Friday, October 10, 2008

Bouwe Bekking's expectations and fears

The first offshore leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 starts Saturday October 11th. At 1400 hours, 88 of the best sailors in the world will launch eight boats into a 37,000-mile race around the globe. This edition features ten stopovers, including in the race schedule countries never before visited by this round the world race - India, Singapore, China and Russia. The first leg will drive the VOR circus from Alicante, Spain, to Cape Town, South Africa, some 6,500 miles through the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

Onboard TELEFONICA BLUE, Bouwe Bekking is the most experienced offshore sailor of the 11-person, 7-nation crew. If any of them could claim to know about extreme sailing, it would be the Dutchman, Bouwe. This will be his sixth round the world race, Bouwe knows exactly what to expect. and what to fear.

What's first when you face a challenge like this: mind or body? The mind comes first: you really have to ask yourself if you can cope with the pressures of such a long race. An important consideration here is whether you and your family can handle being separated for such a long time.

What do you think about the new race course? Personally I preferred the old style of race with just three stops -- that said, here I am again. To encounter the unknown, sailing in areas where I have never ventured before will be a huge personal challenge. I'm sure we will have great racing on the new legs, but one of my real hopes is that bringing the race to new places will help sailing to evolve in these countries.

On the other hand, I think that it will be hard to enjoy the stopovers in some of the new ports. However great your shore crew might be, I know from experience that in some places everything, even the simplest things, can be a struggle. This is especially so where there is no yachting culture.

Do you think we will see big differences between the boats? We know how all our competitors look and we can see that we are all on the same track with designs seemingly within the same parameters. Whilst there are no great extremes, there are some differences in the detail or execution. It will be very, very interesting to see how we all compare to one another once we get underway. -