Saturday, 23 May 2009

VOR: ERICSSON 4 LEG SEVEN DAY 6 QFB: received 21.05.09 1438 GMT

Rough weather in the North Atlantic, onboard Ericsson 4, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Guy Salter/Ericsson 4/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Guy Salter

Firstly apologies to all for having to read another report from me when I’m sure it’s the crew you would prefer to be reading right now.

The breeze has built steadily over the last few hours and conditions are once again what we would describe onboard as heinous. If you’re not on deck tethered on to the yacht you are down below and trying to get in your bunk ASAP as this is the safest place to be - although there is little rest to be had.

It’s a bit like being on the log flume ride at one of the big theme parks - or at least like one particular part of the ride. I’m sure you have all laughed at the pictures of yourself taken as you plummet down the steepest slide to the guaranteed soaking at the bottom, well, being on Ericsson 4 is very much like the four seconds before and the four seconds after the flash has caught your expression on the log luge.

We are all enjoying the feeling of going fast and the acceleration and we know we will end up wet at the end of each surge down the wave – I’m sure there are looks of both exhilaration and panic on our faces - like the photo memento of our day out. The difference onboard here, is that the stakes are a lot higher. We don’t know what to expect in each trough and as we are not on rails we could easily find ourselves spearing off course - both of which are definitely not part of your fun park ride ( although I’m sure there have been some near misses at the travelling gypsy fairs).

It’s these moments of realism which dampen down the excitement of sailing in these conditions, most of the boys out here, and definitely all onboard Ericsson 4, are very much in control of their emotions - you don’t want to get too excited by the highs and you don’t want to open yourself up to the lows.

This emotional guarding is often seen as an arrogance or as if the boys are boring, when in realism its just an adaption for us to be able to push hard and be competitive in very tough and extreme conditions, which would see many tough people fold as the alarms ringing out in the brain are carefully analyzed and ignored in pursuit of performance.

It’s only when the ‘poo’ really hits the fan is the survival mode allowed to surface and you must keep a very cool head for this also - another reason why the emotions are controlled – it’s a survival adaption. I’m sure you see this in all sorts of endurance sports and activities from mountaineering to ultra marathons - these athletes will push the mind until it’s time to really take notice.

So it’s pretty wet onboard once more as we charge along at speeds in the low 30s at times. The fleet looks to have split so Jules (Jules Salter – navigator) is running and re-running routes to check we are happy heading north before it’s too late to consolidate our position.

The boat keeps ploughing into the back of waves and this created a slapstick comedy moment at my expense. It was as we were decelerating in one of these nose dives that I lost my balance and staggered backwards. As I did, my foot found a secure hold and stopped me toppling over. Unfortunately for me and to the amusement of the others, my foothold was actually in one of the buckets!

It was stuck fast and as I shook my foot the bucket remained unmoved. I walked aft with a step - clump - step - clump until Stu Bannatyne kindly freed my hoof - but not without a bit of effort.

I wouldn’t be surprised if I inherit the nickname ‘Mr Bean’ or ‘Harold Lloyd’ after that performance. Let’s hope there are not any banana skins left lying around or people with ladders on their shoulders being called by a colleague behind them.
The day is grey and wet and I think it has rained a little although I would not be surprised if it was a glorious day outside of our ball of spray. Looks like a few days to go of this!

Apologies to Galway - we may be bringing inclement weather with us!

Volvo Ocean Race

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