• November 24 -25 Onboard Updates

    Bino’s and Undies

    We find ourselves glued to “Bino duty” as the Australians put it – for the rest of us normal people that’s a reference to binoculars. Alvimedica has been spotted just port side off the bow. It’s early UTC time but late afternoon here in the east. We have had a good sched recently, taking a minimum of 2 miles on the girls while chasing ADOR down very quickly with an 11-mile gain.
    We are approaching a ridge of pressure (you might as well start googling all these terms as we will have plenty of meteorological terminology coming the next couple of weeks) but to give you a quick explanation it’s simply a transition from one direction of wind into a new direction of wind. Once the wind starts to knock us or head (which is normally a bad thing in sailing terms) we will change course to sail north-northwesterly again. This change in direction is good as it allows us to travel a more direct line to Abu Dhabi. The change is imminent so we patiently watch the American/Turkish boat ahead to see what will happen.

    I asked Tom today did he feel anything different about this leg, he replied, “Ya one of the big changes this leg is ah, we are not going to Cape Town we are actually going to Abu Dhabi, that’s probably the biggest change.” I can at least confirm the sense of humour has not failed on this boat. He added, “It’s been easier to start and get back into it. Having done Leg 1 it’s easier to roll straight back into the routine so its all good so far.”

    Nicolai brought up a random conversation today and it’s the name we have for underwear. A couple of interesting facts not just about underwear but clothing in general on boats: we don’t have a lot of it. Personally for the first leg I brought three pairs of underwear, two shorts, two t-shirts, two pairs of socks, and of course a fleece lined jacket. That’s it for over four weeks at sea, oh we don’t wash anything either.

    What I love about this is when you arrive in port. All the families and friends are there waiting to greet you, what they seem to forget is that we smell, smell bad. No showers and two changes of clothes will make any mother do a double take on any close hugs! Mothers I have you warned for Abu Dhabi! Anyway I diverted slightly, we have a mixture of Danish, Irish, Kiwi, Australian, Dutch and Argentinian on our boat. You can imagine the dialogue and phrases can’t be any different (by the way before you ask; NO one and I mean NO one says “Top of the morning to you in Ireland, FACT), however the word for underwear varies.

    So Nico calls them Reggies, Salty calls them boxers, Trae says Undies and Tom rarely wears them! How did Nico find such a bunch of weirdo’s and what’s worse why do I end up writing about such utter rubbish… anyway I thought you might find it interesting what sometimes we discuss on the boat! Underwear is not a priority but sometimes crews get jealous when you take that extra fresh pair out Don’t get me wrong, personal hygiene is important and I’ll tell you all about how we keep the bodies clean in another post.

    Two Random Facts: 1. Having a couple of spoons of chocolate powder in your Muesli is the next best thing to a dessert for breakfast and 2. Having a Kit Kat and a coffee for breakfast breaks all the rules but who cares, my mother is 10,500 miles away (Mom I know I’m 30 years old but admit it you would not approve).So long for now Land People…

    Brian Carlin
    OBR, Team Vestas Wind

    “Shitty night”
    Laurent Pagès lets himself fall inside the boat. He is soaking wet. The day is starting outside: it’s pouring down and there is almost no wind.
    “This was my shittiest night in this Volvo Ocean Race,” says the Frenchman with a sense of drama. “I’d choose a storm over this any time.”
    On deck, Pablo Arrarte seconds his colleague’s feelings: “We’ve had a lot of clouds last night, looking full of wind. Every time, everybody went out of bed to change sails, but the only thing coming out of the clouds was rain. It was very dark: we could hardly see ourselves trimming the sails.”
    Gerd-Jan Poortman paid the bill in the end. “I was awoken five times. On deck, changing sails, not good again, changing it back. Yes, I can feel my hands! The good news is, we’re still running with the front pack.”

    Stefan Coppers
    OBR, Team Brunel

    Stable instability
    This morning the difference between being on watch and off watch is pretty small. It’s a bit like doing a sail change every time we see a new cloud – and we’ve seen a lot of them!
    “Everybody on deck, we must be ready to manoeuvre at any time.” Charles

    I heard this phrase several times. Better off being on watch rather than off watch – at least you don’t spend your time going up and down, and just hope that you might get some rest at the end of your watch. A forlorn hope for some, with everyone trying to move our machine forward as fast as possible.
    The moment of truth

    It is 0600 UTC, but as Charles says, it’s actually 0700 UTC, the real hour of truth. This is when we receive the six hourly position report.
    Before it arrives, Charles tells us, “We had rain clouds and squalls coming from every direction for the past few hours, and for sure that will have created some casualties. We’ll know in an hour when the position report arrives. And then most importantly there is an important tack to make, the timing of which could really effect the results, in particular for Abu Dhabi team.”

    Yann Riou
    OBR, Dongfeng Race Team

    It was nice having Dongfeng Race Team sailing alongside us all day yesterday. It’s just such a great thing, seeing these boats sailing neck and neck.
    For the last 24 hours, we sailed only half a mile apart with barely any changes. The reason I like it so much is probably because I’m not steering the boat, otherwise, if I had to struggle to get the boat to go one inch faster, constantly looking what the other boat does, it’d probably feel like torture.

    We didn’t have much wind in the morning, and life on board was just crazy, moving the stacking up and down the whole time. Each time the wind changed, we had to move stuff around.
    In the afternoon the wind picked up and we decided to tack as to head north, to Abu Dhabi, since the wind shift allowed it. Shortly after nightfall we could see Brunel windward of us. Dongfeng to leeward, to port, and further out in that direction Team Alvimedica.

    The night was pretty tough, sailing upwind in more than 23 knots of wind. We kept peeling from MH0 to FR and from FR to MH0. Showers, gusts of up to 26-27 knots, and the boat heeling a lot and sailing fast!
    With the first beam of sunlight, we tacked in a wind shift and as soon as it came back we tacked again. One of the watches didn’t get any sleep due to all these calls. They stayed on deck for seven consecutive hours, went for a two-hour rest and came back for four more hours.
    Life offshore is hard, wet and demanding!

    Francisco Vignale

    Cuisine de jour
    Oh freeze-dried food, how I have not missed you during our days in Cape Town.
    Today, I went where only a few people (plus the astronauts) have gone: freeze-dried ice cream. It wasn’t half bad, but as I explained to Sophie it’s something I’ll probably only need to try once… a year, if that. I’m unsure what confused me more, the fact that I was eating something “they” decided to call ice cream or the fact that the strawberries tasted only 40% real.

    Tonight’s dinner is “Chicken a la King.” First off—what is that? What King? I’m pretty sure no King in the whole wide world would eat this. It tastes kind of smoke-y and kind of lemon-y, which are two flavors I wouldn’t necessarily mix together. The ingredients read: “chicken 20%.” I’m uncertain if this means chicken only makes up 20% of the total meal, but then wait does it only mean the “chicken” pieces are make up of 20% real chicken? Obviously the first option seems the most logical, however if you simply looked at the cubed meat you might begin to doubt your gut. Or is it trust your gut in this case?

    We’ve been lucky with one brand of freeze-dried food where the meat is real meat, however this leg’s meat is far from real. Sophie describes it best: “this is the leg of squishy meat!” Yep, that’s right… you chew and chew for a long time as the “meat” squeaks between your teeth.

    How do I describe the “lamb”? Dare I start with the color? Which is more like grey with black dots. Ah yes, the rare spotted lamb meat, only found in packages! Similar to the 20% chicken, the lamb is cubed and indefinable We try very hard to not think about the non-lamb animals that make up the “lamb” in these meals.
    Food conversations generally go like this:
    “How was lunch Dee?”
    “The Moroccan Chicken was fine as long as you don’t look at it.”
    “Ah, you mean the Moroccan Lamb? Noted.”
    Or, when cleaning the dinner pot in the morning:
    “Oh so that’s what dinner was meant to look like! Not what I expected!”
    Or, the now famous quote from our coach, Brad Jackson, from the last Volvo Ocean Race:
    “I wouldn’t feed this to my dog.”

    Nonetheless, we can complain until the cows come home but there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s not like we can run to the shop and pick up something fresh or change brands of freeze-dried. And, to be honest, even if we could, I doubt we would.

    Food is fuel out here, it’s not necessarily meant to be ‘good’ per say. It’s amazing when freeze-dried food actually does taste like the real meat, but that’s almost like a treat. We have to eat in order to properly function, both within our own bodies and on deck. If we suddenly become food snobs then the boat’s performance goes down. Perhaps it’s a bit of a Catch 22.

    So we suck it up, eat the hot meal, and enjoy the trail mix and chocolate bars on the side. At the moment, we have an unbelievable type of flapjack on board—quite the treat with a morning mug of hot chocolate!

    So if the main meal is a bit dodgy (seriously, is it really lamb!?) then at least there’s dessert! (although I think I’ll be avoiding any thing called ‘ice cream’ from here on out.)

    Corinna Halloran
    OBR, Team SCA

    You’ll have to excuse the grogginess this morning; it was a long night. For all of you newborn parents out there complaining about the baby waking you up every few hours, you should give high-pressure passages a try. Everyone was “wet bunking” (climbing into your bunk still wet and in foul weather gear), up and moving about every 45 minutes last night as if on a fixed schedule.

    Rain squall after rain squall, sail change after sail change, stack adjustment after stack adjustment. Like Lionel Richie—all night long. Just when you start to get comfortable the call comes through the hatch to change something else. No snooze button to smack on that one… up and on deck, straight into the dark night.

    Thankfully things have settled for the time being, about 19 knots, and the guys are catching up on some needed sleep, but there’s talk of taking a reef soon as the wind is supposed to build. We’re approaching the first of a few difficult weather features in our future this afternoon, an area of low-pressure moving east off the coast of Madagascar, and though it’s not forecasted to bring more than 22 knots, it’s upwind and there’s always the potential to whip up something special.

    Which brings me to expectation management. It is going to be a big part of this leg. Not that we would ever expect worst-case scenarios, but in planning for near-worst-case you make sure you’re equipped to deal, mentally and physically, for whatever may come your way. We were expecting a light, windless day or two across the high. It never developed: bonus. We’re expecting a bit of a wallop later today and everyone’s into their own projects in prepping for it. Once through this we get some tradewind sailing straight towards a tropical depression. We’re obviously expecting a real tough time there, but thinking that way, not hoping for the best but expecting the worst, it helps to get yourself ready for it.

    Manage expectations and you’re rarely caught out. That’s kind of our theme for the next week—be smart, stay in touch and plan farther ahead, hopefully further than the rest. Trying to act older, wiser than our years, I guess!

    Amory Ross
    OBR, Team Alvimedica

    For the past two days, the South Indian Ocean has been quiet and void of any other boats as we’ve been sailing on our own with 60 nautical miles separating us and the rest of the fleet to the east. In a way it’s a stark contrast to when this part of the ocean used to be a busy trading route. Now, as we continue to sail north towards Abu Dhabi, there is nothing. No one sails down here anymore.
    If the split we’ve created pays out, one might argue it was intentional… but it wasn’t. We were really trying to gybe to get in touch with the fleet when we found out later they’d sailed further east.

    We’re playing our hand as fast as we possibly can and as the sun came up this morning and another sked came in, we were glad to see we’d had more breeze in the west and gained slightly on our competition. With any luck, we’ll be able to work over the top of them, or at the very least, come back together.

    “On the one hand it’s nice to have other boats around because you can pace yourself and learn more”, says Ian. “On the other, it’s nice being alone and not make decisions because of what the other boats around you are doing.”

    Always analysing the situation and talking things through he continues, “To be fair, we’ve done alright on this side, we’ve just had two slow patches which they didn’t have. Otherwise we’d be 50 miles up the track. If you play the whole thing through on the router we basically all come out the same.”

    Matt Knighton
    OBR, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

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

    The Indian Ocean calmed down. Endless high waves gave way to a flat ocean. On deck of Team Brunel the mood is relaxed. Four miles behind, the guys can see the front sails of MAPFRE and Dongfeng who’ve been trying, in vain, to take first position from the Dutch.

    In the slipstream of the yellow ocean racer, two albatrosses dance on the wind. The gigantic seabirds draw all attention away from the pursuers for a little while. Bekking, legs over the railing, sips coffee from the thermos. For minutes, his eyes follow the birds.

    “Incredible how beautiful the way they just skim over the waves.” He moves his arms showing how they float past the boat without a kick of the wings.
    “Jens is our albatross-man”, trimmer Rokas Milevicius calls out. “If he owned a pet it would be an albatross”. “Did you know albatrosses are deceased sailors?”, the Danish sailor says. “What a life! Travelling, flying: seeing the world! Yes I want to be an albatross…just not yet.”

    Stefan Coppers
    OBR, Team Brunel

    Our fifth night racing onboard MAPFRE, neck and neck with Dongfeng. We are less than a mile apart from each other, we can even see the expression on their faces. Until the sun set they were slightly ahead of us, we peeled from an A3 to a MH 0 but we definitely couldn’t pass them.

    They lifted me up the mast to check the wind and the sail setting they had in place. Really amazing view the one you get from 30m high. At 22:00 UTC Brunel was 8 miles ahead of us and Dongfeng to starboard and little by little we managed to move up. In the early morning, as early as 02:00 am UTC we had left them behind, so this race is being really exciting. It’s pretty intense sailing, you can feel their breath on your neck and how they are desperately trying to pass you. Again the wind was a bit unsteady and we had to put all the stacking in the aft.

    We changed breakfast, lunch and dinner time, cause the sun rises at 1:30 in the morning, and at 16:30 the moon is up in the sky, so now we’ll be eating following a more natural pattern, more adapted to the day light.
    The boat is going well, and we are thirsty for the win!

    Francisco Vignale

    I can’t be more thankful for such a dry day. Since we left it’s been wet above and below decks but by 10am local time the sun was out and so was our washing. I think everyone secretly enjoyed the slower pace today. Not only did the sun give us some valuable drying time it also lifts spirits, not to say they were down but 25 kts and grey skies are not quite the same as blue ones replaced by that orange round thing in the sky they call the sun.

    On a personal note I hit a best today. I’ve been somewhat out of sync since we left Cape Town, I’m not sure can I put my finger on it exactly. Perhaps like I mentioned the unknown is known so it takes something away from the experience. They say the first leg is the best and I’m beginning to understand that to a point. Nonetheless I found myself getting back to it so to speak. My goal is to become super fit physically before the end of the race and have committed to Tony Rae to do so.

    Today as my personal trainer, friend and fellow shipmate we accomplished a goal, 70 press-ups. I’m sure to some it maybe easy but I ask anyone of you right now sitting at your desk, hit the floor and give me 70 on the spot. I’m wondering how many of you stopped now to try and will continue this read. Of course the biggest challenge will come as we travel north and spend longer at sea my muscles will become weaker from a variation (lack) of diet and proper exercise but the goal is to get 100 press-up before Abu Dhabi. Can I do it? Keep checking in and I’ll update you all on the progress.

    The boat was a little out on its own the past 24hrs but we have gybed north into the lighter air but also back into the pack, we are deep within enemy territory fighting to get north and east to the trade winds. It’s such a difficult part of the world to navigate as so much is unknown and not much documented. Also the cyclone season is upon us, I asked Chris what do we do now that the routing and weather information is not as established in this part of the world, “I think we will have to deal with what weather that you have and factor in some of the area’s you need to go and we have been doing more or less that.

    The Doldrums I’ve been across here once before and they are pretty cool, well at least last time we had big storms and there is plenty to play for in that area anyway, so I’d be happy if that runs the same”

    Wouter added; “This used to be a very popular shipping route but with the opening of the Suez canal very little traffic is seen in these parts and hence the lack on weather observations in these parts”
    Tomorrow I want to have a proper catch up with the young fellas. The social hours have been cut down to a minimum at the start of the leg but I’m keen to get in the inside track on how Leg 2 is going thus far.
    Stay tuned land people - more from the Indian Ocean shortly…

    Brian Carlin
    OBR, Team Vestas Wind

    Team SCA has a super fan. She’s three and, at home, she has posters of Team SCA on her wall. As a member of the team, and as a woman in 2014, this is extremely cool. When I was three, I had posters of horses and “New Kids on the Block” on my wall. The fact that there is a little girl already aspiring to be like us means we are doing our job correctly.

    “This is not just about going out and winning the Volvo Ocean Race,” Libby said. “This is about something so much more, it’s about something bigger. When a three year old is interested, it’s like ‘wow this is really big.’ In sailing you’re so focused on crossing the finish line, but this is about so much more. It’s about changing way we think. If anything, it will start by changing how see women in sailing.”

    What’s so fantastic is Abby Ehler, Stacey Jackson, Sally Barkow, and Libby Greenhalgh are becoming household names for young women around the world. The women of Team SCA are neither the Beyoncés nor the Hilary Clintons of the world—they’re simply every day women.

    Yes, the women of Team SCA have worked incredibly hard to get to where they are today, however they enjoy cooking, a trip to the cinema, spending time with friends and family, eating chocolate, and so on. The women of Team SCA are real. What the women of Team SCA show all women, young and old, is that you can go out and achieve your dream—you can follow in our footsteps.

    Sailing is an international sport that is so often looked at ‘a wealthy man’s game.’ Sailing is not “mainstream” like basketball, football, or golf. Sailing is confusing and technical.

    However, the reality is: sailing is something anyone can do—especially if there’s a ‘learn to sail’ program in your area. Sailing is way cooler than mainstream sports because the sport sends their athletes into the front line, 24/7; you don’t see Michael Jordan sleeping on the basketball court!

    Sailing, at it’s most pure and simple form, is about the wind, the sea, and water

    What I’m getting at here is that sailing is a very cool sport, and little three year olds are interested in the sailors which means Team SCA has the power to change the world—through sailing. We have the power to not only share the love and the joy for the water, but we are role models who have the power to encourage the little girls out there to achieve their dreams. Yep, Libby is right, this is something big.

    Corinna Halloran
    OBR, Team SCA

    As Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing fights their way North in the light winds of a high pressure, for the first time the mood onboard “Azzam” can best be described as cautious. Leg 2 has already reminded us several times that in a race between one-design boats you’re as much at the mercy of the “wind gods” than anything else.

    Somewhat superstitiously, Daryl reflects, “We’ve had breeze the whole time, touch wood (as he pats his head) hoping they’re in a little light spot.”

    “This is the first day since we left Cape Town that you have the opportunity to dry your gear out and give your neck and wrists a break from the latex seals”, he continues looking at a deck strewn with wet weather gear, boots, and socks drying in the sun.

    After several breakages, many onboard are also keen to realize that any gains can be stripped away quite easily. Every hour now, someone is combing through the hull checking for any sign of wear. “We’ve not sailed brilliantly well”, says Ian. “We’ve had a few mishaps onboard and now we find ourselves a little bit on a limb with the fleet so a little bit nervous at the moment.”

    And then lastly, added in is the one-design element of this race. A narrow gap of experience is quickly closing every second the fleet spends more time racing the Volvo Ocean 65’s. We know it’s becoming more about the small performance details, our weather routing, and a dose of luck regarding who comes out ahead.

    While trimming the Main, SiFi agreed, “I think you discount any team at your own peril, I think everyone is pretty strong. Some guys are a little more consistent at the moment but already the level is very very high.”

    Matt Knighton
    OBR, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
    This article was originally published in forum thread: 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race started by PD Staff View original post