the race within the race

vor on board

the race within the race

Leg 5, Day 11
29 March 2012
Ken Read, Skipper, PUMA Ocean Racing

Leg 5, Day 11
29 March 2012

Believe it or not I can’t sleep. The last few days have brought another
host of issues. Most pressing has been the infection in Jono Swain’s
elbow that started with a quick wash down the cockpit about a week ago
and has turned into a mess. Lots of antibiotics and things have turned
a corner for Jono, starting with him going on watch this afternoon. I
have been driving for him these last few days. That is what we do out
here. We all just keep backing each other up.

We are getting close. Maybe that is why I can’t sleep. But of course
this leg couldn’t be complete without one final pasting. A secondary
low is coming down the coast and will kick our butts about 250 miles
from the Horn. Makes for an exciting last little bit seeing it will be
VMG downwind sailing with a few jibes thrown in…in about 40 knots
of wind. Well, I guess we are used to it by now, but it still doesn’t
make it right.

To say it is amazing this leg has turned out the way it has so far would
be a vast understatement. I think Groupama and us have sailed pretty
similarly. We basically communicate to each other through the 3-hour
scheds. We see when the other boat is pushing or not, and we use that
info to monitor our own boat. This is a race after all. When it is full-on
and you need to back off a bit, you use your sched to say to the other
guy, “Don’t worry, we aren’t going to push,” and thus starts
an ego-driven, boat-breaking, crash and burn fest. Let’s be smart
and pull the trigger when the conditions warrant. Of course, then one
of us pulls the trigger to sail full speed immediately after the sched
in order to hopefully maximize the time to be back up to speed! I guess
we are communicating to a point… The ego-driven, boat-breaking,
crash and burn fest then starts all over again.

Two things are certainly clear. 1: When conditions warrant, we all
have the power to break these boats. No matter who says this or that
boat is built to withstand the elements in order to be able to be pushed
harder than others, it just isn’t true. Believe me, you can’t call these
boats fragile by any means. In fact, with the torture we put them through,
it is simply amazing they are in one piece at all. Every boat is just
one bad wave away from being healthy or hurt – any boat for that
matter, from a 30 weekend cruiser to a Volvo 70. These boats are no exception.
Which leads to point 2: We have certainly been calculated, but also lucky.
We have caught air on many occasions when it was least expected. The
crash that ensues is staggering. Heads pop out of the hatch and a crawling
inspection around all the framing begins within minutes. We have been
lucky so far. It’s like a car crash. You always wonder if it would
have happened if you had left the house 5 seconds later or slowed at
the orange light when you didn’t. We have missed our car crash so far,
so our timing has been pretty good. Have I ever mentioned that I knock
on wood every time I say stuff like this? Our little piece of wood at
the nav station is getting worn out.

So with Jono making a recovery, Thomas toughing it out and slowly getting
better with his shoulder every day, and Casey also toughing it out and
making all of his shifts now – we nearly have our pre-leg watch
combinations back on deck. We are still rotating some of the hurt guys
out and resting them when we can. Hopefully we get near full strength
by the time we turn the corner, then the push is on. It is the race within
the race. Get to the Horn, then race to Brazil. At least it seems like
that sometimes.