Monday, 20 April 2009
Watchleader Nick Bice getting wet while trimming the main and Ben Costello helming, on leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Rio de Janeiro to Boston. Image copyright Sander Pluijm/Team Delta Lloyd/Volvo Ocean Race.
by Wouter Verbraak (navigator)
Unleash the beast
“Guys, we are five per cent under polars. How does the boat feel?
“Very unbalanced now that we are lifted. It was good at 95 true wind angle, but now it is bad.”
“We have good data from this morning with the fractional zero indicating that we should be able to beat the polars with this wave state.”
“OK, let’s go to the frac zero.”
It is the middle of the night and although we are slow and not reaching targets, we are still doing 19.5 knots of boat speed and waves are crashing over the bow continuously. It is going to be a dangerous change, so we had better take care. We wake up three extra guys and bowman Gerd Jan Poortman runs us through the peel. Like always preparation and clear communication are key.
“Frac zero forward. Ed and I will hook it up, while you guys prepare things in the pit. Wouter can you prep the jib bag on the bow? Hoisting frac zero, then drop and pack the R1 genoa before we unfurl the zero. Too dangerous to unfurl first, we have to get the sail off the bow.”
With our skipper Roberto ‘Chuny’ Bérmudez on the helm we go into the change. Six guys on the grinders and the new sail makes it to the top in no time. The drop is the risky bit, but fortunately we have a ‘chicken line’ up along the luff of the genoa to grind her down quickly. She fires down, and with five guys we fish the back of the sail out of the water and jam it in the bag. A good five minutes wrestling later and the sail is safe on the stack at the back of the boat again. Good, everything safe and secure. Time to unleash the beast.
The acceleration is enormous and within moments we are more submarine than sailing vessel. Man, are these boats powerful! As usual I go back to the main pedestal to grind the main while Bocheca calls the trim. This is the easy job. With tons of water washing through the cockpit the other guys are desperately trying to secure the sheets and halyards. Lose one out the back and it is nearly impossible to pull it back in.
Through spray drops on the ski-goggles I have a blurry view of the instruments on the mast. The boat is leaping from wave to wave and big three meter high fountains of spray are crashing over the bow and submerging the mast and instruments completely. The boat speed goes to 20, 21, 22, 23 knots and just hovers there. This is where skipper ‘Chuny’ is in his element. Fantastic driving. What a machines these boats are.
I am loving it. I only have one little problem. The ski goggles are essential to keep the spray out and are doing a great job. However, some waves are bigger than others, and with the big dumpers I recognise an essential shortcoming. Through the air vents at the top of my goggles the water pores straight into my glasses. With no way out at the bottom, the goggles are slowly filling up! Put some fish in and it would be a great personal aquarium. Not ideal for grinding and watching the numbers though! Need to solve this tomorrow with some drain holes in the bottom.
Volvo Ocean Race