Sunday, 1 March 2009
PUMA Ocean Racing off the North Coast of Viti Levu, Fiji, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright www.musketcovefiji.com.
by Kenny Read (skipper)
Don't you think that has a nice tone to it? I know there was a "Survivor" Vanuatu [the US TV show] and Vanuatu is only 600 odd miles to the west. So, why not our own version of Volvo "Survivor?” Actually, I have lost interest in that show since the naked guy on the first series left. Not that he was naked all the time, and believe me it wasn't because he was naked. The fact that he won the contest with such a bold strategy has always intrigued me- plus the fact that he was from the town right next to Newport, where I am from. I think he is actually in jail now for tax evasion. I digress.
It is decisions like these that make racing fun and also makes the hair fall out in clumps. The "Fiji" decision, as we called it on the boat was not made in haste or without an amazing amount of thought. Capey was essentially analyzing it for days. First goal was to get to the east of the islands by sailing tight to the wind for literally four or five days. That was our own personal drag race with E3. But once we decided that getting up and over the island wasn't to be without a couple painful tacks, the emergence of Plan B and Plan C came into effect. Plan B: go through the middle as we did. Plan C: go to the west of both islands.
Plan C never really got much traction because the western island of Fiji is huge and very high and we were really concerned about a huge wind shadow under the island.
Plan B started to take shape when the weather routing for the next week began to unfold. Essentially, we liked being to the west of the group after Fiji, so the plan to get around Fiji wasn't really that big a deal- it was where we wanted to be after the fact. And at this point in time we like where we are and we came out with a 20 mile lead or so. What's not to like.
As I sit here writing, I can rationalize to myself that Plan B could have been a lot better for us, and a lot worse. First of all we had wind all the way through. We had no idea really what to expect in that channel although we did have good current information. We expected some common sense geographic changes to the wind and directions and strengths and it really played out almost to plan. Pretty fortunate really. So for this reason it could have been a lot worse
On the other hand, the guys that went east got much better shifts and the breeze stayed stronger than we were anticipating based on the weather analysis onboard. They got out of there about three or four hours better than we thought. To be honest, if we had thought it would have been that close we probably would have stuck with our Plan A.
But that is why it is called ancient history. We are done with Fiji for this day. A gorgeous sail. We certainly won the "scenic beauty while sailing" award for our route- really deep water with about a million living reefs growing to the surface everywhere. That is why it was so tough. We had to sail a lot of extra distance to get through the minefield of reefs- amazing green mountainous terrain, at least on the western island. It was cool to smell land again.
When it is all said and done, I really don't think that Fiji will have been the deciding factor in this race but it did bring a bit of added stress to this young man for about 24 hours. I hope to come back to Fiji some day. But next time with an umbrella in my rum drink enjoying those reefs, and not trying to dodge them.
Off to the races heading south towards New Zealand. The Kiwis aboard have already started the banter about God’s country and the "Land of the Long White Cloud.” One thing is for sure, if New Zealand can be as friendly to "il mostro" as Fiji was, it will be God's country in my mind.
So, nobody got naked like the guy on "Survivor" (thank goodness) but we did feel like we didn't get kicked off the island either. We live to play another day.
PUMA Ocean Racing
Volvo Ocean Race