Future SCOTW Clare Bright grabbed a press spot with the inshore-blitzing Team SCA boat during the practice race in Abu Dhabi last week on the condition that she tell us their story; given how many fans Samantha and the team have here at SA, we were stoked when it hit the inbox the other day. Track the girls, as they hang on for dear life at the back of the Leg 3 standings. Photos from proud hubby Jeff Bright.
OK, this is me…I’m a Brit, grew up on the North Kent coast and crewed Condor Cats as a kid, found it all too cold in that part of the world and gave up for many years, then moved to Abu Dhabi and started again on keelboats. That was just over 3 years ago and now I’m a mad sailing addict, race regularly in IRC and one-design fleets, sometimes against my better half (yes, I can beat him!) and could not believe it when I got the opportunity to go out on the TeamSCA Volvo boat thanks to Sailing Anarchy. Here’s my story:
Sailing with ‘the girls’ for the practice race was an amazing experience. The Volvo boats are stunning and the top end of the sport has gone too long without all-girls team. I run my own female team, albeit a much smaller one, on my SB20 and the dynamics are quite different to being out with a male crew. We focus on a clean race, finding our own lane, clear air and smooth maneuvers to tack, gybe or set/drop sails. There are no port tack starts on a busy start line just to look macho, or legs spent chasing other boats downwind to try and take them up and out (which usually results in the aggressor taking herself out) or other such testosterone-loaded tactics. And the result? Very often we quietly and smoothly gain places and end up with a podium finish and smiles on our faces. It works!
Back to the Volvo race, that’s exactly what I saw with team SCA. From the moment I stepped on board there was full focus on teamwork, the race, discussing tactics, practicing the starts, learning from every move and a subtle but firm, quiet and concentrated attitude. With a couple of changes amongst the crew there was an air of needing to get back into a rhythm and it sure didn’t take long. The girls were a little early at the start, killing time to the line, then they played the course perfectly going left first, which often pays off in Abu Dhabi while the offshore wind is settling, and rounding the first mark in the lead. From that point their tactics were about getting ready for every maneuver early and to keep things clean. Looking back, the guys were desperately trying to catch up and clearly not so calm. I was smiling as I watched spinnies with bad sets or late drops causing mark roundings that weren’t so clean, the girls showed everyone how to do it that day.
Plenty of people thought the team got lucky…until they did it in the In-Port Race. This time watching from one of the media boats, we saw the girls peel off early and the general commentary out on the water was that they probably had no choice given their position after the start. How wrong could they be! What the locals know is that there’s a narrow channel running across the bay near the gate end of the course. Going right early they took both an advantageous wind shift and current help, taking them around the top mark with a solid lead. They won on excellent tactics, navigation and skill – both times.
I’m sure you’ll be wondering if any of the crew really stood out, but the truth is that they all did. Pure teamwork is a joy to watch, with everyone playing an important and integral role. Libby as navigator called the lines perfectly, then Carolijn would add some fine tuning as she spotted a wind shift or wanted a better position while driving. Up front, the foredeck team was incredibly smooth and there was great communication between them and the rest of the crew.
Foredeck is my favorite place to be on my SB20, and I would love to have been up there helping out! Sadly, I had to stick to the guest role, watching from the back. Next time, eh? The trimmers worked constantly, and everyone from mainsheet to bow made sure to always keep the boat tidy, never leaving a chance to mess up from a tangled sheet as they were all back in the bags when needed. Even OBR Corinna Halloran played a fundamental role, looking out for the guests and snapping great pics for all of us. If there’s one thing I noticed that possibly use improvement, it would be for the girls to make sure they always know who’s in charge when it hits the fan. A gentle inshore race in Abu Dhabi might be fun and the consultation amongst the girls is always going to be valuable, but the challenges on the next leg may need a fast, clear decisionmaker in the crew.
The Volvo Ocean Race Abu Dhabi stopover has been an incredible week! Over a hundred thousand people checking out these awesome boats, some great racing for the participants, the VIPs, and the spectators. The way the shore teams, Boatyard staff, and VOR HQ support the teams and public is outstanding, and I just hope that both Abu Dhabi and SCA sign up for another go, because we would love to have them back in three years.