Friday, 7 January 2011

VOR: A Rush that is Hard to Find

Stu Bannatyne. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

"Occupation - Volvo Ocean Racer" sums up Stu Bannatyne, as he joins CAMPER as watch leader for his sixth race. He tells why he keeps coming back for more.

"The decision to go again, of course, is not mine alone and this is a total commitment from my wife Amanda, to have another go, pack up the kids and bags and travel to the stopovers in the far corners of the globe.

"Our family loves travelling and for oldest daughter Anna, it will be her fourth Volvo, having first travelled to England as a four-week old baby for the start of the 2001 race.

"As they have grown up, the kids have had great experiences at the various ports we have visited - elephant riding in India, the water park at Singapore Zoo. Perhaps the most memorable was the Volvo school, where kids of all different nationalities came together to do their schoolwork, enjoy local field trips and to learn about all the cultures and places we have visited along the way.

"I can only hope they remain as excited to travel as they get older and maybe there might be more Volvo Ocean Races in the future for us after this one!

"For me, the Volvo Ocean Race continues to hold a special draw which keeps me coming back. I enjoy the whole project, right from the initial stages of team selection, boat, rig and sail design and then the build up and sailing the new boat - testing all our ideas and optimising the boat and sails to give us the best shot at doing well in the race.

"But ultimately, the most important reason for doing the race is the love of offshore sailing. The Volvo Ocean Race is too long and gruelling to just do it for a job - you really must want to be there.

"The boats are very challenging to sail well, but the feeling of mastering the Volvo Open 70 and the elements is a rush that is hard to find elsewhere. The boats respond well to being pushed hard and you know when the team gets together and has a good run, the scoreboard will reflect it with a gain of a few miles on the opposition.

"This competitive element is important, but there are also plenty of times when the sailing might be relatively slow and it can be these times also which provide enjoyment, being at one with the ocean and just being out there.

"Competing in the Volvo Ocean Race brings a huge range of emotions, from the highs of winning a leg, breaking a record and winning the race right through to the disappointment of being beaten, getting cold and wet and abandoning the sinking yacht in the mid-Atlantic. We have to deal with it all.

"Some of the hardest times can be motivating yourself to get out of a nice warm sleeping bag, to pull on wet gear and drag yourself on deck in the middle of a cold, wet night for a four-hour stretch of being pummelled with seawater. You just have to think that the guys on the other boats are suffering more!

"To break it down, life onboard is simply a constant routine of four hours on watch and four hours off. The catch is that, in the four hours off, you have to do all your eating, getting dressed and undressed (sometimes this can take 20 minutes or more when putting on six or seven layers) and jumping up to help out with a sail change. The reality is that, on a normal day, we might be lucky to get four or five hours sleep, which never seems enough. But, time and time again the adrenaline kicks in to pull us through. I remember one time coming up from off watch to help with a sail change and not getting back to my bunk until 14 hours later - it might be a routine we run, but certainly not a strict one!

"This time, the opportunity to compete in the Volvo Race again has been made possible by Camper and their sponsorship of our team. It is always great to see new sponsors becoming involved in the race, especially with an event that has the heritage of the Volvo Ocean Race.

"Camper has a very clear objective. They, like Emirates Team New Zealand, want to win. But also they are keen to experiment with new products and innovations and share these experiences with their consumers, which will give all of us the chance to communicate what we do to a much wider audience around the world.

"I can only hope that I continue to have the desire and passion for the Volvo Ocean Race in years to come. For me it will always be the ultimate in sailing, the complete test of incorporating the best in design and technology with the human element of racing fast and smart through the oceans for an eight-month period. It is a series of sprints and marathons unique in sport, and I can't wait to go again!"

Volvo Ocean Race