Nels Moxness, President, Velux Canada and avid supporter and dear friend officially welcomed Derek back to Canada yesterday after he successfully finished the 2010/2011 Velux 5 Oceans Race. Unlike Derek's competitors, Derek's Spirit of Canada Campaign has raised the funds to support this campaign one kilometer, one supporting name on deck and one dollar at a time. Although amazing donations consistently flowed in from friends of the Spirit of Canada Campaign, the significant contribution from Active House made Derek's latest entry possible. (Active House is a vision of buildings that create healthier and more comfortable lives for their occupants without negative impact on the climate – moving us towards a cleaner, healthier and safer world.)
In his usual fashion, Derek casually and charmingly shared stories of the 20-minute cat naps, freeze-dried foods, and the psychological impact this kind of challenge can present. Even although Derek has done nearly 20 transatlantic crossings since 1993, as well as two former attempts to circumnavigate the world (one successful), he admitted that until he had safely rounded Cape Horn (a temporarily near tragic waypoint in a former race), he was on tenterhooks 24/7.
The Velux 5 Oceans is a 32,000-mile race, and with four stops along the way, takes approximately 130 days. This race is sailed on an ECO 60 by all competitors; it is a boat designed on the unique balance of weight and displacement. It is powerful, noisy and fast. Derek admitted that now, after 50,000+ miles onboard, he thinks he finally understands her complexities.
Despite the SATNAV technology, times are tough and lonely. Although the phone can ring five times a day, adjusting sail trim, doing repairs and simply taking in the current waypoint using the electronics always takes precedence, unless of course it is a MAYDAY call. No matter what position you are in nor whether you are winning or losing, a distress call from a competitor becomes a #1 priority. It's a given. It's the way of life on sea.
When asked what the lowlight was, believe it or not, it was when there was no wind, no weather and no boat speed. Apparently 30-knot winds and 10-foot swells are warmly welcomed for these sailors. Who knew? The highlight for Derek, without a doubt, was rounding Cape Horn on one of the 25 days each year where it presents great weather and safe seas.
Now what? Derek has only been back on Canada's safe turf for four days, so it is way too soon to tell what's next. Suffice to say, whether it is another race or not, Derek is passionate about keeping the sport of sailing on the map in Canada.
Sponsorship for sailing is an ongoing challenge, for single-handed sailors like Derek, our Canadian Sailing Team (en route to the 2012 Olympic Games in London), the many local, regional and national regattas that Canada hosts, as well as organizers of and participants in world-wide events, such as the upcoming 2015 Pan American Games.
Velux Worldwide – title sponsor of the Velux 5 Oceans Race– stepped up to the plate. As Nels Moxness said in his welcoming comments today, 'The challenges the skippers go through [during this race] dealing with Mother Nature, wind, rain and extreme temperatures mirrors what our skylight products have to go through to perform. It is probably self-explanatory why we picked this sport to sponsor.'
If only other Canadian corporations could find as elegant a metaphor to justify sponsoring our sport.
Derek is a Canadian icon. He represents pride, determination, stick-toitiveness and passion. Whatever passion Derek chooses to nurture next, I am confident that Canada will continue to support and applaud him as only we can… quietly, cautiously but in a meaningful way.