The Hardest Part
The Hardest Part
It's not the sleep deprivation or the relentless pace that makes the Volvo Ocean Race so tough. It's leaving the dock, and your family behind--again and again. Gaining Bearing from our June 2011 issue.
There’s one thing about doing a Volvo Ocean Race that doesn’t get any easier, no matter how many times you do it, or how tough you think you really are: leaving.
The routine before setting out on a leg is pretty much the same all the way around. The day before a leg start, there’s a ton to do. You have all of your worldly possessions in one suitcase and one briefcase, which will be flown to the next port. Packing these bags is really hard: there isn’t a square inch to be wasted. You have all of today’s modern technology along with appropriate plug converters for each country. You have to be equipped for cold and warm and wet and dry weather. You have to have fancy clothes for sponsor events and award ceremonies, and your workout clothes for the gym. Plus, you will have whatever clothing and gear you aren’t taking on that particular leg in the bag. It takes a long time to get this organized.
Next is figuring out what goes into the small, waterproof bag that goes onboard the boat. Ours are custom designed to be as light as possible, and there are pockets on the outside for iPods and a toothbrush, and maybe a few things that remind you of home. Inside, you have to cram approximately three weeks of gear for just about every condition you could imagine. After doing a bit of homework on the expected weather on the leg, I take a shot at what I might really need, but the basics include the following:
Two pair of underwear
Two tight light thermal long sleeves
One mid-weight thermal long sleeve
One heavy thermal long sleeve
One pair of surf shorts
One pair of waterproof shorts
One pair of thermal long underwear
Two pair of socks
One pair of waterproof socks
One pair of boots or sneakers
One cold weather hat, one baseball hat, and one balaclava
Now, all of this is for a standard leg; what about the cold weather legs? I’ll throw in a pair of neoprene gloves, a really warm thermal top and bottom and I’m set to go. Maybe another super warm pair of socks—but that’s it.
Once my bags are packed, it’s time to deal with a press conference and a sponsor commitment or two and then have a quiet night, hopefully with the family.
Come start day, I’m hopefully rested, and up early to get my bags to the designated drop-off location for the shipping. Then it’s off to the team base for a weather briefing, followed by a team breakfast or lunch. After a few more sponsor gigs, it’s off to the boat early to get all my stuff sorted before the starting ceremony.
A cardinal sin is to not check your gear. Bag on board? Check. Foul weather gear on board. Check. Knife, toothbrush, and headlamp? Check. Check. Check.
Then comes the hard part. It’s time to hang with the family and get ready to cast off. It’s a hugely emotional time, and it’s impossible to depart without the entire family in tears in front of thousands of spectators and cameras. Everyone’s watching.