Volvo Ocean Race: Headed home

Posted April 25, 2012, at 5:50 p.m.

We are going home. We are on our way to the United States.

Brazil and the city of Itajai were incredibly good to us. It was a shame to have to leave, really. The number of fans there was crazy. I tried to go down to Mar Mostro about an hour before leaving to bring my gear bag on board and couldn’t get through the crowds. There were too many people requesting photos and autographs. That’s something that sailors rarely say or have to deal with, by the way. It may be common for an NBA team or something, but not typical for a sailboat racer.

The departure ceremony was also incredible. Tens of thousands of people in the Race Village and all around the harbor front … stacked 10 deep all the way out the breakwater on both sides of the channel. It was quite overwhelming to be honest. We aren’t really great at handling or knowing what to do with big crowds so we awkwardly wave. The highlight was one guy that stuck out among the thousands wearing a Boston Bruins jersey and waving an American flag out the breakwater. Whatever it takes to get noticed I guess.

Then to the leg start. The Volvo Ocean Race organizers can never just fire off a gun and watch the fleet leave toward the next destination. Part of the fun for the crowds is to watch the fleet battle in a made-for-TV, hand-to-hand combat race around a seven-nautical mile course before heading off. It can be a bit of a handful with all teams getting whipped before setting course for Miami. But, it was a good whipped as we led the fleet out of Itajai. First in, first out. All good.

Now, after a fantastic first night of sailing, we are drifting up the coast of Brazil off Rio. We had a successful first day and a half, but it is all coming to a screeching halt right now as a rain cloud has just formed to the left of us and engulfed us. That is the problem with ocean sailing. It seems it is just squall after squall, there to ruin your day. We gained 15 miles on the last position report, but I am sure this next one, in three hours, we are going to give it all back.

Life on board is pretty relaxed, though. Remember the last time we left a port it was from Auckland, New Zealand, and the first night out we saw about 50 knots of wind and huge seas. Not a fun first night. This has been a walk in the park. It is certainly preferred over the Auckland experience.

So, we will concentrate on the task at hand and try to block out the fact that we are going back to the States for the first time since we left Newport, R.I., in July of last year. We actually sailed down to Miami on a training run in May, so officially when we enter Miami we will have circumnavigated the globe, if you are keeping score. No points for this, but definitely a feather in the cap of a team that has been working incredibly hard for nearly two years to get to this point.

Besides, my guess is that there is a pretty small percentage of the world’s population that can say they have circumnavigated the globe on any type of vessel, never mind a carbon fiber racing sailboat.

That’s probably a good thing as well. What it means is that there likely aren’t too many crazy people out there after all.

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