Sunday, 22 February 2009

VOR: PUMA LEG FIVE DAY 7 QFB: received 20.02.09 1605 GMT

Bowman Jerry Kirby standing on Skipper Ken Read's head whilst working on the mainsail en route to Rio De Janeiro in leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Kenny Read (skipper)

I have been in some smelly situations, but the interior of this boat is rapidly passing them all as a top player in this week’s ‘smelliest place on earth’.

Think of the situation. 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, for 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. Power reaching (all on port tack) across the Pacific with spray hitting us about every other wave. Zero chance of getting stuff out to dry out the moisture. Combine that with the fact that so much water on deck keeps all the primary hatches shut all the time, and the temperature has now gone from reasonable to quite hot - and you have a pretty sketchy odour right now, living large as if it was a part of the family. By the way, none of us humans smell very peachy either for that matter.

To be honest, our fun fast reaching right after Japan lasted a couple days and slowly turned into drudgingly painful power reaching. That means that the breeze is too far forward for the boat to really get moving, and has all the symptoms of high speed. Water to the face that is and consistent pounding of the bow into every wave. I know I am complaining about going slow, but slow on these boats is under 20, and we are averaging a little over 15 knots. Still not too much to complain about I guess.

And as always, the competition is phenomenal. You would think that in a 12000 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 to see how our efforts have been rewarded, or not.

One thing is happening though, the fleet is splitting enough that people are going to start sailing in different weather patterns. What has already happened is that we are all starting to see different breeze variations from the same weather pattern. We have gotten pinned a bit to the southwest of the fleet by the breeze we have been in, while the troops behind have been able to sneak to the east of us. Even though the distance to the finish looks ominous for the boats behind right now, all this could change in an instance. It is a huge ocean out here, and the wind angles can make up some monster differences in a short period of time.

With that said, we also have the scoring gate to contend with as well as two ice gates and the only actual mark we round - Cape Horn. Heck, you could see someone at the back of the pack completely ignore the scoring gate and start planning for the Horn now. You would think this sounds pretty basic, but one thing we also have to contend with is zero knowledge of the distant future with regard to weather. Capey (Andrew Cape – navigator) spends all his time trying to see into a crystal ball with regard to planning our path now with where we want to be a week or even more from now. Pretty tricky stuff. Weather files for the most part don't go out more than a week.

With all that said, we are still a happy lot aboard. Looking forward to drying out in a day or two, but still in the hunt and happy to be heading to Rio.

Volvo Ocean Race

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