leave with a sterile boat, and at sea there are no viruses. But if someone brings it on, then we will all be at risk.”

    A couple of the sailors have also picked up minor but painful injuries since leaving Sanya on the southernmost point of China on February 8.

    Guillermo (‘Willy’) Altadill (ESP) of MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP) injured his hand and needed it to be bandaged up.

    And Gerd-Jan Poortman (NED) ruptured his eardrum and suffered bruising to his arm and side after being washed into a dagger board on Team Brunel.

    Both sailors are also reported by their crews to be back on the mend.

    Although the Dutch boat was effectively a man down for a couple of days because of Arrarte’s illness, Team Brunel have established a strong position at the head of the fleet after gambling on a more northerly route along with Team SCA early in the leg.

    The gamble paid off with stronger winds that propelled Bekking’s team into a near 100nm lead on Monday, but by Tuesday at 1240 UTC, that had been whittled back to 37.4nm by the chasing pack led by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR).

    MAPFRE, which has been without full communications with Race Control since the weekend, is still holding on to third spot despite missing weather data to help them plot their course.

    Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) were still at the rear of the fleet, 94.3nm adrift of Team Brunel, after failing to make similar gains.
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  7. #247
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    Mar 2010
    SF Bay Area
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    That's NOT Peanut Butter

    The clouds have been spectacular and the clouds have been disastrous. As Neal MacDonald once famously said, “There’s no such thing as a good cloud.”

    They are beautiful though. In the warm waters near the middle of the earth, you can see entire weather patterns play out across the open water. Massive white puffs develop and then disappear in a matter of minutes and each have a personality of their own.

    At sunrise and sunset the low light reflects amazing colors on the white canvas of clouds in the sky. Shadows are exaggerated and for a while you can see every curve and billow as they grow and shrink in size.

    Some are just forming and suck up the moisture from the ocean as the tops climb thousands of feet in the air. Others are dying and pelting down sheets of moisture underneath – dark grey bands of isolated rain you can see from far away. Refreshing for a clean shower but often carrying no wind.

    The wind becomes very unpredictable in the vicinity of a cloud – Ian has told us countless stories of races that were won and lost when a boat parked underneath a cloud in no wind an others caught the trend and sailed around.

    For all the white clouds we could’ve seen during the daylight, the one that nailed us today was at night. At night, the worst clouds look like dark battleships in the sky, all you can see is a dark shadow – darker than the rest of the grey sky overhead.

    We couldn’t avoid it, we sailed underneath it and within a minute our wind speed had dropped from 16 knots to only 1. The worst part, we stayed like that for 20 minutes as Dongfeng and MAPFRE both sailed around us. Their gains on the next sked were only a few miles – suspiciously the same distance they likely sailed around us while we were parked.

    That was a bad cloud.

    Matt Knighton
    OBR, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

    I was organizing the galley space just after sunrise when I felt something slip onto the tip of my fingers. I glanced down to the tip of the pointer and middle fingers on my right hand.

    The smear had the look of peanut butter. It had the feel of peanut butter.

    So no problem, I continued stacking the galley pockets with Kevin, without fuss, more focused on the touchy alignment of the tab that locks the cube storage wraparound to the counter.

    The boat was alive and screaming downwind at 24 knots and every little turn of the helm threw me into or away from the frustrating, dexterous task at hand.

    What Doldrums? I chuckled.

    Instead of drifting around and staring at big clouds we were tearing through the fastest and wettest conditions I’d seen on this leg or the past.

    My hands were pruned up from shooting on deck for the past hour and breakfast was late. I never forget to feed the animals. Wolf had fixed the pressure cooker lid and it was working perfectly and MAPFRE was less than half a mile off our stern and after a week in last place we were back at the front of the fleet approaching the final stretch to Auckland.

    I was happy.

    Until the moment I experienced a sobering moment of clarity. Sam, we don’t have peanut butter onboard. I lifted my finger to my nose and sniffed.

    My. God. I gagged. It wasn’t peanut butter.

    “What is it?” asked Kevin, reacting to an appalled look on my face that I wish someone had captured on camera. When I answered his question, over and over in somewhat crude terminology he responded, “Surely you can’t be serious.”

    In that moment one of the sailors onboard this boat –may God save his soul if I find him out on my own- became public enemy No. 1 for leaving a mess of No. 2 in this OBR’s galley. God only knows how.

    After I washed my hand and bleached the entire kitchen I climbed into my bunk for a decompression nap, furious. I feed the animals every day and this is my treat?

    I fell asleep fantasising that instead of washing my hand I’d walked up to each sailor and grabbed them by the scruff of their neck and rubbed it in their nose with a stern ‘Bad! No!’ like training a puppy.

    The thought made me smile and I fell fast asleep.

    When I woke Kevin was in the galley and he told me a story about how during his Jules Verne attempt on a 100’+ maxi Catamaran one of the 14 crew members had missed the drop hatch and left the terrible remains of a torn compost bag for him to clean.

    It had taken him hours to floss out of every corner of the head, hatch and hatch lock and no one fussed up. “Everyone went silent,” says Kevin, “It is but the nature of humans. Unbelievable, right?” “Not humans,” I say. “Animals.”

    Sam Greenfield
    OBR, Dongfeng Race Team

    Day 14: On days like this, there is only one way and it’s forward

    It’s in the middle of the day. We just had lunch. I’m at my desk down below in the dark sauna. Next to me I got Libby chatting with Carolijn at the navigation station. They go through the last position report. It was not what we were hoping for but we could see it coming. It’s not an easy task to be a navigator. There are so much data, different scenarios to consider and choices to make.

    Dee Caffari is helming upstairs with a big smile on her face. The South Pacific has so far been full of surprises. A few bad, but mostly good ones, and we are far from bored. We passed a light wind area during the night and had to move all lose weight forward, including ourselves. We also did the first gybe in 10 days. Desk and gear to starboard. It’s weird to suddenly live on the other side of the boat. I welcome the change though, especially when I’m cooking, it’s nice to lean in the other direction for a change.

    The morning was peaceful. It started slow with light winds during sunrise. Annie was trimming; she loves to trim in that kind of condition and you could tell by her focus and efforts. Not long after it was time to make a move and take a reef on the main and change foresail. And do the stacking of course. Don’t forget the stacking. Sails on deck and gear down below are moved from the bow towards the stern when the wind picks. Stacking is a never-ending story offshore racing. But when every knot counts we are happy to do it.

    And this is where we are for the moment. Unfortunately we lost mileages on the other boats during the night and despite we are moving with up to 18 knots for the moment it looks like we will loose a few more before we can start to close the gap to the fleet again. But that’s not going to pull us down. We know where we are heading. There is one tricky transition zone between the fleet and Auckland. We put up a pretty good fight so far and we are in a hunting mood.

    On days like this, with steady winds, sun, blue waves, great surf and spray on deck, there is only one way and it’s forward.

    Anna-Lena Elled
    OBR, Team SCA

    “Sailing Champagne”

    A great 24 hours for MAPFRE! Perfect sailing conditions. Enjoying between 20 and 25 knots of wind coming from behind, surfing the waves and covering MAPFRE’s deck with water. We’ve taken the second place now that Brunel lost the lead. The fight with Dongfeng is relentless and today, after they switched from the MH0 sail to the A3, we overtook them on windward. We’ve stayed together so far. In the evening the wind dropped to 14-17 knots and we switched to the A3.

    Today was the best day of sailing since we left Alicante – perfect water temperature and ideal wind direction for us to sail at full speed towards New Zealand.

    Inside the boat – extreme humidity and strong heat. The sun is hitting hard and some of us get red – rojito – because we’re not wearing sunscreen. With all the water on deck, the cream just doesn’t stay.

    We’re six days away from the finish and we’re really keen to finish the leg in a podium position. There’s motivation, and things are going really well. There’s confidence, teamwork, and the desire to arrive with a good place in Auckland.

    Tonight we’ll sail between Vanuatu and Fiji. It’s going to be a tough night that can define the leg. The fleet is really close together and there isn’t much room for mistakes.

    I hope you’re living these last days fully from the shore. I mean, after 15 days of sailing, the fleet is within less than 10 miles. IMPRESSIVE.


    Francisco Vignale

    What a crazy night! Huge clouds, loads of rain, massive gains and losses, Leg 4 has just been reset. Now we find ourselves sailing in 20 knots more wind than forecast and literally ripping towards Auckland.

    As fast as we make plans in the nav station we are having to tear them up and start again. As per normal we have positioned ourselves in the middle in the hope we will cover ourselves in the event of the unexpected.

    I am not sure how this will play out but would favour the guys in the east right now. We have another 250 miles of good wind before another transition in light winds. We have to get this one right as time is running out to get to Auckland.

    It's turning into a fantastic race and with light winds forecast for the end it will surely be a nail biter.

    Ian Walker
    Skipper, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

    It has been an amazing day of sailing onboard with 20-24 knots of wind for much of the day and none of it in the forecast. A very pleasant surprise! The reaching conditions have lifted everyone’s spirits after another couple of confusing skeds, further proof that the fleet can’t seem to agree on how to play the upcoming trough of little-to-no wind, and Vanuatu’s shadow.

    In the meantime the battle of east versus west wages on. Brunel pushed hard to the west overnight, more west than us, and we worked our way further east (or so we thought), but we’ve just seen Brunel about 5 miles in front of our bow, going east again. Once through the trough there’s just over 1,000 miles of breezy straight-line sailing all the way to Auckland. Passing will be tough so this last call is a biggie.

    Do you sail less distance and a more direct path to Auckland, aimed south and close to Vanuatu, but at the risk of running out of wind? Or do you sail really far east to avoid the hole altogether? On a map the difference in tracks is dramatic—the easterly routing takes you east of Fiji. But Will’s computer also says both options will get you to the finish within nine minutes of each other.

    We’re trying not to get too distracted by the fleet and their movements, the small gains and losses from every sked can become a distraction from our own downwind sailing, a less confident point of sail for us, and from the bigger picture: setting up for the crossing. There’s a good chance the order we leave this trough is the order we finish so for the foreseeable future the focus is on deciphering the constantly changing weather and keeping the boat going fast.

    Fast indeed: we’ve averaged 19 knots over the last 12 hours and we’d be happy to keep it up!

    Amory Ross
    OBR, Team Alvimedica

    ************************************************** **********

    February 21, 2015

    WANTED: 9-quart red Igloo cooler. Handle-less. Alone. Last seen drifting at approximately 4.223S, 165.456E. Speed, roughly Zero. Floating upright. Should be considered partly washed and hazardous; approach with caution.

    You know when you fall, how your first instinct is to look and see if anyone noticed? It doesn’t matter how much it hurts if you were able to pull it off in secret.

    I knew the instant the handle of the galley cooler snapped I was doomed. There would be no secret with this one, our insulated Igloo and my pride still inside it, drifting away in our wake after a transom-cleaning gone wrong. So, SO busted. It didn’t have a name like “Wilson” but I felt as severed as Tom Hanks from Castaway in losing my only true friend; nobody knows an OBR like the chili bin. We’ve shared so much since Alicante. But he’s gone and I have a very hungry group of guys I need to do some explaining to. My camera pelican case seems to be a suitable substitute for now but I’m (…they’re) thankful we have just nine days left to suffer through luke-warm food.

    Crummy as I feel about the loss it’s been good fodder for the fellas during another tough day of racing. We’ve been west of the fleet for the last week and much as we try to get east, our bed’s been made for a while now. Last sked we were the fastest boat on the track but also the highest, still working to minimize their leverage but sailing away from Auckland in the process. We’re losing slowly and consistently and it’s a hard pill to swallow. The only thing we can do is keep pushing hard, keep pressing like we’ve been, and keep hoping the variable weather in our future offers an eventual blessing.

    Our western-most position means we can benefit from an expected shift to the east before the gybe south. There are plenty of gains to be made there too, balancing the Vanuatu wind shadow and a potentially longer course further east. Another tough couple of days in front of us but we’re all excited for the opportunities ahead. Confidence is high and given the compactness of the fleet there’s still everything to fight for, driven in large part by the desire to get Housty and Dave home to Auckland before anyone else!

    Amory Ross
    OBR, Team Alvimedica

    So that's it, we're in the Southern Hemisphere.

    We've got our smile back over these past two days, and our efforts have paid off.

    Finally we are back in the podium positions on the rankings.

    Yesterday we managed to pass SCA, this morning MAPFRE, we're quick, and that feels good.

    Yesterday we made use of some relatively calmer conditions to send our Mr Fixit up to repair our mast track. After two hours of strenuous work at 25 metres above the boat, Kevin managed to glue 3 metres of mast track back on.

    It was pretty full on for him, because at the height every small movement of the boat is amplified many times.

    This evening we will take off the webbing strops and ratchets that held the glue bond to set, and we'll see whether or not we are able to take the first and second reefs. This really has to work, as we are without doubt going to need them before the end of this leg. For now we are sailing faster than the computer routing predictions, but 50 miles in front of us there is a massive barrier. Enormous clouds, lightning no doubt, and without question the hard and famous part of the Doldrums. So tonight is going to be critical.

    Our easterly position might work out well for us, but just one cloud can either launch you to the front, to stop you totally for several hours.

    So let's see...

    Charles Caudrelier
    Skipper, Dongfeng Race Team

    You should have seen the sunset last night.

    Chuny was trimming the traveller – his eyes fixed on the distance to go to the equator watching as they ticked down to 000. As he called out the numbers, the sky was changing every minute with pinks and reds dancing off the brilliant white thunderheads on the horizon. The water was purple and moving along at a brisk pace – we were speeding along at 14 knots, well ahead of our routing.

    You could practically see the line in the water as we crossed the halfway point between the north and south poles for the third time this race. Everyone was quiet on deck… that is except for Alex who was busy dousing himself with buckets of water on the transom.

    It had been his first time crossing the equator (a fact he’d neglected to tell us before the start of the leg – a fact that made King Neptune all the more furious) and following the earlier ceremony he was sporting a brand new, expertly crafted aerodynamic haircut. All smiles, he laughed, “It was a lot of fun, and everyone had a good laugh including me. You can’t take yourself too seriously! No bad days.”

    After another turn of the sun, this morning we’re taking advantage of the good breeze and sailing the fastest angle south. The doldrums still haven’t settled on what they’ll look like in a few days – we’re on borrowed time.

    In the flat, blue waters of the South Pacific, Ian is in good spirits. Poking his head on deck, he smiled, “Any morning you can wake up doing 17 knots and wear shorts on deck is a good morning.”

    Looking towards the predicted drag race south in 3 days time however, he readied us for what lies ahead. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up with us and Dongfeng match racing the rest of the way to New Zealand.”

    February 21, 2015
    Matt Knighton
    OBR, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery

  8. #248
    OBR's need to mind where they put their fingers?

  9. #249
    Sam must have pissed off someone in a bad way.

    The Volvos look big close up but must feel very small when the shit hits the fan.

  10. #250
    I don't think it was the fan... It was the galley sink.


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