by Kate Fairclough
PUMA’s first week at sea during the epic 40 day leg from Qingdao, China to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the longest ever leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, has been wet and wild. In negotiating their way from freezing China to pass the southern tip of Japan en route into the Pacific Ocean, the largest ocean on earth, the PUMA Ocean Racing team and close rival Ericsson 4 have been sailing barely more than a few miles apart. However, the upcoming equator crossing, which almost always goes hand-in-hand with light winds, is likely to shake up the fleet.
Early next week, the PUMA Ocean Racing team will cross the equator for the third time during this race, as they delve south towards New Zealand and on towards the notorious sailing landmark, Cape Horn. Once more the Volvo Ocean Race fleet is daring to sail into the unknown, no professional yacht race having ever taken this route around the planet before. The tactical decisions made by the team, led by Skipper Ken Read (USA) and Navigator Andrew Cape (AUS) will decide the team’s fate in this section of the 12,300 nautical mile leg.
Skipper Ken Read (USA) commented: “The competition out here is phenomenal. You would think that in a 12,000 plus mile leg you could get out and spread out and relax a bit... anything but that. We live and die on every three hour sched [position report] to see how our efforts have been rewarded, or not. It is a huge ocean out here. One thing we also have to contend with is zero knowledge of the distant future with regard to weather. Capey spends all his time trying to see into a crystal ball with regard to planning our path now with regard to where we want to be a week or even more from now. It’s pretty tricky stuff.”
“I have been in some smelly situations, but the interior of this boat is rapidly passing them all as a top player in this weeks "smelliest place on earth". Essentially we left Qingdao with everything on our bodies we owned. It was cold, and for two days, very wet. Even with great outer wear, which I have to plug our buddies at PUMA for knocking it out of the park on their first attempt, everything is damp. And occasionally wet. The entire interior is wet, and everywhere you sit is wet. Thank god for PUMA shorts with gortex butt pads.”
And there hasn't been a single second of drying since the start. Blasting across to Japan... drenching. From Japan through the Black Current... warmer but still very wet on deck. Since then? Non-stop spray. Of the fire house variety. Zero chance of getting stuff out to dry out the moisture. Water to the face that is and consistent pounding of the bow into every wave. The temperature has now gone from reasonable to quite hot - and you have a pretty sketchy odour right now. By the way, none of us humans smell very peachy either for that matter.”
Leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race is expected to take 35 – 40 days to complete. The Volvo Ocean Race is made up of ten legs, finishing in June 2009 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
PUMA Ocean Racing
Volvo Ocean Race