Speeding through the night, unreal, sometimes scary.. some thoughtsÂ crossing my mind in the very early hours of this Monday.
When Navigation lights were switched on last night the Navigation systemÂ decided to quit. No light, no data, no wind information. Mmm kindaÂ nasty, to say the least. When toddling along with 5 knots it also reallyÂ bothers you. However at 27kn wind ( that is lots of those Beauforts)Â with a boat at topspeeds of 50km/hr in another pitch black moonlessÂ evening you are all of a sudden confronted with a potentially prettyÂ dangerous situation. So what to do? Well , go on Rockypilot, i.e. putÂ Rokas at the wheel and let him do what he does naturally, feel boat,Â feel wave, and steer towards the finish. I guess you could evenÂ blindfold him and he would still get it right, and fast, furiously fast.Â Than have Jens digging through the boat to find the cause of the blow-out, Tomas preparing the emergency lighting and Johnny and GideonÂ analyse what readings make sense, and what numbers are complete baloney.Â Ok, the compasses are out of business. A vital instrument to calculateÂ true wind angles and many more things. An old school compass getsÂ mounted next to Rocky and captain Ron a.k.a. Flying Indian next to himÂ to assist reading and checking in the stormy wind and as ever bathtubsÂ of water being thrown at you on deck at all times.
The last day
Unreal as I said before, but intense and overwhelming. We hope to arriveÂ by dinnertime in St. Lucia (? Fingers X-ed, no more surprises please). 8Â days crossing an Ocean, the bucketlist highlight for many of us. AlmostÂ emotional. Weâ€™ve all grown in our role, 5 proâ€™s who knew the drill. 10Â sailors who put â€˜helmsmanâ€™ as their best skill on board.. InterestingÂ challenge for skipper Johnny and his team. But no conflicts whatsoever,
just live the passion â€“ live a dream and accept that things areÂ different than at home or on your own boats, and go with theÂ watchsystem, follow the watchleaders guidance and advice in sailing andÂ practical tips.Â Weâ€™ll know by tonight what the results are gonna be.
Did we beat the Leopard of Londonâ€™s record? Is the gap between us andÂ our competitors big enough to secure a class win? Maybe even overall?Â In the end that all would be great fun but more importantly, we did whatÂ we came to do, join the crew, prepare to the best you could, commitÂ yourself entirely to the team and than experience the absoluteness of
crossing an ocean with a great crew and a fantastic yacht!
Your OBR a.i. Koen
â€™15 shades of greyâ€¦.â€™
Ever sailed an ocean? No? you should try it, itâ€™s magical, overwhelming,Â peaceful, violent, cruel but above all fantastic!!!! Weâ€™re sailingÂ through rainbow territory, honestly, weâ€™ve seen 1 full grown moonÂ rainbow and a handful of partial rainbows, fairytale! And this immenseÂ empty world causes a very subtle feeling of intimacy, comradery..Â friends for life.Â We met 3 boats in 5 days.. busy times. There is literally no one aroundÂ here, which is great. Stresses the need though to be very carefulÂ indeed, itâ€™s us, the boat and the ocean. Oh right, and a whole lot ofÂ flying fish. About an hour before sunset they start flying around toÂ escape predators (like our yellow tuna like keel bulb) and some flyÂ straight over us. But quite a few donâ€™t make it and hit crew in the faceÂ or drop on deck, smelly buggers. I believed fresh fish doesnâ€™t smell, noÂ clue what these guys eat for dinnerâ€¦.
When racing the ocean one is really in a sort of mixed reality:On deck sun- moon- rain squalls- falling stars, concentration â€“ focus â€“Â workouts on the grinder- chatting with the boys, cracking jokes, talkingÂ shop.Â And below decks quiet- off watch sleeping- cooking breakfast- brewing Â coffee cleaning, sponging the excess water of the floors.Â But above all a challenge of all yours senses, an overload ofÂ impressions. The howling almost serene singing of the water flow alongÂ the rudders like altos and sopranos seamlessly taking over the song ofÂ speed when the tempo goes up (donâ€™t need speedometer readings anymore toÂ know the speed)Â And smell, the testing of the nostrils, an item often discussed in aÂ negative context when on board with 15 unwashed men. Not with usÂ however, everyone is clean and fresh and a delightful smell of Lillyâ€™sÂ of the Valley (or was it Roses?) wanders through our living quarters.Â The taste of all delicacies brought as personal gifts to the crew andÂ the healthy freeze dried meals and even a lightweight (surely carbon?)Â mini- espresso maker (thank you Ferry) please our tongues and noses.Â But most excitingly is this novelty: Lay in your bunk- eyes closed andÂ covered with a eye mask (courtesy KLM long distance flights), earsÂ closed and covered with ear protectors, half awake after a good nightÂ (=2hr) sleep, a gentle breeze from the ventilator over your skin andÂ enjoy the immense power of the boat surfing and smash -dancing over theÂ waves. A sensation only perceived via hull/bunk/skin/brain contact, evenÂ much stronger than the feel of speed when on deck, phenomenal.
â€˜Fifteen shades of greyâ€™
Admitted, the young proâ€™s are good looking thick dark hair athletes andÂ I counted them in my 15 number. But still, who are the crew? Who areÂ this rare bunch of aficionados who live a dream? Well, all are activeÂ supporters of the Team Sailing Hollandsâ€™ initiative a.k.a. Team Brunel.Â During the VOR2015-16 they were somehow involved with the team. AllÂ experienced amateur sailors and without the desire for statisticalÂ accuracy, most are in strength of their lives i.e. their fifties. 3Â Entrepreneurs in IT, Ferry, Joern and Koen, a toyproducer (nicknamedÂ Toyboy JB) and the â€˜Fatboy producer (nice comfy seat here in mediadeskÂ RJ !), airline captain Ron (great helmsman, no surprise after 22000Â flight hours), two Damen shipyard chiefs Jaap and (G)Auke (a.k.a.Â Turkish Cowboy), the commercial director of a huge office equipmentÂ manufacturer Rick and a collector of real estate (a.k.a. Oscar the Brick).Â When the plan surfaced to bring the bright Black/Yellow VO65 to theÂ Caribbean for the race season and the option to race her across theÂ Atlantic in the ARC Rally all (and many more) signed up to crew theÂ yacht together with 5 proâ€™s. A once in a lifetime opportunity.
The beauty of this eclectic venture creates plenty of opportunities:Â The youngest proâ€™s skippered by Johnny Poortman get a chance to coachÂ the senior guys to optimal performance in racing the boat. RokasÂ Milevicius (bowman VOR) and Tomas Ivanauskas (technical shorecrew) do aÂ great job as <30 yr sailors pushing the veterans to drive her fast andÂ straight to the next mark, transferring their skills to the amateurs.Â Jens Dolmer has 2 VORâ€™s (watchleader) under his belt and is the masterÂ of techie tricks on this yacht. With the biggest smile heâ€™ll guide hisÂ watch to max precision and speed. P.S. We now understand his nicknameÂ â€˜the Farmerâ€™ (what indeed he was before); he helms the yacht as a laserÂ guided plough through the waves as if on a 1000 acres of land,Â impressive steering!Â Gideon Messink (director of Team Brunel) supports the crewÂ with Whitbread experience and a zillion ocean miles. His driving styleÂ nicknamed him Gi the Weaver, as he seems to find every sliding chanceÂ speeding of a wave.Â So all crew have an equal share in driving the boat, a rare but uniqueÂ experiment that proves successful and guarantees immense commitment of all.Â Also, Team Sailing Holland has signed up for the next VOR (yeehhh!!) andÂ these races keep the team, sponsors and supporters bonded together
Another 1005 NM (straight line) to go to the famous Caribbean Rum PunchÂ in St. Lucia. That will be some 1200 NM to sail to keep the rightÂ sailing angles, gibing over our imaginary highway through the Atlantic.Â Our competitorsâ€™ positions have not arrived yet. Yesterday we calculatedÂ a tiny margin of some 5 NM ahead of Â nr 2. Â Farfalla Â and Durlindana3Â (on corrected time/distance). Eager to find out where they are now.Â The Leopardâ€™s record of the ARC crossing is theoretically still possibleÂ and maybe even shave half a day off it ?!Â Only one way to find out: push push push and see what the Race CommitteeÂ is clocking on the finish line.. But we are getting hungry, hungry forÂ success J
Best regards from 15 Shades of Grey
Your OBR Â Koen
How did we get on till now
Exactly 4 full days have gone by in a fantastic race and we are exactlyÂ halfway in mileage to St. Lucia. The averages per helmsman go up, theÂ topspeed remains the same. The bravest of the gang (or the daredevils?)Â push her ladyship VO65 to 26+ knots, being it day or night, a shift is aÂ shift and we want to push on. The predicted weather versus the end is
still the major variable. If the breeze stays on (like around 22kn allÂ the way now) we still might have a chance to equal or beat the mightyÂ 100 Ft Leopard of London record of 8 days- 14 hours- 39 minutes and 59Â seconds. This is our challenge in the challenge to arrive beforeÂ December 1st, 3:24:59 AM on the finish line. And of course sailing asÂ fast as we safely can to win the race on handicap (corrected time)Â versus our Class 2A competitors. As the new update has not arrived forÂ today, yesterdays positions look good but the yachts Farfalla,Â Durlindana 3, Talanta and Weddel will not let us get away easily. AtÂ yesterday noon we had 212 NM- 264 NM and 269 NM lead over the runners upÂ (having sailed some 1000 NM straight line) but they do have quiteÂ different handicaps so even winning line honours does not tell us whoÂ wins the race overall until time correction factors are applied.
Interior designers delightâ€¦
The VO65 was specifically designed to accommodate 8+1 crew during theÂ round the world Volvo Ocean Race. Sheâ€™s a dream to sail on once allÂ sails are set and handles impeccably gentle. Down below however aboutÂ half of the area, ahead of the mast, is reserved for sails and storage.Â The aft quarters provide 4 pipecott bunks on port and starboard each andÂ another 2 on both sides of the main cabin. The main cabin is a jointÂ functional space for kitchen (this word highly overrates the poor andÂ impractical design of a swinging gasstove and 3 lookalike sinks out ofÂ which only one has plumbing?)- engine room, watermaker, wardrobe forÂ dripping foul weather gear.
Moving around the 3D bumping area is an art in itself . Johnny, RockyÂ and Jens just toured the globe and appear totally natural in this roughÂ habitat. The rest of us literally bounce around and seek for balance â€“Â even sitting down. When the boat plunges into a wave the speed onlyÂ reduces about 10 knots in seconds. Try 40 km/hr on skiâ€™s into a loose
pile of snowâ€¦ very effective way to stop immediately- including the manÂ balancing on one knee and other foot with a boiling kettle in his handÂ trying to poor water in a coffee mugâ€¦ challenging indeed.
A 15 strong crew or 9 is quite a difference. Not all off watch fit inÂ the bunks on the high side so some sleep on the leeside. Untill â€˜Gybeâ€™Â is called. The watch is busy for 20 minutes on deck getting her mistressÂ turned and organised for the next speed runs over the other bows butÂ down below the organised chaos commences again. Pack your personal gearÂ and moveÂ across. Whereâ€™s my socks/shirt/short/lamp etc etc and stumble in plainÂ darkness through the bumping dungeon â€¦ far from comfortable! But thatâ€™sÂ racing in a true race machine.Â On deck we gather around the helmsman in the back of the bus. AnywhereÂ further upfront is avalanche area where you get flushed all the time.Â But above all: crew weight at the right place. So downwind as weâ€™re sailingÂ all along we need the crew weight aft so most of the time the deck crew liveÂ on 3m2 of the 100m2 total deck surface.
Imagine your apartment in a non stop earthquake, what would it look like?Â Given the everlasting beating of this boat it is incredible thatÂ everything keeps working.. except minor details.*The waterpump that serves drinking water collapsed Tomas found when
housekeeping in the watermaker box, so Jens rerouted the drinking waterÂ to the salt water handpump, problem solved.
*Turkish cowboy broke his bunk- almost squeezing Johnny to sandwich sizeÂ (laying in the bunk beneath), donâ€™t use the bunk anymore, problem solved.
*And the â€˜worst nightmare on a busy boatâ€™?? Â the toilet did not onlyÂ block but â€˜replied with solid mass ..(rest of explanation censored forÂ privacy reasons..). He cleaned up the area and will not do this again.Â Problem solved.
*It feels as if we have 10 miles of rope on board so getting only onceÂ tangled in the wrong block isnâ€™t that bad at all. To unravel thisÂ Gordian knot takes brains, power and foul language. Rocky fixed it as ifÂ heâ€™d been knitting since childhood. Problem solved. (one ego damaged asÂ TC caused most of it in a beautiful highspeed broach- his problem .. not
solved) Note from the editor: despite 30 minute fight with the GordianÂ knot, average speed steady on 20 kn, Johnny just kept steering along asÂ if no one else was on deck.. focus focus focus.
*And we found our satellite data ghost: Everytime the PC came online toÂ get new weather gribfiles the Microsoft mob pushed a zillion bitsÂ towards us with useless updates consuming our precious data bundle. SoÂ the satellite gang responded: â€˜contact your provider, you have no moreÂ accessâ€™. Charming if you have no more data capacity literally on theÂ middle of the Ocean..?? duhhhh. Anyway, Johnny & Ferry (not an newÂ Icecream brand) as Mac-edicts figured it out and killed the MicrosoftÂ invaders trick. Problem solved.
Time for a seat in the sun, away from the media desk
Your OBR a.i. Koen