Photo - courtesy Volvo Ocean  Race

American/Turkish entrant Team Alvimedica fired the opening salvo in the 2014/15 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race by winning the Alicante In-Port race on Saturday.

Now, though, the action switches from the relative safety of Alicante bay where tactics and teamwork were paramount to the open sea where unseen dangers await virtually round the clock.

Almost three years to the day that eventual winner Frenchman Frank Cammas and his crew aboard Groupama slipped away from the dockside, the ‘Volvo’ is back; the third time Alicante has hosted the grand departure. This year’s event promises the closest action in the forty one year history of the race thanks to a one design boat, the Volvo Ocean 65. Thousands will throng the port area this Saturday, October the 11th, as Alicante bids farewell and wishes fair winds to the competing crews.

Three weeks ago each of the seven yachts took part in ‘leg 0’, a shake down test of both men and machines during which, on a sprint from Alicante to Palma de Mallorca and back, various obligatory safety drills and exercises were performed to satisfy stringent race participation rules. Danish team Vestas Wind “won” leg 0 by just a handful of seconds from Team Brunel with all female crew SCA finishing a creditable fifth. That, though, is as nothing compared to what awaits.

Ensuring these five million pound racing yachts perform at the optimum, a pre-requisite if you harbour any hopes of winning the thing, is exhausting. Wind changes entail sail changes which, in turn, equate to hard physical labour and the need to shift heavy, frequently wet, sails from one side of the boat to the other. Work such as this is often carried out whilst sleep deprived, (more in a moment), and soaking wet.

High tech the VO65’s may well be but they don’t sail themselves which means someone has to be on deck 24/7, in whatever conditions, to keep the boat going, at speed, in the right direction. The crews all operate a watch system of four hours sleeping, four hours on standby and four hours on deck for the duration of each leg, some of which last for two weeks or more. This, don’t forget, is also done on meagre food rations and minimal changes of clothing.

At the corresponding stage of the last race, disaster struck British captain Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing boat suffered a broken mast two hours into the opening leg from Alicante to Cape Town, and that on a supposedly innocuous stage. In the Volvo Ocean Race it’s probably wise not to be surprised by the unexpected. Drama, danger, despair and, eventually, delight are all guaranteed in the Volvo. Not, though, in equal measure. Rather them than me !

The Volvo Ocean Race by numbers: 7 teams, 9 crew members each, 38,739 nautical miles total race distance, 11 ports, 10 In-Port races, 20 days at sea on the longest leg, 9 months and 1 “pit stop” (in The Hague next June).

The Volvo Ocean Race Teams: MAPFRE (Spain), Team Vestas Wind (Denmark), Team SCA (Sweden), Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Team Brunel (The Netherlands), Team Alvimedica (Turkey/U.S.), Dongfeng Race Team (China),

To follow the fleet’s progress as the race unfolds visit www.volvooceanrace.com

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/45157/

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