Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race and the start of a 45,000 mile odyssey for Turn the Tide on Plastic.
We are sailing from Alicante, Spain to Lisbon, Portugal a relatively short sprint that is sometimes more difficult than the longer length legs. It is not quite long enough to get into a full rhythm and yet the intensity is harsh. We have so far been at sea for 3 days and we are still insight of three of our rivals. We split from everyone in the Mediterranean Sea only to converge together at the Gibraltar Straits and we have been locked in a fierce battle ever since. This kind of intensity is exciting, we are literally looking at every decimal place of boat speed all the time. Having enjoyed some close racing in the practice races I am pretty confident that this will be the sign of things to come for the whole race around the world, making this an awesome race to follow on the tracker. Any mistake is brutally punished and the idea behind a successful race is consistency.
The Turn the Tide on Plastic Team has only been put together very recently. We announced in June and selected crew during July and began racing in August. We had time to train in September and then complete mandatory safety courses while the boat was given her final check and then we were off to Alicante for the start of the Volvo Ocean Race. My focus on selection was to have 60% of my crew as under 30's and therefore have no previous experience of the race. This makes us vulnerable to the more experienced teams, however, I have selected very talented sailors who can make a boat go fast so it is about us not making too many mistakes and continuing to improve and the rate at which I have seen my team grow has been really impressive so we will be a team to watch out for, the critics cannot write us off!
I have a multinational crew comprising of ten nationalities, luckily for em we sail in English although we are picking up sayings in each others languages that probably should not be repeated off the boat. It makes the dynamic great on board and I am enjoying the fresh approach my guys take to stuff. Liz Wardley was my first pick as an experienced sailor to help me out with this project and she is the boat captain. There is not a single nut or bolt on this boat that she does not know about and can fix anything that may or could happen to us. We sailed together in the last edition of the race and are enjoying this new team we have created. Also helping us out in the experienced department is Martin Stromberg from Sweden, who has taken part in this race three times and has won it with Groupama back in 2011/12. He is a calm focus and brings a wealth of experience to the new sailors.
The funny aspect of this campaign is the fact that so many of my team come from other backgrounds, like America's Cup sailing and Olympic sailing so they do not really have any idea what they are letting themselves in for in this race. The questions they ask are about living on a boat for three weeks at a time rather than the sailing as they know how to sail they just haven't been offshore for as long or as far. That is the easy part to teach and it makes me laugh a lot at the questions they ask.
Our Ocean's health is a mess due to our obsession with plastic and in particular single use plastic.
By design, plastic is built to last and yet so much of what we use can only be used once. This throw away society that we have been living in has contributed to plastic pollution in our oceans and now we have proof this is beginning to effect our own food chain, we are all talking about it. The synergy with having a young crew is they understand it is their responsibility to make sure all of us now solve the issue so future generations can continue to enjoy our planet. My team speak about the issue in a very genuine manner and they really care about what a difference they can make. This is an exiting time for them as role models and real life Ocean Heroes.
Leaving the Mediterranean we were saddened to see a group of balloons floating on the surface of the water. These do not break down and are often confused by marine life as food, making them sick. A fellow competitor had some plastic on their keel. This slows down a boat and effects performance as well as reminding us of the issue that is out here. The same incident happened to us on the Prologue race and we had to spend time stopping the boat going backwards and clearing the plastic before we could resume racing. As a result and through good habits we check, using an endoscope, the bottom of the boat. We are able to see our boards, keel and rudders every morning at daylight and every evening before it gets dark to check we are clear of any rubbish and in particular plastic that could effect our performance. A sad reality to how full of rubbish our oceans are.
We have another 660 miles to go of sailing in the Atlantic before we arrive at the weekend in Lisbon and we are planning on giving it our all."