LIFE ON BOARD
A glimpse of what the team AkzoNobel sailors are experiencing
Living life for up to three weeks at a time in the 45 degree-angled, pitching and tossing carbon tube interior of a Volvo Ocean 65 is not for the faint-hearted or those of a shy and timorous nature.
When you are sharing such a Spartan and confined space with eight crew mates and an on board reporter you have to abandon all and any hopes of privacy or uninvaded personal space the moment you leave the dock.
A Volvo Ocean Race sailor’s only possible source of sanctuary is in one of the cramped pipe cot bunks that are hinged to the inside of the boat that get can be angled up to match the boat’s extreme heel.
This is where they collapse exhausted after a windy watch, or lie frustrated for four hours listening to the crashing and banging of the on-watch crew inches above their heads, and trying to block out the ear-splitting, bone-shaking, groans that reverberate through every inch of the hull each time a sheet is eased under massive load.
Even when they are sleeping the body weight of the sailors in the windward bunks contributes to the righting moment of the boat and helps it to go faster. In windy downwind conditions they sleep with their feet towards the bow to avoid a broken neck when the boat slams to a sudden halt after burying into the back of a wave at 25 knots (46 kilometers per hour).
Although light wind sailing means the boat’s angle of heel is less, it normally also means moving all the legally stackable weight in the boat as far forward as possible to minimise the hull’s wetted surface and therefore reduce its drag. This strategy rules the bunks out of bounds, so the sailors have to make a nest for themselves as best they can and try to sleep in the cavernous, echoing bow section.
Adding massively to the discomfort level is the fact that Volvo Ocean Race sailors don’t get to shower and change into a warm dry tracksuit after their stint on deck. More likely, they change clothes and underwear once week and their only chance of a shower is having one on deck in a rainstorm, while your crewmates keep on racing the boat.
Volvo Ocean Race crews are largely cut off from the outside world while they are racing. Although friends and family can be “whitelisted” to allow email contact with the boat (screened by the race control staff) many sailors choose not to be distracted by thoughts of home and their loved ones.
The sailors’ primary focus is on the team’s position in the race and largely their conversations are about how to maximise their boat’s performance to suit the almost ever-changing weather conditions they encounter.
When you are living life on a four-hour rotating watch and eating freeze-dried food the normal concepts of night and day, morning and afternoon, breakfast, lunch and dinner quickly lose their meaning. All that you care about is whether you are on watch or off and where the team is lying in the standings.
Aside from feeding themselves and looking after their personal hygiene as best they can, the sailors who are on watch are also responsible for keeping the interior of the boat clean, and as dry as possible – the latter is not always easy when the ocean is right outside the hatch, constantly trying to find a way in.
Sleep is the most valued commodity on board a Volvo Ocean Race boat and woe betide anyone who un-necessarily impinges on another person’s shut eye. That said, when the call comes for a sail change or a tack or gybe – everyone, on or off watch – is required on deck straight away.
And so life on board goes on, hour after hour, watch after watch, sunset following sunrise until, finally, the leg is done.
Back ashore, the sailors’ first mouthfuls of fresh solid food taste like nectar and their hotel beds feel like lying on the softest, fluffiest of clouds. They don’t always sleep well, however, as sometimes the hard-wired routine of four hours on/four hours off kicks in, and they wake with a start at 2 AM ready to begin their watch.
Watch the video to follow Volvo Ocean Race veteran Chris Nicholson and rookie Martine Grael through their watches on board the team AkzoNobel VO65 yesterday.
[Image © James Blake/Volvo Ocean Race]
Fonte: Team AkzoNobel