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Volvo Ocean race. Green Dragon email

 

Tuesday, 10 March 2009, 21:34 GMT

Green Dragon – Chris Main (Helmsman/Trimmer)

Night one of this epic leg from China to Brasil, its pitch black cold and the wind is 20-25 and building, Ian walker turns to me and says ‘you’re up Chris’. I jump on the wheel for my first night drive of a Volvo 70. We had the blast reacher up and the wind built to 30+. We were hitting 30kts of boat speed with water everywhere. I turned to Ian and asked if this was normal, he laughed and said, ‘get used to it’.

Unfortunately this leg has not yet turned out to be the downwind slay ride as advertised on the Volvo Ocean Race website that I had checked only a week before the leg started. Ian had rung me up asking if I was available to do the leg, but more importantly was I stupid enough to agree to do it.

I know we have only passed the half way mark, at last! I am pretty sure that the Volvo Ocean Race website said “headsails will be in their bags for most of this leg”. This had been one of the key reasons I had agreed to come and do the leg. Who wouldn’t want to be blasting downwind for 40 days? False advertising and maybe a little optimism thrown in on my part, not that I’m complaining, so far my last minute adventure with the mighty Green Dragon has been nothing but rewarding.

I turned up to Qingdao two days before the start hoping to have a sail before we left, but the first day was too foggy and second day was too windy. The start day turned out to be just right for my first ever sail on a Volvo Seventy, and with 40 days to Rio the boys reckoned Id have plenty of time to learn the ropes and be well and truly ready to get off!

Rewarding may not have been the right word to describe sailing a Volvo
Seventy. I think Volvo have got it pretty spot on with “Life at the Extreme”! These are some of the extreme experiences you don’t think about prior to having never done a leg … Before hand you think about the sailing, the speed of the boats, big waves, and night-time sail changes etc etc, but the real extreme experience is living in one of these beasts while hurtling round the worlds oceans.

Here is what I have found extreme so far this leg. I think hopping into a bed or rack after your opposite watch person has got out, having spent the last 4hrs sweating like you have been in a sauna, is extreme. Four days of blast reaching is tough. Unable to look forward without a helmet and visor on for fear of your eyelids getting turned inside out is extreme. Can you imagine being hosed down by a fire engine for four hours three times a day for four days?

China was cold and I will know in a few more days how cold the Southern
Ocean is, I suspect extremely! Trying to use the bathroom is extreme. For those keen to get some Volvo experience you could try using the loo in a caravan while being towed around a motorcross track at 100ks.
Sleeping 4 on 4 off is probably not that extreme, but being woken by the ceiling making contact with your head when levitated out of your bunk every ten minutes can be. Making a simple cup o tea can be pretty tough. It’s getting it from the kettle to the cup which is hardest; trying to get it in the cup without pour boiling water everywhere or all over yourself is not that easy.

Wearing the same thermals three or four weeks is pretty extreme, which probably explains the smell inside the boat which is also extreme!!
Freeze dried food is one area where there have been huge improvements over the last few years. Thank goodness is all I can say to that.
Even typing this letter can be tough at times, I am pretty sure the delete button is getting a good workout as you randomly hit keys with each wave.

The sailing is however fantastic and makes up for the inconveniences that life in a Volvo Seventy throws at you. We are hoping things go our way for the next week and we can get round the Horn in good shape and still with a chance to win the leg!! As you can see from the leg so far you never really know what the weather will do.

Here’s hoping it’s downwind to Rio.

Chris Main

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