Volvo Ocean Race. Thoughts From the Southern Ocean

by Richard Crockett

The crew OBRs (On Board Reporters) and others occasionally send back short ‘snapshots’ of life aboard a Volvo Ocean Race boat in the Southern Ocean.

Some are heartfelt, others pithy, and this one from Turn The Tie on Plastic downright fearsome.

Shooting out the back hatch to capture water passing Turn the Tide on Plastic.
photo by Sam Greenfield/Volvo Ocean Race

From onboard Turn the Tide on Plastic this morning:
That moment where your whole world stops and your heart is in your mouth. The alarm sounds at the chart table, with bright red letters displaying SART AIS MOB Alarm.

I jumped up from the chart table and screamed from the hatch to the back of the boat. Do you have everyone, I have a MOB Alarm.

A quick check of everyone reassured me that this was a false alarm. I turned off all the noise and flashing distraction from the navigation instruments and we located the beacon.

It was in a lifejacket that was being worn and still on deck. With gusts of 40 knots and darkness of nighttime this was not something I wanted to have happen onboard.

Now it is daylight and we still have gusts and big waves but there is something about the light making it not feel as bad.

Dee and Team TTTOP

On board Vestas 11th Hour Tony Mutter is driving at full speed.
Photo by Martin Keruzore/Volvo Ocean Race

Vestas 11th Hour Racing Blog 4 from OBR Sam Greenfield – Needling Charlie
It’s 7:15 UTC time and the sched has just come through. Only God – or a kid with Google Earth on their tablet – knows what time it really is for us as the sun sets and rises earlier each day as we chase east at the bottom of the world. Imagine sunrises around 2am and sunsets around 5pm.

The wind is up as the storm builds. We’re leaping off waves at speeds in the mid 20s (knots) but the downwind angle is easier to stomach than anticipated.

Charlie is finishing up his chicken a la king with extra sweet and spicy sauce at the nav desk. Mark is perching right behind me with the same dish, coated in BBQ sauce. Both smell amazing. I strike up a deal with Charlie, telling him I’ll wash his bowl if he gives me a few good lines about the most recent position report. I’m starving anyway and need a bowl for dinner, so it’s a fair trade.

He starts out with “Weeeee’re, back in touch…. and ready to strike.”

Not good enough, I tell him. It’s the 3rd time he’s tried this line in four days and I have to remind him we’re not living in – sadly – Top Gun.

“After a … errrr… slow start and…” He pauses. “Dealing with our own weather…” Another pause. “We’ve jumped back up….”

I stop him there. Last chance. I offer a prompt: “The last sched came in… fill in the rest. Try that?”

“The last sched came in,” says Charlie. “We were the lowest, fastest boat” He changes to a robot voice, a slight reference to Robo-Charlie. My name for him when he delivers garbage, stilted quotes thinking it gets him out of it.

He continues, “We passed Brunel and AkzoNobel. The red boats remain ahead but within striking distance.”

He’s earned that last striking distance. Now comes the fun part. “And how does that make you feel? Sad Charlie? Happy Charlie? Iceman or Goose Charlie?”

“I was not so secretly hoping that we’d be ahead of all of them,” he admits.

I tell him to give me the bowl. BBQ sauce it is.

An Albatross as seen from Dongfeng.
pic by Sam Greenfield / Dongfeng

More prayers to the gods of the sea from MAPFRE:
Dear Southern Ocean,

Thank you for your welcome gift, it is truly a magical sight. Many albatross have come to welcome us and we thank you for that wonderful gift.

We are starting to feel the build up to the main event. The breeze has picked up to 30 knots just as you promised, we feel your strength.

The crew are fed and dressed in their best, ready to go. One knows that only the epic parties start after dark and this will be no exception. We fear the only lights at this party will be that of the crew running around on deck, keeping an eye out for one of your many surprises.

We know you are going to work us hard tonight. We look forward to daybreak when we have made it through Day One of your epic rave and may catch another glimpse of your mysterious beauty.

Let the party begin!



A bit of whimsy from MAPFRE – or maybe a prayer:
Dear Southern Ocean,

You are beautiful, mysterious and full of wonder. Many wish to experience your full beauty and strength but few will. We are excited to be out here with you, and a little nervous. It seems you have quite a welcome party planned for us over the next few days starting off with a pre-party of 30 knots to get us warmed up then revving it up full force to 40+ kts for a 3 day ocean bashing rave, topped off with a bit of tricky manoeuvring around the Ice-Gate to keep us on our toes. We’ve noted the dress code and will be fully prepared with our best cold weather kit and many layers. Some of us have met you before, others are meeting you for the first time. We’ve been warned about these parties and to expect the unexpected. Surprises are your specialty. It sounds like quite the welcome party. I know that we all came down here for an adventure but please don’t be too brutal. Thank you for the invite and see you at the party!


Oh for a life on the oceans waves!

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