Wednesday, 28 January 2009

VOR: PUMA LEG FOUR DAY 10 QFB: received 27.01.09 0548 GMT

Shannon Falcone tends to PUMA Ocean Racing skipper Ken Read's finger after he got his finger trapped in a titanium block, on leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Singapore to Qingdao, China. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Kenny Read

I guess I would be remiss by not starting this by saying ‘happy Chinese New Year’. I think it is today (27th January), and the year of the ox my wife told me before I left. And supposedly I am an Ox. Again no real idea what that means. If being an ox means that you are tired, have a throbbing finger that looks like hamburger meat and am sailing where no one really should - I guess I am an ox then.

The whole crew is an ox for that matter. A bunch of good men here on il Mostro. Especially since I have been of no help on deck since my little finger incident. Extreme frustration having to listen to the on deck banter during brutal manoeuvres with nothing to do but listen and wait. Horrible really.

Before I go further, I would like to express our sorrow and support for the Telefónica Back and Ericsson 3 teams, both of whom have both broken and headed for shelter. Hopefully, all can be mended quickly so they can safely deliver up to Qingdao. I really feel bad for all of them.

As far as this little adventure is concerned,, we survived our second gale off the North end of the Philippines and then actually had about 12-hours of reasonable sailing conditions, as we were sailing down the east side of Taiwan. The first time in the leg we weren't going upwind.

Capey (Andrew Cape/AUS – navigator) picked a nice route that took us well outside of Taiwan and stayed in east/southeast breezes, and we literally made up 100 miles in the course of half a day. But all good things must come to an end, and beginning last night around midnight, we started planning for our next gale, which we are in the middle of as we speak. Break out the storm jib and three reefs one more time. Can't get enough of that really fun sail combination. Yeah right.

It really isn't the wind that wears you out, it is the waves. Having to slow the boat down by any means possible is an unnatural act to begin with. And we weren't very good at it to start with. But we have now had plenty of practice and we are getting better and better at going slow all the time. Sounds pretty strange that I would even be writing this, but in these conditions, you have to slow down or you will break the boat. It is the unmerciful pounding on each wave. It simply wears you down, and is almost always the reason these boats break.

We were just talking as a group below during a watch change. ‘When was the last time you had to use a storm jib for real?’ Most of us could remember, especially the guys who sailed the stormy summer aboard ‘Rambler’ a couple years back. The second question: ‘did anyone ever have to use storm jib three separate times in a leg or race?’ The answer was ‘absolutely no’. This is a first for all of us.

There may be a light at the end of this storm tunnel though. Lighter winds that may shift toward the southeast which could help us get in to Qingdao reaching and maybe running. Which could be huge, since the temperatures are supposedly going to plummet to below freezing soon. Oh joy.

With all this said, the mood aboard is still terrific. Just need to gut the next few hours out. Oh yeah, and the 500 or so miles to the finish after that as well.

Volvo Ocean Race

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