The Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 will get underway in less than three days and the teams are busy making sail selections, conducting boat maintenance, packing food, and watching the water. These are just a few of the tasks that the teams face in their final preparations for Leg 1 which will take them from Alicante to Cape Town.
The racing crew carry the sails onboard, before leaving to train in Lanzarote. - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
The six teams rely on their shore crews to prepare the boats for the twenty days or more they will spend at sea on the 6,500 nautical mile first leg and that means the teams area at Alicante Race Village remains a hive of activity.
Of all the jobs the shore and sailing crews are faced with, none will have more bearing on morale than the selection, packing and preparation of food.
It seems incredible, but it has been known for teams to spend millions of euros and just as many man hours on preparation for a Volvo Ocean Race campaign only to leave some of their food behind.
Gabriele Olivo, media crew member for Telefonica Blue is also responsible for food on board. - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
That’s something Amory Ross, MCM of Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg, is well aware of as he ticks of his to-do list this week.
Ross is not allowed to help sail the boat but as well as his media duties he cooks all the food and hands out hot drinks when the sailors are most in need of a pick-up.
'When someone is having a tough time it’s incredible how far a nice cup of coffee can go,' he said. 'It can make the difference between a good watch and bad watch if it’s timed right. 'That’s sort of the one way I can contribute to the performance of the boat; the food and the morale that comes from it.'
Perhaps the most important decision to be made this week will be on which sails to bring on the first leg. 'Final sail selection is still to be made in many cases and that’s quite tricky,' said race commentator Peter Lester. 'That sail selection in the end could be the winning or losing of the first leg.'
Meanwhile, navigators and skippers will be poring over weather date, although looking much beyond the first week of the leg will be a case of diminishing returns, according to the race’s chief meteorologist Gonzalo Infante.
'Weather prediction has come a long way over the years but even the most advanced systems cannot predict more than 10 days ahead with any real certainty,' Infante said. 'The first leg to Cape Town is likely to take around twenty days, so the navigators will have to rely on daily weather updates from race control to help them plan their route.'
Race Control and Meteorology Manager Gonzalo Infante gives a weather briefing to the team. - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Volvo Ocean Race website