Nebraska’s Jen Edney has been one of our favorite young photographers for the last couple of years, and her growth and maturity in the face of a nasty sailing accident last year has been phenomenal. Jen’s work has a uniqueness about it that’s hard to pinpoint, but a few minutes with her body of work shows that her onboard ‘human’ shots are some of the best we’ve ever seen in the sport. Jen will be working on some special projects surrounding the VOR over the next few months, but was embedded with Team Vestas Wind in Cape Town, and she put this story together for the Anarchists after the team’s recent drama. Go and like her Facebook Page for more about this exciting young Sailor Chick of the Week. And wish her a Happy Birthday while you’re at it.
The boats are gone. The village is empty. My friends, my ‘family’ are at sea. It’s a strange feeling after so much excitement, movement and anticipation over the past few weeks. Everyone is going about their daily lives as usual around me, but today, I am in another world. I find myself thinking about what my friends are eating for the next 25+ days while I eat breakfast. About the bashing they must have received overnight while I slept in the comforts of my own bed, feeling a tad guilty. I am thinking about my 30 hours+ of flight time home, realizing that I have it easy. Call me crazy but I am also thinking, “I wish I was out there with them.”
Back home, I open my eyes to see the bright orange and pink colors of a Nebraska sunrise, having stirred from yet another dream of open water and blue sky. It’s a recurring dream these days and a stark contrast to my landlocked location. The first thing I think about upon waking is my mates at sea and how they are getting along, but it is Thanksgiving morning and I have so much to be thankful for. This morning I am thankful for my ‘real’ family in the Midwest as well as my ‘sailing family.’
I thought about a recent experience I had during this past trip to Cape Town, when I was sitting in a circle of more than a dozen friends from all over the world; a night when I realized how special this sport can be. I was sitting across from a person who helped me with my first-ever sailing story seven years ago and who I credit for getting me into this mess that I’ve grown to live, love, and long for. As we all swapped stories from years past – stories that were in some cases older than I am! – nostalgia set in, and we talked about the way this race has really become life for so many. We talked about the Whitbread days, how the race has changed and grown, stories of sadness, joy, and drama. Nights barely remembered and nights whose impact will be felt for decades…we all have those.
Throughout the next 9 months, I will constantly be “changing colors” to tell my own stories of the Volvo Ocean Race. My loyalty and allegiance lies not with one team, but with the sailors…all of them. I’ve realized how special this opportunity is, and that is one that wouldn’t have existed in this way during the past few editions of the race. Everyone has talked about how ‘One Design’ has changed the dynamics of the race, making for the tightest racing in history and opening the door for more sailors to compete, but that’s not all that has changed. The race has nearly always been won by the best-designed yacht and in recent years by the team with the biggest budget, forcing the sailors to work extra hard behind closed doors. And now, the doors are all open; and the new feeling in the Boatyard, the team bases, the Sailor’s Terrace, the hotels, parties, and media centers is one of camaraderie and togetherness. It’s something that dominated many of the less professional days of the Whitbread, but it’s back – and the public, the sailors, and their families love it. Of course they do – that camaraderie is one of the things we all love about the sport, isn’t it?
This was most recently illustrated as Team Alvimedica diverted from the race to stand by and assist in the rescue of fellow Team Vestas Wind after they ran hard aground. Charlie Enright said, “The only thing that matters was that everyone was OK, they are our competitors and our friends but in addition to that we are each other’s support networks when we are sailing in remote corners of the world.” And anyone who watched Will Oxley’s wonderful radio chatter and interviews knows that there was nothing that he wouldn’t do to help save his friends, perched on a reef in the middle of the ocean.
It is moments like these that highlight this precious aspect of the sport. Humbling moments that remind us to stop, take a breath, look around, and truly appreciate and respect where we are, and who we are with. As usual, Bouwe Bekking said it straight: “We are someway, somehow, one big family in this race.”