Leg 4, Day 3
22 February 2012
Ken Read, Skipper, PUMA Ocean Racing
We are so sick of going upwind and slamming on waves, and the hollow sound of living inside of a base drum. It wears on you.
As most know by now, this leg did not start with a bang for the fine yacht Mar Mostro. After the delay was announced and the plan put in place to sail the "Buddha course" in order to create the order of starting the next morning for Leg 4, we put together a strategy for the in-shore part of the leg. To be honest, I think we had it pretty sorted as shown by the fact that about two-thirds of the way through the course we had a big lead on the fleet. But, to no avail. As we sailed into a transitional light air zone, the fleet all jibed toward the shore and around us to absolutely clobber us as we sat in literally no wind. To say that was frustrating is the understatement of the century. But, we had to remind ourselves that we have 5,500 miles to make up for that gap, and off we went at 7:39 am Sanya time the next day. Didn’t sleep much that night, I have to say. Thinking about every moment of our own little drifting party. I still haven’t exactly figured it out.
The leg started the way we thought: crummy left over seas and up-and-down winds; a race to the east towards the Philippines for a right-hand shift. As the last boat out, the shift came through and we tacked to leeward of the fleet to start a drag race north. Unfortunately, the drag race really benefited the boats to the right and we really got creamed by all to the right of us.
This set up some of the harder decisions we have to make in these races. We all have to do it at times when the weather just doesn’t go your way. The decision to take your medicine and go get in line. Which always means take a huge loss in order to prevent a catastrophic loss. Essentially, when you have given up all hope that your side is going to come good.
We actually got a 40-degree left shift that we were expecting, but fell out of it about 10 minutes after we got it. It turns out that left shift was very much geographical and it wasn’t our salvation, so we had to suck it up and take the transoms of the fleet by lots of miles and start again. Not ideal and like I said, one of the toughest calls you have to make tactically. The fact is we should have made the call to suck it up about 10 hours earlier, but we didn’t know that the left-hand shift was going to turn out to be a loser. Oh well, we have actually gotten a few nice lanes and closed back into the group and are a part of the race again. Believe it or not, the mood on board is quite optimistic right now.
The Kiwis on board are surely looking forward to going home. Auckland has always been such a traditional stopover for the Volvo Ocean Race that it will be great to go back. Personally, I have great memories of living there during the 2000 and 2003 America’s Cups. An amazing city and an even better country. My entire family is coming back, including my dad, wife and daughter, to share in this experience. A host of friends is also making the trek and doing some sightseeing once we are gone. Rumor has it that Tony Mutter has a surprise waiting for the team. A part-time farmer, Tony has been talking for a couple years about a steak dinner "Mutter style." Which I am guessing may be bad news for one of his cows.
In the meantime, we have a lot of crappy weather to get through. Big waves. Lots of wind, and very little wind. Did I say big waves? Not real pleasurable, but in about a week’s time we should have some great trade winds sailing through the Pacific. It can’t come soon enough.