by Amory Ross
Volvo Ocean Race, Day 9 of Leg 5. Amory Ross, MCM for Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg, reports on the crew's progress:
Already cold and wet conditions get colder as the sun goes down. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
'Why do we willingly do this to ourselves? I wish people would stop asking me to go,' Brad Jackson (clearly relishing his sixth lap of the planet).
Now it’s cold… officially cold. Like, 'you’re-not-a-complainer-if-you-say-it' cold.
Do you remember during the last leg when I mentioned finding refuge from the Equatorial inferno by grabbing the propane tanks? How, after boiling water, they would cool and condensate? Now they freeze. After boiling water (which takes twice as long) they are covered in a thick layer of frost, and I no longer want to grab them.
Sunshine on the black deck makes things more bearable during the day, but down below there’s little hope for added warmth – especially during the nights. Small icicles are forming in the hatch and working below is like taking your office onto the porch, but in the middle of winter. Hands are too stiff to type, and the trackpad on my laptop struggles to distinguish frigid fingertips from freezing air.
While it might not be that cold (our chocolate bar-ometer isn’t exact), it’s so damp that it could feel worse than it really is. Condensation forms on the ceilings, walls, and bunks, and the moist air chills to the bone, regardless of the many layers you might be wearing on top of them. Thankfully, our three-layer sleeping bags keep us toasty when it’s time to sleep.
None of this accounts for the fact that there’s still 30-35 knots of windswept sea, and while being active in the sun for a few hours on deck helps to keep the core warm, Southern Ocean elements take their toll. Between the cold water – now about 5-degrees Celsius (40-degrees Fahrenheit) – the crisp air, and the balance-testing ride of a rocking boat, just living requires considerable energy, energy that isn’t easy to replenish. We’re always tired, but exhaustion is growing.
Nevertheless, we press on, Cape Horn firmly in the crosshairs, about three days away. Groupama is 30 miles off the bow, presumably 'living' the same way. At this point it still feels like we’re racing ourselves – racing for the Horn – and less racing the French. We have just three days to go until we turn north towards warmer weather, until we put this cold and splendid place behind us and start for Brazil. My guess is that’s where the journey ends and our race begins… Cape Horn. 1,300 miles to go.
Puma Ocean Racing website
Volvo Ocean Race website