by Ken Read
Volvo Ocean Race, Day 7 of Leg 5. Ken Read, Skipper of Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg reports on the crew's progress:
Tony Mutter surfs down a massive Southern Ocean wave. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Ok. Holy crap, where to start…
Actually, I know exactly where to start. We have an amazing team on board this boat. I think at this stage we are all like-minded with our goals. We are pressing when we think we can press and slightly backing off when we think we have to back off. Everyone is on the same page. We are certainly making the best of what could be classified as a seriously full-on situation out here in the lovely Southern Ocean.
This is the leg that just keeps on giving. First a storm right out of the gates. Now, relentless wind pressure is bringing cold but still not frigid winds from the South. The waves are both impressive and intimidating in this part of this world. The massive swells are… who knows… 30, 40, 50 feet tall. Ask anyone on any of the boats and I am sure you would find a different but still very large number.
It’s the waves within the waves that get you. They seem to go every which way. That is why we haven't called Laird Hamilton in yet for a wave drop. Sure the swells are massive, but the little guys (12 footers?) will spoil his winged surfboard ride for sure. Oh, and the fact that we are about as far away from land as you can get. Also, it is blowing between 30-50 knots the last few days. Sound like fun?
I think when you talk about experiences like this certainly the racing is secondary. Currently, we are a bit worried about our buddies on Camper. No word yet from anyone, which I guess is a good thing. But, they have been low and slow for about 12 hours now and for sure that spells trouble. I hope they can rectify soon and continue safely. Because that is what this is all about. Safely getting this fleet around the Horn.
It is easy to sit back and talk about being tough and gutting it out. But, the fact is when you are sailing boats that can go way too fast, if you let them things can get dangerous in a hurry. We have had the helmsman washed off the wheel no less than eight times during this leg. Nobody driving while the boat is doing well over 30 knots is not cool. We are lucky we have kept the wheels on in those situations.
On the other hand, going fast is what we do, and the faster we go the quicker we get away from this massive low pressure that we are sailing in. And, the quicker we can break out the rum and stogies at the Horn which everyone can't wait for.
So, a quick report from on board. Worn out crew for sure, but we have four-plus days to go to the tip of South America and still a bit of pressure and wave action to deal with… all the way there… oh joy.
Puma Ocean Racing website