BLOG 8 – Team Brunel in the ARC

Speeding through the night, unreal, sometimes scary.. some thoughts crossing my mind in the very early hours of this Monday.

When Navigation lights were switched on last night the Navigation system decided to quit. No light, no data, no wind information. Mmm kinda nasty, to say the least. When toddling along with 5 knots it also really bothers you. However at 27kn wind ( that is lots of those Beauforts) with a boat at topspeeds of 50km/hr in another pitch black moonless evening you are all of a sudden confronted with a potentially pretty dangerous situation. So what to do? Well , go on Rockypilot, i.e. put Rokas at the wheel and let him do what he does naturally, feel boat, feel wave, and steer towards the finish. I guess you could even blindfold him and he would still get it right, and fast, furiously fast. Than have Jens digging through the boat to find the cause of the blow-out, Tomas preparing the emergency lighting and Johnny and Gideon analyse what readings make sense, and what numbers are complete baloney. Ok, the compasses are out of business. A vital instrument to calculate true wind angles and many more things. An old school compass gets mounted next to Rocky and captain Ron a.k.a. Flying Indian next to him to assist reading and checking in the stormy wind and as ever bathtubs 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 arrive by dinnertime in St. Lucia (? Fingers X-ed, no more surprises please). 8 days crossing an Ocean, the bucketlist highlight for many of us. Almost emotional. We’ve all grown in our role, 5 pro’s who knew the drill. 10 sailors who put ‘helmsman’ as their best skill on board.. Interesting challenge for skipper Johnny and his team. But no conflicts whatsoever,
just live the passion – live a dream and accept that things are different than at home or on your own boats, and go with the watchsystem, follow the watchleaders guidance and advice in sailing and practical tips. We’ll know by tonight what the results are gonna be.
Did we beat the Leopard of London’s record? Is the gap between us and our competitors big enough to secure a class win? Maybe even overall? In the end that all would be great fun but more importantly, we did what we came to do, join the crew, prepare to the best you could, commit 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

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BLOG 7 – Team Brunel in the ARC

Breaking news:
Team Brunel out the race, replaced by Team Bnel
Last night at 10.07 UTC a well controlled gybe was set up in pitch dark moonless conditions. We’ve done this numerous times so routinely every step was executed. Without warning the Mainsail completely ripped in two horizontally from masttrack till leech line when moving form port to starboard. Pretty disastrous we might say. Immediately Johnny took the lead the rescue operations. Jens in charge over the technical job of getting the mainsail down, Rokas up the mast, all hands on deck, wind blowing force 6. We got the mainsail down to the 3rd reef position and were able to secure the bottom half of the sail. Despite the obvious shock and disappointment all was handled in an incredibly smooth way by our pro team with the rest of us assisting in muscle power and shutting up. Jens communicating from the deck to Rokas in a howling wind at 35m high demanded full concentration. All went well and some 45 mins later the boat was on its way again, not like a lame duck but still the speed was severely reduced.

So, for our dedicated followers on the tracker, we didn’t fall asleep, went fishing or anchored for a swim, we just had some pretty bad luck.  Why it happened, a mixture of contributors like a mainsail that has more than successfully raced around the world plus many more miles since, a stiff breeze, 4 m. waves, darkness etc. etc. Anyway it happened and we could still sail. OK a 3rd reef is not what we aimed for but no-one got hurt and the yacht is well in control and still some 600 NM to the finish. (That is a full Fastnet race!)

Team Bnel
At sunrise a new plan was born. Johnny and Tomas started to organize the ripped sail part, climbing up the end of the swinging boom. They tied the top and bottom end of the sail together with lashes between the sail battens as if the ripped middle part had never been there. All hands on deck again to hoist the sail to max height, about as high as 1,5 reef and carefully sheet in the main again. Will it hold? Is it gonna rip again? and to every ones joy the boat started speeding off again, it worked. Brilliant plan skipper, never give up. The boys examined the sail shape and fragile parts and decided to do version 2.0 of the new mainsail setup. Sail down again, more smart lines attached to spread the load and up again. And than power on, pedal to the metal. As part of the sail is missing, the RU has left, only Bnel is still  visible, go Team Bnel, go.

The race update:
For the Class 2A results we seem to be 603 NM on the map, and more than 24hrs ahead of Durlindana3 on corrected time/ distance. That is the (IRC) system to equalize difference in the construction and sails and size etc to make a comparison possible between different boats. It’s like the trick to convert all fruit into apples….. However, as the old sailors wisdom states: before you can win a race you first have to finish it. The broken mainsail and subsequent repair were a very close escape from not finishing at all. So we keep our focus and enjoy the circumstances to the max.

Clean housekeeping:
Almost impossible, so no further details on that….

The weather:

The mood
Great, we’re all fully committed to make this Pro-Am off shore race a 
great success! And we are having a great time out here at the boat, 
despite the setback of the mainsail.

Your OBR a.i. Koen

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BLOG 6 – Team Brunel in the ARC

Letter to mrs. Volvo

Private & Confidential & for your eyes only

To: Mrs. A. Volvo On Board Reporter ad interim (OBR a.i.)
Volvo HQ Sailing Yacht Team Brunel
Gothenburg Atlantic Ocean
Sweden 19.55.612 N/ 049.58.534 W

Atlantic Ocean, November 28th 2015

Dear Mrs. Volvo,

My friends and I are crewing a VO65 Yacht called Team Brunel in the ARC Rally Race from Las Palmas Gran Canaria across the Atlantic Ocean to the 
Caribbean. It is truly a fantastic experience and a dream boat to sail on. We have been en route for 6 consecutive days now and hope to arrive in St. Lucia  within the next 50 hours. If we succeed we would even break an Atlantic record, wouldn’t that be cool ?!.

You might not be aware of this but the VO in VO65 stands for Volvo65, the boats used to race around the world, an incredible achievement by crews of 8. The event is wildly popular and attracts millions of followers. You will appreciate how proud we are to sail with even 5 pro sailors who did this VO race this year.

You will ask why I’m writing you personally? Well, as you are a member of the Supervisory Board of Volvo you are very influential in the company and as a major stockholder you will be committed to the well being of the company. As an enthusiastic sailor and many years Volvo car owner I need to warn you for a great danger for Volvo’s reputation as THE company that cares about personal safety: On deck the Volvo boat is fantastic but below decks it is a disaster and very uncomfortable an unsafe. I’m sure you did not know about this else you would have taken appropriate measures to fix these problems, we know!

Let me address a few of these items.
The kitchen area consists of 3 sinks out of which only 1 has plumbing, so water keeps filling up and we need to sponge that out all the time. In the middle is the swinging gas-stove where we cook some 20 kettles of boiling water/day for coffee/ tea/ soup and meals. Yes all meals are freeze dried food and need 350 ml boiling water each to be prepared for consumption and a crew of 15 men needs lots of drinks and food. Before I can prepare anything in the kitchen I need to put my safety sailing trousers on as the tiny kettle spills all over the place and creates horrible burn blisters (we have the blister gel right there in 
the kitchen as every one keeps burning themselves). You cannot stand or secure yourself anywhere around the kitchen block. So you sit on your knees or bum trying to get the boiling water in the right cup, bowl or foodbag, a true balancing act as the boat heels 45% and goes 40 km/hr over big waves. You even wouldn’t want to sit on your knees in your own kitchen, would you? All in all very dangerous to all on board.

Another example is how the interior layout is made: If you enter from the cockpit into the boat through a narrow hole there is a step and 1 handle to hold on to. Unfortunately, right next to the  step is a 1.50m deep hole.Even an airbag don’t work here. Getting through the hole is a challenge but not having any sensible support is very dangerous on a jumping boat. Nowhere in the boat there is a comfy place to sit, just on the floor or on top of the engine and watermaker. If we would sail around the world this should absolutely be repaired somehow. All in all not even very complicated but it really needs to be taken care of.

Ventilation: The boat is frightfully hot and humid inside, very unpleasant to stay and sleep in. Again, how hard can it be to get an area ventilated correctly??

And the toilet? Don’t go there. Even if you get your business done the chance of hurting yourself on 5 different valves and handles is high. Than flushing is an art. When you’re lucky, the fellow sailors are not successful in sailing fast (so the boat lies a little flat).  This is the only moment that the manual pump will produce water, otherwise you’re just pumping wet air and that really is not going to help clean the bowl. And if there is a little ‘accident’, one is really in deep sh*t to get things sorted…

We even wondered if the right interior was put in the boat?? (these are built in pieces on 3 different places and than assembled in the 4th place. Maybe they simply got the wrong interior installed in the boat??

Anyway, please come visit us in St. Lucia and we can show you how bad it really is. We hope you can get a real interior expert and ergonomic specialist together to get this sorted before the next race. After all, your family built a reputation for great, safe and comfy cars and trucks and this is just a major blooper, a real Farce design.

Another friend is with the R.S.P.C.T.S (Royal Society for protection of Cruelty to Sailors) and offered to make a case out of this. We don’t want this at all and have full confidence in you to make a change. I’m writing this to you from the heart of my bottom in all sincerity and look forward to the solution. If your guys don’t get it we are happy to help, we’re not designers but the folks who did this are definitely no designers either.

PS If you come to St. Lucia bring your sailing shoes, we’ll take on a tour around the island so you can experience the fun of sailing the boat and the sadness you find below decks.

Your Volvo friend Koen

February 27, 2015. Leg 4 to Auckland onboard Team Brunel. Day 19. Pablo Arrarte

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BLOG 5 – Team Brunel in the ARC

’15 shades of grey….’

Ever sailed an ocean? No? you should try it, it’s magical, overwhelming, peaceful, violent, cruel but above all fantastic!!!! We’re sailing through rainbow territory, honestly, we’ve seen 1 full grown moon rainbow and a handful of partial rainbows, fairytale! And this immense empty world causes a very subtle feeling of intimacy, comradery.. friends for life. We met 3 boats in 5 days.. busy times. There is literally no one around here, which is great. Stresses the need though to be very careful indeed, it’s us, the boat and the ocean. Oh right, and a whole lot of flying fish. About an hour before sunset they start flying around to escape predators (like our yellow tuna like keel bulb) and some fly straight over us. But quite a few don’t make it and hit crew in the face or drop on deck, smelly buggers. I believed fresh fish doesn’t smell, no clue what these guys eat for dinner….

When racing the ocean one is really in a sort of mixed reality:On deck sun- moon- rain squalls- falling stars, concentration – focus – workouts on the grinder- chatting with the boys, cracking jokes, talking shop. And below decks quiet- off watch sleeping- cooking breakfast- brewing  coffee cleaning, sponging the excess water of the floors. But above all a challenge of all yours senses, an overload of impressions. The howling almost serene singing of the water flow along the rudders like altos and sopranos seamlessly taking over the song of speed when the tempo goes up (don’t need speedometer readings anymore to know the speed) And smell, the testing of the nostrils, an item often discussed in a negative context when on board with 15 unwashed men. Not with us however, everyone is clean and fresh and a delightful smell of Lilly’s of the Valley (or was it Roses?) wanders through our living quarters. The taste of all delicacies brought as personal gifts to the crew and the healthy freeze dried meals and even a lightweight (surely carbon?) mini- espresso maker (thank you Ferry) please our tongues and noses. But most excitingly is this novelty: Lay in your bunk- eyes closed and covered with a eye mask (courtesy KLM long distance flights), ears closed and covered with ear protectors, half awake after a good night (=2hr) sleep, a gentle breeze from the ventilator over your skin and enjoy the immense power of the boat surfing and smash -dancing over the waves. A sensation only perceived via hull/bunk/skin/brain contact, even much stronger than the feel of speed when on deck, phenomenal.

‘Fifteen shades of grey’
Admitted, the young pro’s are good looking thick dark hair athletes and I counted them in my 15 number. But still, who are the crew? Who are this rare bunch of aficionados who live a dream? Well, all are active supporters of the Team Sailing Hollands’ initiative a.k.a. Team Brunel. During the VOR2015-16 they were somehow involved with the team. All experienced amateur sailors and without the desire for statistical accuracy, most are in strength of their lives i.e. their fifties. 3 Entrepreneurs in IT, Ferry, Joern and Koen, a toyproducer (nicknamed Toyboy JB) and the ‘Fatboy producer (nice comfy seat here in mediadesk RJ !), airline captain Ron (great helmsman, no surprise after 22000 flight hours), two Damen shipyard chiefs Jaap and (G)Auke (a.k.a. Turkish Cowboy), the commercial director of a huge office equipment manufacturer Rick and a collector of real estate (a.k.a. Oscar the Brick). When the plan surfaced to bring the bright Black/Yellow VO65 to the Caribbean for the race season and the option to race her across the Atlantic in the ARC Rally all (and many more) signed up to crew the yacht together with 5 pro’s. A once in a lifetime opportunity.

The beauty of this eclectic venture creates plenty of opportunities: The youngest pro’s skippered by Johnny Poortman get a chance to coach the senior guys to optimal performance in racing the boat. Rokas Milevicius (bowman VOR) and Tomas Ivanauskas (technical shorecrew) do a great job as <30 yr sailors pushing the veterans to drive her fast and straight to the next mark, transferring their skills to the amateurs. Jens Dolmer has 2 VOR’s (watchleader) under his belt and is the master of techie tricks on this yacht. With the biggest smile he’ll guide his watch to max precision and speed. P.S. We now understand his nickname ‘the Farmer’ (what indeed he was before); he helms the yacht as a laser guided plough through the waves as if on a 1000 acres of land, impressive steering! Gideon Messink (director of Team Brunel) supports the crew with Whitbread experience and a zillion ocean miles. His driving style nicknamed him Gi the Weaver, as he seems to find every sliding chance speeding of a wave. So all crew have an equal share in driving the boat, a rare but unique experiment that proves successful and guarantees immense commitment of all. Also, Team Sailing Holland has signed up for the next VOR (yeehhh!!) and these races keep the team, sponsors and supporters bonded together

Another 1005 NM (straight line) to go to the famous Caribbean Rum Punch in St. Lucia. That will be some 1200 NM to sail to keep the right sailing angles, gibing over our imaginary highway through the Atlantic. Our competitors’ positions have not arrived yet. Yesterday we calculated a tiny margin of some 5 NM ahead of  nr 2.  Farfalla  and Durlindana3 (on corrected time/distance). Eager to find out where they are now. The Leopard’s record of the ARC crossing is theoretically still possible and maybe even shave half a day off it ?! Only one way to find out: push push push and see what the Race Committee is clocking on the finish line.. But we are getting hungry, hungry for success J

Best regards from 15 Shades of Grey

Your OBR  Koen

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Blog 4 – Team Brunel in the ARC

How did we get on till now
Exactly 4 full days have gone by in a fantastic race and we are exactly halfway in mileage to St. Lucia. The averages per helmsman go up, the topspeed remains the same. The bravest of the gang (or the daredevils?) push her ladyship VO65 to 26+ knots, being it day or night, a shift is a 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 all the way now) we still might have a chance to equal or beat the mighty 100 Ft Leopard of London record of 8 days- 14 hours- 39 minutes and 59 seconds. This is our challenge in the challenge to arrive before December 1st, 3:24:59 AM on the finish line. And of course sailing as fast as we safely can to win the race on handicap (corrected time) versus our Class 2A competitors. As the new update has not arrived for today, yesterdays positions look good but the yachts Farfalla, Durlindana 3, Talanta and Weddel will not let us get away easily. At yesterday noon we had 212 NM- 264 NM and 269 NM lead over the runners up (having sailed some 1000 NM straight line) but they do have quite different handicaps so even winning line honours does not tell us who wins the race overall until time correction factors are applied.

Interior designers delight…
The VO65 was specifically designed to accommodate 8+1 crew during the round the world Volvo Ocean Race. She’s a dream to sail on once all sails are set and handles impeccably gentle. Down below however about half of the area, ahead of the mast, is reserved for sails and storage. The aft quarters provide 4 pipecott bunks on port and starboard each and another 2 on both sides of the main cabin. The main cabin is a joint functional space for kitchen (this word highly overrates the poor and impractical design of a swinging gasstove and 3 lookalike sinks out of which only one has plumbing?)- engine room, watermaker, wardrobe for dripping foul weather gear.
Moving around the 3D bumping area is an art in itself . Johnny, Rocky and Jens just toured the globe and appear totally natural in this rough habitat. The rest of us literally bounce around and seek for balance – even sitting down. When the boat plunges into a wave the speed only reduces about 10 knots in seconds. Try 40 km/hr on ski’s into a loose
pile of snow… very effective way to stop immediately- including the man balancing on one knee and other foot with a boiling kettle in his hand trying to poor water in a coffee mug… challenging indeed.

The boys…
A 15 strong crew or 9 is quite a difference. Not all off watch fit in the bunks on the high side so some sleep on the leeside. Untill ‘Gybe’ is called. The watch is busy for 20 minutes on deck getting her mistress turned and organised for the next speed runs over the other bows but down below the organised chaos commences again. Pack your personal gear and move across. Where’s my socks/shirt/short/lamp etc etc and stumble in plain darkness through the bumping dungeon … far from comfortable! But that’s racing in a true race machine. On deck we gather around the helmsman in the back of the bus. Anywhere further upfront is avalanche area where you get flushed all the time. But above all: crew weight at the right place. So downwind as we’re sailing all along we need the crew weight aft so most of the time the deck crew live on 3m2 of the 100m2 total deck surface.

Techie talk
Imagine your apartment in a non stop earthquake, what would it look like? Given the everlasting beating of this boat it is incredible that 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 water to the salt water handpump, problem solved.
*Turkish cowboy broke his bunk- almost squeezing Johnny to sandwich size (laying in the bunk beneath), don’t use the bunk anymore, problem solved.
*And the ‘worst nightmare on a busy boat’??  the toilet did not only block but ‘replied with solid mass ..(rest of explanation censored for privacy reasons..). He cleaned up the area and will not do this again. Problem solved.
*It feels as if we have 10 miles of rope on board so getting only once tangled in the wrong block isn’t that bad at all. To unravel this Gordian knot takes brains, power and foul language. Rocky fixed it as if he’d been knitting since childhood. Problem solved. (one ego damaged as TC caused most of it in a beautiful highspeed broach- his problem .. not
solved) Note from the editor: despite 30 minute fight with the Gordian knot, average speed steady on 20 kn, Johnny just kept steering along as if no one else was on deck.. focus focus focus.
*And we found our satellite data ghost: Everytime the PC came online to get new weather gribfiles the Microsoft mob pushed a zillion bits towards us with useless updates consuming our precious data bundle. So the satellite gang responded: ‘contact your provider, you have no more access’. Charming if you have no more data capacity literally on the middle of the Ocean..?? duhhhh. Anyway, Johnny & Ferry (not an new Icecream brand) as Mac-edicts figured it out and killed the Microsoft invaders trick. Problem solved.

Time for a seat in the sun, away from the media desk
Your OBR a.i. Koen

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Sailing Holland BV

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