by Ken Read
Volvo Ocean Race Leg 7, day 9. Skipper Ken Read reports from onboard Puma’s Mar Mostro.
Downwind sailing on Mar Mostro with the bow finally pointed towards Lisbon. Onboard PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
You know what the best part of this race has been so far? The fact that this crew, without exception, still laughs at each others’ jokes and seems to hit it off as if it was day one of the program. And what a huge part of sport that is. Chemistry. It makes playing any game more fun, and I am convinced that when you have fun you probably perform better as well.
It is one of the things that Brad and I spoke about when we first talked about him joining our team over 2 years ago. We wanted to have fun and if we had fun, probably good things would happen. Now there is no doubt that it is easier to have fun when you are doing well, but this team certainly had its chance to lose its edge in the first half of this race. But nobody let it get us down as a group. It has been fun.
Now, how much fun is this leg? Not a lot. Groupama had a big lead only to get ground down. Telefónica had a big lead only to get smoked by a weak front that approached from the rear and they were last out of the old breeze. Now Abu Dhabi is in the unenviable position of being way ahead with a front that has come from the back at almost exactly the same speed as s Volvo 70 – 22 knots or so. And they are the unfortunate benefactors of this breeze last. Which means that their lead is hemorrhaging at this stage. Nearly 10 miles per sched. Very frustrating times for them, I would guess. And they have sailed really well to date.
Just slightly less frustrating for us, I must add. We have been the lurkers on this leg. Second a fair chunk of the time only to see things come unraveled on multiple occasions. Our little jaunt through the Gulf Stream beating to get north was really pleasant if you like colonoscopies. But, we keep holding on at this stage. For a variety of reasons. But I can't help but think our team chemistry is helping.
Like when we ask for about the 20th tack of the day in the Gulf Stream after nearly ripping our brand new J-2 jib to shreds when the tack strop blew off… 25 knots upwind against 3.8 knots of current in the stream is no bargain. Watching things start to come unraveled is another. But the boys kept it together, and good things eventually happened. Not much sleep happened.
Then, with the front approaching we fell back with the pack and the pre-front breeze helped everyone from behind immeasurably. We simply jibed on every shift for a day while the boats behind essentially pointed at us, taking away a huge chunk of the lead we had over the rest of the fleet. Frustrated? Absolutely. I was probably the worst. It was a no-win. But, the attitude stayed solid on board and we made what at least looks to be reasonable decision to set us up for the long 1,400-mile press to Lisbon. We have been working out from a leeward position with slightly more speed and height all day, which is getting us back in touch with the rest of the fleet. Hopefully in touch from in front of them but only time will tell. All while reeling in poor Abu Dhabi, who has to just sit and watch their lead continue to evaporate because of the weather situation.
So what will happen in the end? That is a complete toss up. We will continue hauling the mail toward Lisbon only to come to a compete halt with about 100 miles to go in a band of very light breeze that is forecast to be lingering off the coast. Another obstacle in a race and especially in a leg full of them.
Hopefully the chemistry can keep it together for a couple more days! We will need all the help we can get.
Volvo Ocean Race website