by Ken Read
Volvo Ocean Race, Day 11 of Leg 5. Ken Read, Skipper of Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg reports on the crew's progress:
Skipper Ken Read at the helm in the Southern Ocean. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Believe it or not I can't sleep. The last few days have brought another host of issues. Most pressing has been the infection in Jono Swain’s elbow that started with a quick wash down the cockpit about a week ago and has turned into a mess. Lots of antibiotics and things have turned a corner for Jono, starting with him going on watch this afternoon. I have been driving for him these last few days. That is what we do out here. We all just keep backing each other up.
We are getting close. Maybe that is why I can't sleep. But of course this leg couldn't be complete without one final pasting. A secondary low is coming down the coast and will kick our butts about 250 miles from the Horn. Makes for an exciting last little bit seeing it will be VMG downwind sailing with a few jibes thrown in…in about 40 knots of wind. Well, I guess we are used to it by now, but it still doesn't make it right.
To say it is amazing this leg has turned out the way it has so far would be a vast understatement. I think Groupama and us have sailed pretty similarly. We basically communicate to each other through the 3-hour scheds. We see when the other boat is pushing or not, and we use that info to monitor our own boat. This is a race after all. When it is full-on and you need to back off a bit, you use your sched to say to the other guy, 'Don't worry, we aren't going to push,' and thus starts an ego-driven, boat-breaking, crash and burn fest. Let’s be smart and pull the trigger when the conditions warrant. Of course, then one of us pulls the trigger to sail full speed immediately after the sched in order to hopefully maximize the time to be back up to speed! I guess we are communicating to a point… The ego-driven, boat-breaking, crash and burn fest then starts all over again.
Two things are certainly clear. 1: When conditions warrant, we all have the power to break these boats. No matter who says this or that boat is built to withstand the elements in order to be able to be pushed harder than others, it just isn't true. Believe me, you can't call these boats fragile by any means. In fact, with the torture we put them through, it is simply amazing they are in one piece at all. Every boat is just one bad wave away from being healthy or hurt – any boat for that matter, from a 30 weekend cruiser to a Volvo 70. These boats are no exception. Which leads to point 2: We have certainly been calculated, but also lucky. We have caught air on many occasions when it was least expected. The crash that ensues is staggering. Heads pop out of the hatch and a crawling inspection around all the framing begins within minutes. We have been lucky so far. It’s like a car crash. You always wonder if it would have happened if you had left the house 5 seconds later or slowed at the orange light when you didn't. We have missed our car crash so far, so our timing has been pretty good. Have I ever mentioned that I knock on wood every time I say stuff like this? Our little piece of wood at the nav station is getting worn out.
So with Jono making a recovery, Thomas toughing it out and slowly getting better with his shoulder every day, and Casey also toughing it out and making all of his shifts now – we nearly have our pre-leg watch combinations back on deck. We are still rotating some of the hurt guys out and resting them when we can. Hopefully we get near full strength by the time we turn the corner, then the push is on. It is the race within the race. Get to the Horn, then race to Brazil. At least it seems like that sometimes.
Puma Ocean Racing website