Wednesday, 11 March 2009

VOR: PUMA LEG FIVE DAY 24 QFB: received 09.03.09 2150 GMT

Casey Smith and Andrew Cape in the engine box, onboard PUMA Ocean Racing, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Kenny Read (skipper)

We feel like we are in a bit of a drag race but we are dragging some tyres around from the back bumper. These two Ericsson boats are quick power reaching - check that, they are never really slow - and have essentially jumped a weather system on us. Especially Ericsson 3, who is just smoking away right now. Ericsson 4 has just a tiny more breeze and header than we do every sched due to their forward position in the band of pressure, therefore gains a few miles every sched. It gets taxing on the brain, and at times tough to keep moral up.

But we chug on, looking for the next opportunity. Life on board is really quite comfortable right now. All except for the fact that we aren't really making great progress toward the next ice gate at the moment. The water pounding on deck has taken a reprieve and the interior is actually drying out some. We have some of our air vents and aft hatches open which is a welcome change.

About two days ago we began to sail in a condition we hadn't had on this leg yet. Actually this isn't true; we haven't had sleet or snow yet. We have had every strength of breeze from all quadrants of the compass to date and all other forms of precipitation, but we hadn't had fog yet.

Well, we have now had fog and plenty of it. Fortunately (or unfortunately) there are no other ships or boats dumb enough to be down here in the Southern Ocean, so chances of having an exchange with another vessel are quite slim. The fog has given us only a couple hundred metres visibility at times, and pretty much soaked everything on the boat both inside and out. The hits just keep on coming!

Today the breeze has backed off and we are running in a gentle 14 knot north-westerly waiting for an eventual back in the breeze and a gybe toward the second ice gate. It would be enjoyable if we didn't know that the two boats in front of us always had a bit more pressure. Did I mention that was frustrating? I think I did.

Anyway, boat is in pretty reasonable shape and the boys are just about healed up from the crashing and smashing we took the first few nights out. Only taken 20 days or so for that to happen. Not too good for the body when you can't give it proper rest. Hard to heal.

Personally I think this is a bit of a milestone in the leg. Over half the mileage and time is behind us and in reflecting, I wish we had done a couple things better and also are pretty pleased with other situations. Life on board in such a cramped environment hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be over such a long period.

The constant screeching of the rope over the winches is surely going to make us all deaf, but that is part of the deal. Like I said the other day, you can really lose track of time and the days just keep ticking by. If the food bags weren't numbered with the days meals to be served then I really would have no idea how long we were out here for.

An actual treat the other day, Ricky (Rick Deppe MCM) had out bag 19 and 20, then went to 23 and 24. We had already eaten 21 and 22. Big bonus. Two days passed in an instant.

We go on, looking for ways to reel back in our two Ericsson friends. They aren't making it very easy. Need to shake the tyres tied to the back bumper.

Volvo Ocean Race

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