by Amory Ross
Volvo Ocean Race, Day 4 of Leg 5. Amory Ross, MCM for Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg, reports on the crew's progress:
Tom Addis observes Southern Ocean life on deck from the comfort and warmth of the hatch. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
It feels a bit like the last supper; the table has been set and we’re waiting for the wind to arrive.
Everyone’s going about life today with a general casualness, trying to enjoy each waning moment of calm before the weather changes for the worse. In the back of our heads we’re mindful of the forecast and the tough conditions ahead – 40 to 50 knots are very possible – but it’s far from evident in the onboard mood. Smiles, laughs, and tales of previous Southern Ocean sufferings are abundant, even in the now-chilly climate.
It’s not that anyone’s ignorant or lazy, rather we’ve already made every preparation we possibly can and it’s more a matter of staying relaxed. Mental strength carries twice the value of physical strength in this foreign world, and one thing we learned leaving Auckland, one thing we learned the hard way, was that if we weren’t mentally prepared for what was coming, our bodies were useless. We’re keen to avoid the same mistake this time, and so we’ve been taking care of the little things over the last few days in order to enjoy today’s final hours of relative peace.
Neck and wrist seals on our survival suits have been trimmed, valuables are stowed, and the essentials are within close reach. Warm clothes and dry replacements are organized, waiting in the wings. Hatches are closed, sealed, and re-sealed, batteries are replaced, and water tanks filled. The rig has been checked for signs of vulnerability, the wave deflector has been installed, the rudder quadrants tightened, and future sail changes discussed. Once things start to get loud (and they will), our strategy is simplified; there’s not much in the way of tactical decisions to be made over the next week or so. The obvious priorities: keep everyone safe, hold the boat together, minimize mistakes, and go as fast as possible towards the first ice gate.
While I obviously hope our trip through the Southern Ocean is a fast one, our time here is relatively short-lived and I’ve added another priority to my personal list: freaking enjoy it. Nobody gets to come down here, and as nasty as it might be, as awful as it gets, as rough, cold, wet, windy, and miserable as it may be, I’ve promised myself to look around and appreciate it’s specialness. Remember it. At least, that’s what I’m prepared to do!
Jono Swain on the helm in fast downwind conditions. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil. (Credit: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race)
Puma Ocean Racing website
Volvo Ocean Race website