Racing teams brave conditions to complete passages

While most of the UK sheltered indoors this weekend a number of racers have been braving the weather conditions to complete qualifying passages. Bernard Stamm (pictured) went round Ireland for his extra Vendée Globe qualifier, required by organisers after Cheminées Poujoulat had been fitted with a new mast. Stamm reckons Cheminées Poujoulat just needs a few details to be sorted and he and his new boat will be “really good mates”.

Two Volvo Ocean Race teams have now arrived in Alicante. The Green Dragon Team from Ireland had a boisterous passage, as skipper Ian Walker describes: “Somehow you can never relax on these boats, not least as much of the sailing is done in the pitch black with no idea of what dangers lay ahead. Last night we spent five hours dodging commercial shipping as we tacked our way through the Straits of Gibraltar into a 35-knot headwind. The day before we had to slow right down to clear a sunfish off the port rudder.

Life onboard is tough; the trimming, hoisting, lowering and moving sails drains every ounce of energy that you have. We sail in watches with four people on deck plus two of us on standby, while four people get to rest. It is four hours on, two on standby and two hours off in every eight, if you are lucky. Everybody gets up for any tacks, gybes and heavy air sail changes. All of the food is freeze dried, and there is little respite from the constant motion and intensity of the boat. So why on earth would anybody choose to do this? The answer is simple – it is a chance in a lifetime to be part of an incredible sporting event and to pitch ourselves against some of the best sailors in the world – we all want to win. We have a fantastic team both ashore and afloat, and we will share life-changing experiences over the next 10 months. Yes it will be unbearably hot, yes it will be unbearably cold, and at times it will be dangerous. And yes, this will certainly be the biggest test of our lives. It will also be an incredible journey for everyone involved.”

Meanwhile, the US Puma team have also arrived in Spain inIl Mostro(the monster). “We called this our team’s “Leg 1.” It was great practice for our boat and team,” said Skipper Ken Read. “We were able to work out some kinks and really come together as a team. Our goal at the beginning of this project was to get a great team of guys on il mostro, and I can confidently say that we have succeeded. Our boat performed well and, we’re looking forward to getting this race started.”

The fully-crewed Volvo Ocean Race starts on October 11th, while the singlehanded Vendée Globe starts on the 9th November.