by Rick Deppe
It's starting to look as if the compression of the fleet will continue over the next few days and it sounds as though Green Dragon who are currently lurking about 50 miles to the NNE ) of us might be coming to join the party. Last night we received an email from Ian and the lads....... "Nice one Capey, but are you sure you can get under the new road bridge! They must have just figured out that Il Mostro intended to navigate the gap between the two Fijian Islands and they were trying to spook us.
Now obviously this was a joke, the two islands are about 15 miles apart, a bridge that size would be a pretty sizable public works programme for a small South Pacific Island State which, as I understand it, has been going through some major political upheaval over the last few decades.
So after one last check OF ALL THE CHARTS regards the bridge: we carried on.
A strong bond was forged between Puma and the Green Dragon team when the two teams jointly attended the marine safety at sea course at the South Tyneside College Marine Safety Training Centre.
Two days of intensive training covering all aspects of fire fighting, first aid, and distress communications etc. Additionally we had the opportunity to go through every piece of Volvo supplied safety equipment learning the function and use of each item. This type of equipment usually comes packaged in a very specific way, with the intention that it will only be used one time only. It's kind of ironic that for most people the only time they might ever operate a fire extinguisher is when they are actually staring down a real fire for the first time.
So many preventable accidents must occur because of a lack of basic training in the use of standard equipment. So this was a large part of the course, breaking all the flares and Jon buoys out of the boxes, seeing what’s in there; why and how it operates. Our instructors gave great insight into the strengths and weakness's of all the equipment. If they thought something was a bad piece of equipment, they weren’t averse to saying it. We left the course with a long list of upgrades and changes that we would be making to our onboard safety strategies as well as creating an atmosphere for ongoing dialogue regards safety on the boat.
By far the highlight of the course was the time spent in the college’s famous wave pool. It's a full size swimming pool with a difference: four meters deep with pulsing pumps that create sizable waves, a wind and rain machine and, to top things off, a sound system that would make Def Leopard jealous. The idea of course is to create a life-like storm at sea.
We spent time learning to get into survival suits, how to deploy the life rafts and safely enter the water in an abandon ship situation. The session finale is a one hour scenario drill, where we ran through all the elements that we had learned and combined them into one long session. During the scenario we must have swam about a quarter mile in survival suits (not easy) and actually spent the longest 20 minutes of my life sitting in the life raft with waves throwing us around (it’s very realistic and actually I felt quite nauseous), rain and wind pounding down on the roof of the raft and the deafening sounds of thunder and lightning all around us. It was very realistic.
Puma went first, and then the Green Dragon boys. After a while the joking and the banter started to subside. It’s quite a sobering experience to see your mates struggling in the water. All in all, a great two days of training, and an experience that I would recommend to anyone planning to spend some time on a boat.
The second evening that we were there we were taken out to an Indian restaurant in South Shields. This may seem like a small thing, but two rival teams going out together en masse only a month prior to the start of a race as big as the Volvo is, I think, somewhat unprecedented, and a real testament to how cool both skippers are. It was a pretty good curry too.
Volvo Ocean Race