by Ken Read
Volvo Ocean Race, Leg 6 day eight. Ken Read reports from Puma's Mar Mostro:
Onboard PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Itajai, Brazil, to Miami, USA.
Wall to wall. That’s our goal here. We want to be leading this race from start to finish. So far so good, but we have a long, long way to go.
Leading out of Itajaí was very cool. That first night we hung on in some breezy, tight reaching conditions. Two competitors split low to the coast and probably had less mileage to Miami at a few points, but we were certainly always in what we believed to be a more dominant position on the track. Then two days ago we hit a couple of very light air walls and Camper and Telefónica came on strong, but we have fended off their charge and re-opened up to a 30-mile lead. We are pretty pleased right now, but all understand that the game is just starting.
From here to Miami we have the doldrums, light trade winds, the Caribbean Islands, Jamaica and Cuba, the Bahamas and finally the Gulf Stream leading into Miami. What could possibly go wrong?
On board, we have just crossed the equator for the fourth and final time this race. I have to admit that it seems like about a month ago we were crossing it for the first time, heading south from the Mediterranean Sea to Cape Town, South Africa, on Leg 1. I have lost track of time, but I think that was the middle of November and about five and a half months ago. And, it wasn’t too far from this point that our mast came tumbling down after which began quite an ordeal in the life of this crew. So we have proceeded with caution ever since. Not caution as far as sailing and pushing the boat is concerned, but caution with regard to superstition.
On Leg 1 we had two youngsters aboard who had never crossed the equator before. Rome Kirby and Amory Ross, both who had to take the wrath of King Neptune and the traditional rookie crossing ceremony. Both were great sports, confessed their crimes to the King (played by Tony Mutter, complete with a toilet paper beard) and were abused with rotten flying fish necklaces, four-day-old freeze dried food, and a large swath of hair cut out of their heads right down the middle in sort of a reverse mohawk pattern.
All in good fun. But there was one thing missing. Nobody remembered to bring a libation to give to the King, give to the sea, give to the boat and of course one slug for each member of the crew. A sailing superstition that ranks right up there in importance. And sure enough, the King apparently brought our mast down about two days later out of spite.
Lesson learned. Don’t mess with King Neptune.
Since then, we have certainly gone well in the other direction. Large bottles of rum stashed for equator crossings and other landmark events like around Cape Horn or Christmas on board, or a birthday. No messing around. To the point of making sure, the King knows we are here to offer him as much alcohol as he wants – 'have another' just for safety’s sake. Better be safe than sorry, right?
So around 5 a.m. in the morning local time, right at the break of dawn, we crossed the equator for the final time in this race. One for the King, one for the sea, one for Mar Mostro, and one for each of the crew. Or in our media crew member Amory’s case, a few sips to the point that he woke this morning from a brief nap exclaiming that he might have a little hangover.
A bit exaggerated, but certainly worth it if the King is happy!
Volvo Ocean Race website