"There is a twist in the bag!"
by Wouter Verbraak (navigator)
Pitch black, waves crashing over the bow, with five guys we are fighting the angry flapping jib on the bow. It is blowing 22 knots and we just made a very costly little mistake. What normally already is a rather tricky manoeuvre has now turned bad. The jib bag is inside out and we will have to redo it. The jib is already more than 80 per cent unhooked from the forestay, and it takes one bad wave for the whole sail to get washed into the ocean. It is a clear message that the champagne sailing of the last week is over. We have entered the South Pacific.
I have a quick check of my harness and safety line. Clipped on? You bet! It is in jib changes that people get washed over the side. We are always trying to minimise the time in the ‘dead zone’ on the bow, and now we are stuck. Not good.
We sort the bag out and wrestle the jib, which is now filled with hundreds of litres of water, back onto the stack at the back of the boat. No time to take a breath, as we are straight into the hoist of the new one.
"Change, overdrive second, three two, one, on the lock. Sheet in, first, double change, three, two one, ok all good. Nice work lads!" Almost halfway around the world, and these changes are now second nature, even for a navigator!
A few minutes later whilst catching my breath and having a drink, I have a smile on my face. The teamwork on the Green Dragon is great. We just pulled off another good change and recovered from the small mistake well. Every job we do on this boat requires at least two to three people. We are a hundred per cent dependent on each other. Not just for getting the job done, but also with keeping it safe.
The realty check of this evening is a harsh reminder for me of what lies ahead for the next two weeks. It will be all about keeping the boat and the crew together, and I have to think for a moment of our good friend Hans Horrevoets whose tragic loss at sea is a bleak reminder to us all of how easy things can take a turn for the worse.
Every time when we are out there in the dead zone, I am happy to see that everybody is taking safety seriously and clips on. As Guillermo (Guillermo Altadill/ESP) says: "clip on mate, the lifejacket only means that you will be dead floating. Stay on the boat." At the speeds these Volvo 70s are doing it will be impossible to get back in time. A harsh reality we all have in the back of our mind.
Kristine, my love, I know you are worried, but know this: I am sailing with a great team of the best sailors in the world. No heroes here, just fathers, husbands and sons looking out for each other whilst racing their hearts out. Sleep well.
Volvo Ocean Race