Saturday, 21 February 2009

VOR: Cleaning Up Their Act

Michael Muller onboard PUMA Ocean Racing, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Cameron Kelleher

The portfolio of the Media Crew Member is diverse – film maker, photo-journalist, agony aunt, cook and janitor. But in the democratic republic of il mostro, it is the Minister Of the Interior (MOI) who holds the position of influence.

It is a responsibility that is rotated among the 11 crew members on board PUMA and MCM Rick Deppe oversees the implementation of policy.

Doubtless there are complaints from on-board constituents – including Aggrieved of Newport, Rhode Island but it’s a dirty job and someone’s gotta do it.

Deppe explains… "The whole crew knows that every 11th day their number is up. Today it’s the turn of MIchi (Michael) Mueller. I'm talking about the Minister of the Interior, easily one of the most important jobs on the boat.

"A clean ship is a happy ship as they say. Here’s the list of responsibilities that Michi must attend to today …

1. Bail boat at end of every watch

2. Wipe down galley after every meal

3. Clean head once

4. Check for loose items that can be stacked

5. Clean tail bags

"And that’s it, probably 10 to 15 mins out of his day.”

Deppe added that in Mueller’s case, there are domestic matters closer to home that are weighing on his mind. Mueller and his partner are expecting a new arrival any day now, so he is checking his email constantly.

Deppe can empathize. He’s been there himself. “I was in the same situation with my daughter, now 11 years old in the 1997-98 race onboard Chessie Racing.

"The first four days of that leg were easily the hardest of the whole race and the sense of relief when I found out that Isabel had arrived safely and that mum was OK is hard to describe.

"So why not just stay home? I hear you asking ... it's this race man ... it’s like a disease. You make the commitment to yourself and the team a long time out. It takes many years of work to get yourself in a position to be considered as part of a team and there is always the nagging doubt that if you step out for a time; someone else will move in.”

Family ties were also a topic touched upon by Ericsson 4 watch captain, Brad Jackson. His eldest son Liam celebrated his 10th birthday two days’ ago ... and Jackson Snr had some explaining to do.

"I feel a bit guilty of never being around for a lot of the family moments,” he wrote. “I think I have been around for maybe four of his birthdays and less for the other two kids so I'm not a good candidate for Father of the Year but I think they enjoy this lifestyle and understand it is my job.

"Hopefully I can repay them when we settle down at home for a while after the race and have a normal life, until I take off on another project to pay for the normal life. I hope they know how much I appreciate what they sacrifice for me.

"Liam I hope you had a great birthday and I'll try and be at the next one, Love Dad.”

Ericsson 3 in heavy weather, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

Further inner thoughts were aired by Telefonica Blue skipper Bouwe Bekking. Having conceded 19 hours to the rest of the fleet when keel damage delayed their start to this leg in Qingdao, Bekking and his men are playing catch-up.

By the 16:00 GMT Position Report, the Blue boat had at least got to within 12 miles of nearest rival Green Dragon. The Race Viewer shows the deficit to the leaders Ericsson 4 and PUMA was over 250 miles as the fleet takes aim at The Doldrums.

The strain of ploughing a lonely and distant furrow over the past six days might just be starting to show.

“We keep ticking off the miles. We’ve just got to hope for a major park-up or a tricky area, so that we gain miles back. Now it is the rich get richer,” Bekking lamented.

“It is painful to trail the other boats, but we know we have to keep pushing hard. Still, it’s a fantastic job. Which other sports can you do and be with your mates for nearly 40 days? It will be very interesting to see how each individual onboard will cope with being so long in a small area.

"A shrink would be loving stuff like this, and could probably write a book about this leg. The sheer determination from each individual is fascinating to see, and I know exactly where to push a button to make somebody flare up.

"I don’t think we will run into any personal issues, but I keep a good eye on everyone to assure he will be happy. Happy sailors are fast sailors.”

Martin Stromberg, sailmaker and trimmer for Ericsson 3, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

Amid the hard graft, they are keeping abreast of the latest fashion trends on board, according to Bekking’s team-mate, Simon Fisher.

On the catwalk of Telefonica Blue, this season’s must-haves include “various accessories which provide protection from the spray,” reported Fisher.

"Whilst the majority have stuck with the trusty old surf helmet and visor, David (Vera) has mixed things up a little with a fetching pair of safety goggles and Mike (Pammeter) is sporting a pair of scuba googles.

"The latter, while looking a little ridiculous, seem to be effective. However, while gettng them out of his bag Mike managed to stamp on them popping the lenses out. The repair job was taken on by Gabri (Olivo) as at the time the light wasn't that great for photos.”

A sight for sore eyes no doubt.

Volvo Ocean Race

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