After a brutal 13 days of sailing through the Southern Ocean, we’re now in a match race with Groupama with less than a mile separating us. We went from survival to a full-blown, head-to-head battle.
The worst is very much over — it was over back at Cape Horn. We all breathed a huge sigh of relief when we got to the Horn. It was magical. You kind of feel like you survived when you see it. We just sailed through the roughest ocean on Earth.
Yes, it was dangerous at times. We never felt out of control, but certainly sailing Formula 1 race cars in the sea in 50 knots of wind is not a bargain. Especially this time of year when it is late in the season, winter is coming, and that meant the storms and the relentless breeze were that much worse. This has been the hardest leg that anybody has raced so far. We have a couple guys onboard who have done this race five or six times, and they’ve never done a leg like this last one from Auckland.
So, it was sure great to see Cape Horn. It was a time to be proud and happy and relieved.
We marked the occasion with celebratory cigars and a toast.
But, the hard part is actually still taking place. This is the very tactical part of the leg. The race is so close right now that we have to make tough decisions constantly. We can see Groupama all the time, and they can see us. They make a move, we make a move — not necessarily reacting to each other, just trying to stay in the right position. We’re both playing the wind right now. It may feel like an inshore race, and as much as racing alongside them makes us anxious, we still have to pay attention to our longer-term strategy to get us to the next port of Itajai.
It has become a two-boat race and we hope that our boat speed pulls us through. It’s keeping things interesting, keeping the intensity up. For sure, there’s going to be a bunch of really tired, really hungry guys who will be desperate for a cold beer and some good food when we arrive.
Ken Read is skipper of the PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team, competing in the Volvo Ocean Race. The 39,000 nautical mile round-the-world yacht race is the world’s longest continuous professional sporting event. Visiting five continents over nine months, the world’s best offshore sailors risk their lives every day competing in the “Everest of sailing.” The race began in Alicante, Spain on Nov. 5, 2011, and will stop in Miami this May before finishing in Galway, Ireland early July. Follow the race at www.volvooceanrace.com.
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