by Ken Read
Volvo Ocean Race, Day 17 of the second stage of Leg 4. Ken Read, Skipper of Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg reports on the crew's progress:
A birds eye view of the deck in offshore sailing mode - 4 bodies is all it takes. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12.
The cruelty in this game has got to be the three-hour 'scheds.' The three-hour progress reports we get from Volvo headquarters with each competitor’s vital statistics and their exact position. That sched is fed into a spreadsheet on board Puma and we dissect every bit of information out of it we can. It is quite a tactical tool when trying to position against the fleet.
On one hand it keeps everything sharp. You are always racing. People ask me if it is boring sailing around the world, but the three-hour scheds don't allow for that. I have said a million times that this race isn't a distance race but it is a series of three-hour day races. A really long series!
So, the scheds keep you on your toes, but they also play with your emotions. For example: The last couple of days we made our east position work and pushed Telefónica and Camper back in bearing time after time. Everyone on board was on a high. Sure they were gaining in gauge and coming up to us, but they had a better angle of breeze on the outside of the high and that was simply going to happen. As long as we could keep gaining bearing we would be good.
We also had Groupama in front of us almost exactly on our path paving the way. We could look at their wind readings each three hours and determine if we wanted to continue down this path, go higher or go lower – all depending on what we saw with the weather and what we saw in their performance. All a no-brainer right?
Then came two squalls from hell. Complete 'sucker' rain squalls with zero breeze in them. In the middle of last night. We were cruising along minding our own business when on the radar appears a blob of green the size of the Texas. No way around either of them. We were gobbled up twice over a six-hour period. And, we have the proof to show for it. The dreaded sched. The one you know is coming and is going to be really bad news. Two scheds in a row that showed us sailing about half the speed of our competitors, all because we were drifting for a good chunk of that six hours… in pouring rain, in the middle of a black night.
And you have to announce the sched. We have an intercom system below to the helm station and every three hours either Tom or I tell the troops on deck how we did that last three hours. And it sucks to read the bad ones. Sometimes you try to 'forget' and maybe the guys on deck will forget that a sched has come in... but they never do. You have to deliver the bad news along with the good. The boys say that Tom gives away whether it is a good or bad sched with the tone of the first couple words out of his mouth. They say I have a bit more of a poker voice.
I can say that those two scheds last night may have been the worst of the trip so far. I think it punched the guys in the gut, as if two weeks of work kind of flew out the window in a six-hour period. Or should I say in a two-sched period.
So love them or hate them, our three-hour lives revolve around the next bit of good or bad news.
This just in. Sched number 155 for this leg... big gains for Puma in a sort of unexpected fashion. Got back a bit of that bearing that we lost last night. Smiles and a bit of a spring in the steps of the crew… for at least three hours.
Puma Ocean Racing website