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it is what it is

vor opining

it is what it is

I have to smile at some of the contradictory opinions that have appeared on the SA forums about the VOR – not just on this leg. You cannot have an omelet without breaking a few eggs along the way and I have not really said much since I interviewed the two K’s (Knut and Kenny) for SA back in Sanya but some of the things written on the VOR Leg 5 Forum thread give me cause to chuckle. Don’t get me wrong much is pithy, but some is pissy.(sorry).

I have been following the Volvo Ocean Race nee Whitbread since a certain Swan 65 Sayula II won around 40 years ago (yes I’m that old). I have been out in all sorts of gnarly seas in all sorts of boats – the biggest was 88kts, fortunately on a Royal Navy Ship – And it was scary, I don’t mind admitting that. I have plugged back up an estuary in a little Corribee while the coastguard was answering over 20 calls for help of varying degrees all around me – but not from me. There are other times of course when the ocean is a delightful, benign place to be and in between an awesome place where 24 hour records can be set and MCM’s have time to send back lovely stories of homage to King Neptune et al.

The sea ALWAYS has the potential to be a risky place, but it has to be managed. The higher the design performance of a boat, the greater the risk to heavy seas and strong winds if it is not backed off enough. Add the element of competition and therefore the adrenalin and desire to win factors and you increase that risk by a factor of – well you choose.

On the one hand people have been extremely – only word to use – vocal about the VOR being dumbed down, that there is not a proper Southern ocean leg, well boys, there is nothing make believe or dumb about the conditions the boats and sailors are experiencing between 40 and 50 South at the moment. And strangely almost every leg so far has had its share of nasty stuff.

On the other hand, comments that these boats are not up to it. Yes they are BUT it has been said since Day 1 and check back in your old editions of Seahorse if you don’t believe me that while the VOR 60 was bulletproof (and even then Tokio lost her rig) the VOR 70 crews would have to manage their boats in heavier airs and it is pretty heavy down there at the moment.

Breakages and failures in this race are not new and not uncommon. Condor’s revolutionary carbon mast, Martella’s keel, Rolan Jourdain (I think) being hit by a whale, Steinlager II’s backstay fitting that, had Brat Butterworth not crash gybed, would have taken Blake and his Kiwi team from hero to zero in a blink. (and you thought he was just an AC sailor).

And breakages and such are not limited to the VOR, rescues in the Southern Ocean of the like of Tony Bullimore trapped for 3 days in an upturned hull or Raphael Dianelli who, had Pete Goss and Aqua Corum not happened to be in the same part of the ocean, would be a name fading into history instead of one more sailor trying to get sponsorship for the next Vendee.
And of course those sailors who…… yeah! Just disappeared.

That element of risk, managed risk perhaps, is one of the reasons many of us ‘go down to the sea in ships’. Some known risks, others unexpected.

There is no riskier place than Cape Horn and the Southern Ocean, all sailors know that and that is perhaps why more people have climbed Mount Everest than have raced Cape Horn by a healthy (or unhealthy) margin. At least these guys are doing it instead of living the experience second hand from behind a computer screen and making their comments sitting at a keyboard that isn’t bouncing up and down, cold, wet and smelly with the sounds of all hell breaking loose around them.

The VOR 70 is what it is and that is the most exciting offshore monohull on the planet. It would be hard to think (for the time being) of a better boat for the purpose of an exciting, challenging race around the world. Yes there will be breakages, there will always be breakages, especially when you push the design boundaries and then allow other humans to push through those same design boundaries and that’s WITHOUT mother nature having a say in the matter

It IS the toughest ocean race in the world, perhaps the toughest sporting event in the world, and that does not, can not, come without risk or danger but as history has shown as evidenced by the relatively low injury and fatality rate, these guys know what they are doing and they give so many more of us less adventurous or perhaps less capable sailors, excitement, pleasure, and I am sure, the odd sleepless or late night following them.
It is the “Volvo” after all!

See ya on the water
Shanghai Sailor