Volvo Ocean Race skipper Mike Sanderson, Team Sanya, reflects on the race to date, further igniting the Chinese population's love for sailing and preparations for Leg 4.
Team Sanya, skippered by Mike Sanderson from New Zealand at the start of leg 2 from Cape Town, South Africa to Abu Dhabi, UAE
It only seems like yesterday when we were in Beijing at the launch of Team Sanya. In Volvo Ocean race terms it was 'yesterday' - while all the other teams had launched their new boats we were announcing a team! But I remember thinking then I wonder what will have happened in the race by the time we get to Sanya?
How will we have gone? Who will be winning? How will the sailing have been? To say that never in my wildest dreams did I think that the road to get here to Sanya was going to be quite as bumpy as it has been would be the understatement of the year!
Although 300 miles behind and arriving in late on a Sunday evening, the reception that we received into Sanya confirmed what everyone had been saying to us - that for the Chinese public it is all about competing in the race and arriving in a good state into Sanya and for doing that for them had made us champions in their eyes. We, of course, are competing for different reasons.
The whole team is incredibly competitive and, let's be honest, we don't enter races believing we are going to constantly come last. Yes, we knew that when a leg turns into a drag race that our number would be up and the most likely number for us would be a sixth place finish, but this leg we thought there would be enough variables to really mix it up.
On this particular occasion instead of being offered massive opportunities to catch up, we were the ones that were the biggest losers, and so very quickly our five-and-half-mile deficit to Abu Dhabi became 20, 50, 100, 150 as we slipped back into a totally different weather pattern.
Team Sanya skipper Mike Sanderson
But that’s enough about the last leg. Team Sanya are about having nine legs and 10 in-port races to create two or three 'special' moments in the race. In Leg 2 we almost pulled off what could have been something very special and we just need to hope that more opportunities like that come along.
Life in Sanya, our home town, has been hectic. From the minute the press scrummage happened as we were walking to the stage on our arrival night, we have seen for ourselves that to keep 1.2 billion people informed on news and sport takes a lot of journalists and I think most of them have come to Sanya this week, with what it sounds like the rest turning up next week.
There has been only so much I have been able to do as my Chinese is pretty limited and then there is also the fear that the odd swear word that Tiger has taught us might slip in there!
The weather has been lovely, the families have been doing some wonderful sightseeing and the boys have been slipping in some good surfing safaris on their days off. All the R&R has come to a grinding halt today as the boys are all back on deck now through to the leg start next weekend.
Team Sanya, skippered by Mike Sanderson from New Zealand finish sixth on leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 from Abu Dhabi, UAE, to Sanya, China
During the sailing team's break, the shore crew have been working tirelessly on giving the boat the much wanted 'love' that it has missed out on over the last two very different legs that we have had.
Meanwhile, I have been working with (navigator) Aksel (Magdahl) and the guys at Farr Yacht Design really trying to look at our performance, not so much against the fleet, more against ourselves, really just digesting all the thousands of points of data that we collate during a leg.
No real point comparing ourselves to the fleet until we really know that we are going as well as we can and have done before. Nothing earth-shattering to report, but lots of little bits that will hopefully add up to a better performance from the boat on this next leg.
So Auckland here we come, it's looking like a really difficult leg again, lots of tight reaching and upwind work, so not exactly ideal for us on what we learnt from the last few weeks, but we will go and give it heaps of course! There could be some good opportunities through the Doldrums, but I won't talk about that too much as the Malacca straits weren't exactly helpful!
An old trek horse like me can turn on a decent burst of speed when it gets a sniff of home.
Keep cheering for us! It's greatly appreciated.
Volvo Ocean Race website