Sunday, September 7, 2008

Soon the real test begins. Stand by!

Sally Collison/PUMA Ocean Racing
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Even after only 10 days at sea it's amazing what a shower, shave and real meal will do for your soul.We have arrived at Alicante, Spain, the final destination prior to the start of our great journey. Alicante is a little over 300 miles up the Mediterranean from the Rock of Gibraltar.
Our last 24 hours was fast and fun.

Downwind in 20-33 knots of breeze through the night, caught out with all the big gear up from time to time. Yikes! Several sail changes and lots of high speed sailing. Getting used to the speeds is a big part of our training and we certainly got that checked off on this transatlantic adventure. Also, we arrived nearly a day and a half ahead of schedule, making Kimo (Kimo Worthington, GM of PUMA Ocean Racing) and the operations folks scramble a bit for hotel rooms. But, they pulled it off as always.

Our trial leg certainly wasn't without excitement from time to time. We snapped a canard - check that - we snapped both canards on unidentified objects. Not exactly the best way to get us to sleep soundly at night as there is certainly a lot of uncertainty in these vast oceans. We are quite sure that both mishaps happened on objects – not marine life, so our Save the Whales friends need not come knocking on our door.The crew was put to the test and passed with flying colors. We had several different conditions that proved invaluable in preparing us for the real game.

So where does that leave us? Work lists are being created and a final re-build of the boat is in progress as we speak. Our shore base (base one was packed up in Newport and shipped directly to Cape Town) is buzzing with excitement as the shore team gets the boat back and they, with the help of the sailors, get things in order. We'll get safety courses out of the way soon and then the team will have a few days off. After a short break it's right back at it to do final checks on race sails which are on their way to us from North Sails.

Finally, one very interesting part of this race is clearly going to be the 11th crew member or the media member as Volvo calls it. I have always been a bit squeamish about watching those reality shows that essentially stick a camera in your face at any inopportune time and hope you freak out or cry or say something that will embarrass you forever. Well, I (we) are now living in this reality world and I really think that the sport could get a huge shot in the arm from it.

Ricky Deppe is really doing a great job, and I am sure that there are several other good cameramen in this race. These guys should be able to show an aspect of our sport the world has never seen or even imagined. But, getting used to that camera constantly lingering about is a bit disconcerting. I guess what I am trying to say is that I apologize in advance for all the dumb stuff I will be doing in front of the unseen camera for the next 9 months. And I extend that apology from the rest of sailing team.

All in all, everything is a great here and we have successfully gotten to a major time in the young life of PUMA Ocean Racing.

Soon the real test begins. Stand by.