Thursday, 26 February 2009

VOR: PUMA LEG FIVE DAY 13 QFB; received 26.02.09 0923 GMT

Skipper Ken Read tracking the line squall onboard PUMA Ocean Racing, in the Doldrums, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Rick Deppe

Having a tough time today. We seem to be out of the ‘squall zone’ or the nasty ones at least, and the sailing is settling down a bit.

We are still reaching along on port (12 days on one tack has to be a record) in about 12 knots of wind with Ericsson 3 two miles to windward and Fiji about 500 miles dead ahead. No significance to Fiji, it’s not a mark of the course or a scoring gate, just another stage of the journey to mentally tick off. After that it's about 1000 miles to the scoring gate at New Zealand. I'm sure that a lot of New Zealanders in the fleet are lamenting the fact that we are not stopping there in this race. Maybe they are imagining the scene as we scoot by the northern tip of their country.... If it's daylight and we're near enough when we go through, will boats come out and see us...? Will there be any familiar faces? This is me, an Englishman, imagining the scenario. The Kiwis on this boat keep all the questions inside their heads.

Right now the sailing team on Il Mostro is heads down, digging a ditch. They are working the boat constantly and making adjustments as often as every 20 seconds. The most important control is the main sheet and this occupies two guys full time, one to trim and one to grind. In addition to spinning the handles, this crewman (the mainsheet grinder) will also make adjustments to the other mainsail controls - outhaul, cunningham, checkstay. With one guy stuck on the helm the fourth guy on watch is left to do all the running around. He controls the dagger boards, moves weight around, monitors the competition and generally keeps things running smoothly. And all this to just sail in a straight line. Any time that anything other than straight line sailing is needed, guys are brought up from the off watch. The number of extra guys needed can be as few as one or two people to help move something, or the whole crew to make a sail change.

So why am I having a tough day? It's probably got something to do with just how hard the guys are working right now..... The last thing they want to deal with is me sticking a camera in their faces ... ‘how does it feel to be sailing along on a boat?’..... ‘How are you handling the trip so far’" and other lame lines of questioning........

Having said that, a little while ago I spent a few moments on deck, chatting about various topics with Rob Salthouse. I was talking about my new super-duper infra-red see-in-the-dark camera light and he was telling me that he missed his kids and wished that he could bring them out here so that they could see how beautiful the night was. We both lamented that the folks at Sony had a long way to go until they could make a camera that would record a night like tonight, but then Rob commented that maybe that’s a good thing because everyone would be out here if they knew what it was like.

Maybe not such a tough day after all.

Volvo Ocean Race

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