A Good Day for a Volvo Lay Day

While teams make final preparations, the village turns quiet, but the cat racing is full-tilt.

Stripping The Bulb

Oskar Kihlborg/volvo Ocean Race

It's Tuesday afternoon here at the Volvo Ocean Race village in Sanxenxo, Spain, and five days out from the start on Saturday, whipping winds, rain and lightning are slowing boat work for those who are trying to put finishing touches on their 70s, especially the Australian entry Premier Challenge, which arrived only days ago and failed to pass the weigh-in (as did several others). A replacement bulb was refused delivery from an Australian air-freight company so the crew set about yesterday removing the existing bulb and hacking away at the massive lead slab to get the boat within tolerances. Otherwise, the race village is quiet as many crewmembers were granted a "lay day" before the big push to load the boats with food and gear in advance of the delivery parade down the coast to Vigo, the official start port. Shore crews, on the other hand, are full-speed in their compounds, checking sails, and hardware. Secrecy is rampant both on the boats and in the team bases. In years past competitors and media were allowed to walk through the boats, but there's none of that this year. All teams are refusing media access to the interior of the boats, and even team photographers are not being allowed to photograph interiors. It's believed, but not confirmed officially, that this is because of the proprietary keel-swing systems that are the vulnerable heart of the VO70 design. So as the 70s sit idle, the sideshow has been the Volvo Extreme 40 racing that's taking place just off the sea wall. Five of the 40-foot cats have been racing since yesterday, and the racing has either been very close or not at all. On the opening day, with a fresh breeze, boat handling errors created half-leg gaps as well-sailed boats extended away at 15 knots. Europe Dinghy Olympian (and now Tornado sailor) Carolijn Brouwer, from the Netherlands, walked away with both races on the first day, but Randy Smyth, sailing with four Americans on Tommy Hilfiger, made the best of extreme light air yesterday to win two races before racing was cancelled. For more photos and video (well worth watching, check out www.volvoextreme40.org). I'm slotted for a media spot in this afternoon's race, so if the breeze drops from its current 30 knots, I'll have more on these machines later. Plus, coming up a visit to the ABN AMRO base, and a sail aboard one of the ABN boats later in the week.