Saturday, 28 March 2009

VOR: PUMA LEG FIVE DAY 41 QFB: received 26.03.09 2352 GMT

Rob Salthouse, 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)

The last sunset. The final miles. The end to this epic adventure.

If my count is right, this is our 41st day at sea. The trip from Qingdao was everything that we thought it would be and more. More days that is. Sure we were told that the leg could last somewhere between 34 and 40 days. My guess is that none of us ever thought it would be the longer of the two.

The boat and team have held up exceptionally well under the circumstances. I guess in a way we had to, mainly because we have to do this all over again in two weeks or so. Although the next leg will be different. No 40 days and the light at the end of that tunnel is HOME. A very different feel for sure.

Excitement is around every corner out here. Even when we have a nice night-time sail with clear skies, flat seas and 10 knots of wind reaching at 12 knots toward the finish. All of a sudden last night around 1 pm GMT a smallish light ship came out of the darkness ahead and to leeward and fired off a flare and began flashing lights on us. Capey (Andrew Cape) got them on channel 16, realized he didn't speak Portuguese and was lucky enough that a member of the ships crew spoke English. The ship explained that just in front of us there was another ship towing 14 six- mile long seismic cables. Now that would ruin your night running into that buzz saw.

They told us to head up 70 degrees for about five miles to get around the cables which we happily obliged even though it meant rolling up our spinnaker and going on the wind away from Rio. Sure enough, a few miles later they called back and told us we could go back on course. Interesting little turn of events and enough to get your heart rate up for a few minutes.

On the racing front, the two Ericsson boats went stealth. Not really sure why you would use it then but anyway, it made for interesting topics of conversation on the boat for a while anyway.

And while I am at it, on behalf of the entire PUMA Ocean Racing Team I would like to congratulate the Ericsson3 team for a job well done. They made the break at New Zealand and made it hold up all the way to the finish. A great effort by their squad and hard earned.

As for the rest of us, we will have this experience to look back on forever.

Although I don't think the magnitude of this leg will really sink in until after the completion of the race. It says a lot when you can't get the route that is to be sailed on one computer screen. The routing software, scaled out as far as it will go, nearly includes half of the planet. Not enough to fit this leg on the same page. Where we have been, what we have seen, the laughs, the frustration, the hardships and the moments in time that one can never forget...none of it can be taken away. We have successfully put some points on Telefónica Blue, yet lost a few more to Ericsson 4. A tough boat to beat for sure.

But, with half the points in this race still available it is still anyone's game, not only for the podium but for victory. Anything can happen out here. Last night’s near miss is the perfect example. We will stay on our toes and keep pushing as hard as we can until someone grabs our lines in St Petersburg.

THE leg is over. Two weeks off. Somehow this finish will be different. Our families will smile wider, the food will certainly taste better (and I will never look at mashed potatoes quite the same way again as that has been our filler food for the last four days) and the beer colder.

Thank you Il Mostro. You have delivered your crew safely through 12,300 miles of the unknown. Get some rest because in two weeks it is time to head for Boston and Home Sweet Home.

If you need to find me over the next couple weeks, safe bet is I am eating somewhere.

Volvo Ocean Race

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