Seahorse March 2006

Position: 47,48.88S , 50,11.62W

Speed: 21 knots, Course: 56 deg.

My third rounding of Cape Horn was the best. We got to within two miles of the Cape and having been there before, it was all about enjoying the moment this time. There was one other person onboard who had been there with me in 1998, Justin (Juggy) Clougher, and there were four of us rounding for the third time. That made it special and we decided to live it up. We took plenty of photos, video, laughed and reminisced, and after we completed the second of two gybes in 33 knots of wind, we broke out the cigars and sat on the stack and really enjoyed the moment. That’s a far cry from how we did it on EF, but hey, that was then and this is now and I am older and smarter. We coughed up a few miles but it was worth it. It certainly was a different Southern Ocean leg this time, with the ice waypoints keeping the fleet north. No ice, no snow, only got the gloves on for the last three days. It was probably very smart of the organizers to keep this event safe and under control. These are very new boats and not all of the bugs are worked out.

This Volvo Ocean Race has been very interesting for me. From the first meeting with the Disney executives in Burbank last May, which captivated my imagination and passion, to the difficulties of getting the boat built and launched in 5 months, to finding a great team in short order, to living the breakdowns, and now finally, getting some traction and being able to race. What a fantastic 10 months!

The VOR 70’s are amazing machines. Very light at 14 tons and very powerful with lots of sail area, they are quick in all conditions. In big breeze, they are extremely fun to sail…like a dinghy. They plane incessantly at speeds up to 35 knots. We have hit 39 knots as top speed on the paddle wheel, which at those speeds is out of the water 50% of the time. The inshore races are a blast…the boats change positions very easily and downwind crossing situations with two boats coming at each other at 20 knots of speed is not uncommon.

In the ocean, they take quite a pounding at those speeds. With flat sections and almost no rocker, they pound shudder, creak, and bang along. You never know what is making the sounds you here. They sound like things that are breaking, like broken glass or breaking carbon, but obviously it isn’t because if it were, we would not have made it around the Horn. The ride down below, in the nav station in particular, is much rougher than in the 60’s. Violent is a polite way to put it. The carbon also makes the boats very noisy. The water rushing by and easing of winches are very loud sounds inside this drum. The whole package adds to the fatigue.

As far as the boats go and the fleet, it appears that Jaun K has hit it closer to the mark than the others. ABN1 in particular is a very fast row of seats….very well thought out from many aspects. Beam gives you form stability, that is obvious. But it also gives you sheeting angle, a wider platform for stacking, and more room inside. There is a downside to beam and that is drag. But it appears that they overcome their drag penalty at around 10 knots upwind and reaching and 20 knots running, again because these boats have so much sail area and are so easily powered up. ABN’s inner forestay system is clever as well. They have their number 4 jib on a roller furler that sets on an inner forestay that is tensioned with a hydraulic ram. This allows for easy deployment of that sail and it is used when changing sails which set on the head stay as they have no foil. Hanks are safer in these boats as there is so much water coming down the foredeck that it is easy to loose a sail, and or a person, overboard in a change. They also have two smaller rudder which works well when heeled and a lot of other details which are working very well for them. The complete package is very, very fast. Having said that, they are very sticky in light air. So we have to hope we will find some light air races like the Sanxenxo inshore or possibly the finish up here in Brasil in a few days time, and pack some points on those ABN boats.

I have really learned a lot form this project. Sails are a whole other world when sailing at tight apparent wind angles all the time. Sizing and shape is extremely critical to speed. This is something catamaran sailors have no doubt known for years. The engineering, materials and mechanics behind the canting keels is also very interesting and important for the future of sailing, not just racing but cruising as well. I am enjoying being challenged by these new things, working with my team, and learning so much.

Pirates of the Caribbean is a great team onshore and at sea. We have been very fortunate to get such a strong group of people together and I have really enjoyed working with all of them. To see 30 individuals come together as a team through hard work is really beautiful. The common denominator is the project, and the more experiences the project has, the tighter the team is. Obviously being linked to such a popular brand as “Pirates of the Caribbean” has been a lot of fun too.

This campaign will be over before we know it. June 18th in Gothenburg is little more than 100 days away. The long legs are over and I hope the big repair jobs are too. No it is about racing and scoring points. It should be a lot of fun coming down the stretch.