The Volvo Ocean Race is currently in its final stages, as teams make their way back across the Atlantic to Portugal, the the third-to-last stopover in this edition of the race. Since November of last year, six boats have been racing around the world in a 39,000 nautical-mile competition that pits physical strength against mental will -- accurately dubbed "the Everest of sailing." This edition has seen stopovers in Cape Town, South Africa; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Sanya, China; Auckland, New Zealand; Itajai, Brazil; and, just last week, Miami, USA. I was offered the opportunity to sail onboard CAMPER's Volvo Ocean 70 in the Miami Pro-Am Race, where professional and amateur sailors come together to crew boats and win races.
CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand is one of the teams participating in the 2011-2012 Volvo Ocean Race, the product of sponsorship from Spanish footwear company CAMPER, and management from Emirates Team New Zealand, a Kiwi sailing program. Skippered by Chris Nicholson, the team brings an impressive resume to the Volvo Ocean Race table: three Olympic campaigns, 17 America's Cup jaunts and 22 Volvo Ocean Race events sailed. Currently in third place overall, the experienced crew of CAMPER hopes to maintain a podium position.
But anyway, back to Miami. As I detailed in my last post, the Volvo Ocean Race is more than your casual sail round the world. Crews face extremely harsh conditions, as evidenced in this video of rogue waves slamming another Volvo Ocean Race boat. Words can't adequately describe the high performance standards that these boats must have. Though I sail myself, a two-person dinghy boat is nothing compared to the 70-foot long Volvo Ocean Race yachts like CAMPER.
First order of business was hoisting the sail. The only way to get the several-hundred-pound mainsail up the mast was to hand-crank it using a complex grinding system. Using the boat's three hand-over-hand cranks, which each accommodating two people, the six of us raised the main, a physically exerting task that is often done multiple times per leg. It is impossible to know the strength required to sail on one of these boats until you experience it for yourself. Sailing is an incredibly physical sport.
The Pro-Am day in Miami saw incredibly light winds of just a handful of knots, but the boat still moved gracefully and surprisingly fast considering that the wind was almost nonexistent. The course was scheduled to be a twice-around, figure-eight style race, but was shortened due to the wind (or lack thereof). It was incredible, because our team won. CAMPER crossed the finish line first, with the rest of the fleet battling for the other two podium positions.
I love the Volvo Ocean Race and everything it stands for: adrenaline, speed, strength, strategy, and, most importantly, determination. The Volvo Ocean Race is a pinnacle sporting event, one that should be taken more seriously throughout the world. A ride onboard CAMPER, however brief, was an amazing experience, and one that I hope to have again.
Click here to view the full photo gallery from the Volvo Ocean Race's Miami stopover. Thanks to the folks at CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand who made this experience possible!