Volvo Ocean Race- Forget the f-word - Team SCA profiled
by Jonno Turner on 20 Aug 2014
'We used to go to the starts and finishes of the Whitbread Round the World Race, as it was then,' recalls Team SCA’s Sam Davies, with a smile.
Team SCA finishes at dawn off Cowes to beat the all female round Britain record. SCA skippered by Sam Davies, crossed the finish line of the 2014 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race off the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes at 06.10.39 BST on Satuday 16th August 2014 with an elapsed time of 4 days, 21 hours, 00 minutes and 39 seconds. Rick Tomlinson / Team SCA
'There wasn’t much media in those days, so once the boats left you didn’t really hear from them until they returned nine months later looking all tatty.'
Nine whole months. Three exhausting quarters of a year. Over 270 long, and arduous, days.
It is most famously the length of time during which a mother and child are as close as they will ever be. Joined, as one.
And from October this year, the same can be said of Mother Nature, and a child of the sea.
Team SCA’s Sam Davies is a mother, and she is most certainly a child of the sea - raised on the English south coast, with the waves at her feet and the wind at her sails.
'I remember when I was at school, sailing around the Solent with my mum and dad on a little boat,' she recalls.
As we chat at the team’s Gosport training base, just a wet pebble’s throw from the sandy beaches where Sam first sunk her feet, that same sea’s salty breath blows gently on the back of our necks.
'I remember watching this amazing race when I was just a tiny kid with these huge eyes. It really inspired me - the race itself made a big impact.'
Flash-forward three decades, and after some baby steps, Sam’s Swedish-backed team, born two and a half years ago, is finally ready to stand on its own two feet.
'We started the project early,' explains navigator Libby Greenhalgh, 'and the new one-design rule means that we’ve been able to focus on getting the right sailors, rather than designing the boat.'
Her teammate Abby Ehler, who competed in this race back in 2001-02 as part of Amer Sports Too has the benefit of previous experience on this stage.
'The new boat is definitely an opening for female sailors,' she adds. 'It levels the playing field. It’s all down to crew work now.'
Spending the day with these sailors, it quickly becomes clear that this is a tight-knit family unit – both literally, and figuratively.
Swiss pair Justine and Elodie-Jane Mettraux are sisters - but in truth, they all are.
Laughter peppers the air as the team relaxes in the English sun, and perhaps more than any other in this race, they are truly bonded – from seasoned round the world solo sailors, to young and enthusiastic rookies.
Team SCA harbours a mix of talent and experience – and Sam reckons that such a team dynamic is invaluable.
'Yes, it is everything,' she nods. 'We have the luxury of great preparation and support, but that also means that there’s a lot of expectation upon us.'
'We’ve all seen Big Brother, and we know how hard it is to co-exist in a tiny environment. It’s a challenge in itself, for a group of people to overcome these ups and downs – and there will be many of them as we go around the world.'
But the challenge of nine months of gruelling sailing, cramped onboard with minimal food and extreme weather conditions is not the only one on the horizon.
After all, Sam, Abby and their teammate Carolijn Brouwer are all mums, and there are many more wives, girlfriends, daughters and best friends amongst this 14-strong crew.
It’s fair to say, it's not easy balancing a life on land with the irresistible tug and pull of the ocean.
But more importantly, these are 13 sailors, and an Onboard Reporter, all with saltwater running through their veins – and losing a little bit of their home life is just another sacrifice they make to the sea.
'We’re living a selfish life,' admits Sam. 'I haven’t opened a bill, or emptied the rubbish, for months. Everything is focused around us, and the boat.'
'Sometimes, I feel guilty. When I go away, I almost forget that I have a family. I’m not saying that I don’t miss them, it’s hard to be away so much, but this thing is just so intense.'
Libby agrees that, sometimes, stepping off the boat, rather than on it, can be the toughest point.
'You go from spending so much time with certain people, and you step off – and you’ve got your friends and family, which is great – but they just want to ask you questions, and that’s really hard!'
For eighteen 18 months, twice as long as the race, the crew have toiled and trained in the bellowing winds of Lanzarote - an intensive infancy which has fortified this diverse and determined team.
And now, they’re empowered, excited, and most of all, ready, to get out on the oceans.
'I can't wait go round Cape Horn, that’ll be awesome,' Libby says. 'And getting over to New Zealand, because some of my friends moved out there a couple of years ago, and had a little girl who is named after me!'
'I’ve never met little Libby! They’ll be coming to meet me on the dock, it will be really cool!'
So there you have it. An honest, hard-working and highly motivated crew, desperate to take their chance, and make their mark on this incredible race.
Oh, and the crew is all-female. But forget the f-word. It doesn’t define this team.
‘Focused’, ‘prepared’, and ‘finely-tuned’ are just a few words that do.
And there’s one more, too. 'Adventurers,' says Sam. 'I think we’re one of the last adventurers on the planet – sailing around the world, driven by the wind.'
With a childlike enthusiasm, she pauses. 'It’s the race that makes me dream, not the all-female crew. To me, to be able to sail is just an incredible Volvo Ocean Team SCA website