Monday, September 29, 2008

Volvo Boys...Where are the girls?

I get asked this question frequently, "Why aren't there any girls in the race?" Actually, the really hilarious question is them asking which boat I sail on...yah...the one in my dreams!

You can all stop laughing now, thank you...

Last night a group of us were sitting around the tele, sick of CNN's reports on the dreadful state of financial affairs in the US and managed a discussion on sailing injuries. One of the gals husband recently suffered a nasty injury on one of the V70s when a winch drum failed, shifting the full load onto the pedestal he was working. The increased load took him off the deck, up and over the pedestal (a.k.a. "coffee grinder") and back onto the deck where he met up with traveler system and nothing soft or smooth.

The lad sustained serious injury to upper leg (where he landed) and sliced open his knee just below his "knee cap" (a gift from the traveler system.) He had a very long and painful recovery.

This, just one tale and a mild story of the potential physical risks of sailing such a demanding boat. Now, please keep in mind before getting upset and wondering why the hell they sail these boats. They love it and would not have it any other way and in this story, the winch drum was faulty. This could happen on any boat, just happens that when a V70 or maxi is involved, more damage to the sailor.

So back to why there are no girls on the modern V70s and it is not because they aren't skilled enough to do so. The boats were simply not designed with female physiology in mind. They are designed to push the boundaries of man. What would be interesting, pairing V70 designer with a team that want's a female crew, therefore crafting a powerful, fast boat with a smaller framed person at the controls. This would be an interesting question to pose.

Think it will be awhile before we see such a team and personally, greatly respect the guys who take on this offshore challenge and the wives and girlfriends who support them. Many of them are damn good sailors but raising our future generation of sailor is a very important job!

So ladies, please do not get upset or even discouraged because the time will come when female and boat designer come together, but till then, lets just admired the Volvo Boys for the solid sailors they are and appreciate their love for such raw, passionate sailing...


Sunday, September 28, 2008

No Time for Weekend Rest in Alicante

It's Sunday...the last day of the weekend where we try to fit in all the "fun" we can before thoughts of work creep into our heads while "Monday" nips our heels. That is, of course, if not working all weekend. In yacht racing, weekends are a mix between working and playing hard while sometime during the week, "weekend pace" may or may not kick-in. This is not the case for those who's lives are revolving around the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race.

There are some long days here in Alicante, especially for the shore crews and race organizers.

Today we headed out to observe and participate in a "dry-run" for this weekend's in-port race. Was lovely to get on the water. Alicante is beautiful from offshore, as the Castillo de Santa Barbara rises above the city: beautiful!

It was bit of an adventure for the VOR organizers to communicate with the Spanish speaking captain(s), big rolling seas and a V70 that no matter the amount of space, there never seemed enough! Ken Read is well versed in avoiding "spectator boats" but if we did not seem to be in the path of potential destruction every time they had up the kite...

However, it made for easy pictures!

The pace is picking up here and no longer have the media room to myself, in fact I am sharing it with a fleet of sailboats! I am surrounded by mini V70s (one for each team) and 12m versions as well. For a sailor, this is like being in the best toy store ever! These boats will be raced as apart of stop-over activities.

Mini Puma!

The V70's, in their cradles stand taller than I (I'm 5'5")

Well, that is all for this Sunday, but a look at the "classics" before calling and end to the weekend: Dear friend Amory Ross's blog takes a look at the complete opposite of VOR...a must read!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sailor's Working: The coolest exhibit in Alicante!

The crowds are thinner today, the sky has the most ominous look, with impressive clouds and all shades of gray, hinting to a storm but the rain has stayed away thus far and the guys are working about the boats while most folks on a Saturday are out playing. Unless you are in Alicante, Spain where the place to be is VOR Race Village, watching men at work or taking part in the countless other activities provided.

Last year, a little earlier in the month I was working with Clay Burkhalter in La Rochelle, France for the Mini Transat and the set up there, though not as elaborate, did allow people to walk the very docks we called home. These larger venues have tighter security and the people are kept at a "dock's length" from the guys hard at work. They are watching and snapping away photos, like those visiting a zoo or aquarium...can only imagine what each is thinking.

But when they get home, how do they explain it? I can almost imagine the conversation," so there were these people and well, not really sure what they were doing, but they were doing something to the was very cool, you had to have been there..."

It would almost be nice if they took after the zoos and aquariums and placed placards explaining to the earnest onlookers what the guys are doing. Granted it is not as exciting as a rare species mating habits or show of courting behavior, and maybe what they are doing seems straight forward but today met a couple from New Jersey who were besides themselves to hear us speaking English (had been chatting with a Puma crew.)

This lead to a new job title for the next 30-40 minutes: Exhibit Interpreter.

To be honest, think I am a much better teacher/ presenter than writer!! Maybe a tad too good because they asked A LOT of questions. They were really really good questions too: "How do people become a professional sailor?"; "Do they have to steer from both wheels at the same time?"; "Why is that one boat tipped over like that? (Ericsson had the keel canted over.)

It was pretty cool to have answers for most and this got me thinking: if these two have questions, what are the odds the rest of the crowd around us has the same ones? However, unlike La Rochelle where the visitors could easily ask, "What are you doing?" Not easy to do here and for very good reason. These guys have a lot to get done, but man, if each team had someone on shore, dressed properly so the visitors knew they were there to answer questions. What an impact that would have on their connection to the event and those sailors/teams!

I can promise you Mark and Kara of New Jersey are hooked! Now, if I did a good job I'll be seeing them in Boston next year!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Heart and Soul of Sailing: Meet the Boys of VOR!

Today's ventures afforded time with Jerry Kirby...again (he's my saving grace to breaking the ice with the boys.) He in turned brought in the boys of Chessie Racing who can't get enough of this race, while they were all on break from Medical Training, which was conveniently taking place next door to the media center.

These guys had me on the floor, their stories from racing together ten years ago were told as though it were yesterday. Where was I ten years ago?!?

Tom Braidwood to left is really talented man having played in everything from AC, past Volvos, Grand Prix, Maxi and the Mini Transat last year! The man to his right, Mike Joubert, the man who vowed never to do this race again is dashing and cool, giving no hint to not wanting to be here.

Jerry Kirby helped break the ice with talking to the boys, but Jonathan McKee just seemed to sense I had questions about what was going on and came over and said, "Hi"...actually it was the American accent! Americans find each other in foreign countries! We had a nice talk about sailing in the US but re-grouped to what their lessons of the day entailed. This lead to meeting Dr. Tommo, teacher and designer of the Team's medical kits.

As I was leaving to go grab an el cafe con leche (white coffee in Spanish) bumped into two members of the Russian team: Skipper Andreas Hanakamp and Watch Captain Stig Westergaard. Might I add, these are two very tall men!

began with race details one would stereotypically share with a "reporter/journalist" but each chat drifted towards normal sailor-to-sailor conversation about sailing, peoples perceptions of the sport and the heart and soul of why these guys are here doing this race. Candid conversation of why this race means something to them all. This is not simply a "day job" for any of these guys, it's too extreme for such.

You have to want to be here. These boys...they each want it. This is a team event which team has the group of sailors who want it the most?

More to come from Alicante ~ Cheers!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Life At The Extreme Demands An Extreme Personality!

My pick for an extremely positive sailing/life role model is Jerry Kirby, crew member of Puma Ocean Racing. Oddly enough, being a sailing fitness enthusiast, caught him on his way to the gym this afternoon. He still indulged me with a lovely conversation about Puma’s pleasure in being apart of the event, having received more exposure than anticipated and some encouraging words for those dismayed with impact the America’s Cup drama has had on the perception of sailing.

For starters, the Volvo Ocean Race is NOT the America’s cup. Jerry reminded me there is not and should not be any comparison. In case folks considered such a though, stop. So for those who only know about sailing through the America’s Cup venue, what are they to expect from this sailing venue.

Passion for sailing at its rawest form and an ocean full of personality!

As scenes from last Volvo played on a screen over head, Jerry watched with earnest and huge grin on his face, the passion Jerry carries for this race is infectious. We paused in conversation while he relived the moment and I realized one of the clips was my “pick-up video” for when you have “one of those days.”

Jerry Kirby has the perfect attitude and personality for this level of sailing, but for the sport as a whole. One knows he tackles life the same way and it was a treat to catch him today. To be reminded that in the shadows of sailing is this incredible race around the world, with participants possessing incredible personalities and a passion for one thing. The purest sailing experience possible.

So while Alinghi and BMW Oracle duke it out, why get caught up in the negative drama? Right now, here in Alicante the start of a new story is getting ready, think of the next two weeks like reading a Prelude to a great novel. Chapter one starts on October 13th but till then, there is much to be sorted! Including an import race on the 4th.

I broke the ice with a familiar face today, but Jerry Kirby is not the only positively spirited sailor here packed with personality. No time to be shy in Alicante...

Media, media, media....

The Volvo Ocean Race Website (sort of obvious I guess..)

Sailing World: My daily blogs, short bits through the day.

SailTrim Blog: I want to keep things short on the SW blog, so scope this out for lenghty bits. If something really major occurs and breaks my 400-600 word limit. I'll post it on SailTrim's News Page.

Photo Album:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Alicante Bound

On the road to Europe with sights set on Alicante, Spain and the start of the Volvo Ocean Race. It’s a bit of a dream come true, since first laying eyes on the 70 foot carbon beauties in Baltimore, back in 2006, its been a career goal to follow this event. Of course the original idea was to be working with a VOR team, this has proven much harder than lugging around sails two times one’s weight.

The current program is proving to be a very satisfying venture, allowing more attention to the entire event. The means necessary to travel to a country one does not speak the language and a town they’ve never been too should make for some colorful tales. Especially when on one’s own, sticking to a pretty low-profile, back packer, nomadic style about it. This should be interesting.

Sailing: Sailing World Blog
Odds and Ends:

As far as writing and event coverage, Volvo does a pretty sweet job in my personal opinion, and they just launched their new site:

Volvo TV
Media Center
Virtual Spectator

My goal is to cover as much of the “happenings” typical media folks do not seem interesting enough to share with the rest of the world. There never seems any real scoop about what is happening around town (i.e. race village events,etc.), what the city does to accommodate the event and maybe some time with shore-crews for insider tales of what it takes to get the campaigns off the ground.

Would really like a chat with the Delta Lloyd folks, seriously on the low with budget, there has to be a great story to how they made it all come together at the eleventh hour. Now, do they have what they need to get around the world? Every boat I’m sure has a story with some a tad more entertaining than another.

Not expecting too much drama from Telefonica or Ericsson, with such well planned and thought out programs, very little has been left to the imagination. The Russians would be a real hoot to talk with, once chatted with someone who told me they are struggling to get their country behind them. The boys need cheerleaders!

Feeling good that both the Green Dragon and Puma have a solid following, though, I’ll be hard pressed if anyone gets me into some candy apple red puma swag. Prefer a more modest means to support.

Really wishing well to all the teams and do not want to say who my favorites are. Do not believe many could even guess which. Maybe that could be a contest later on in this venture.

It’s going to be a great event, very appreciative to be here and excited to share it with those who can not make the Alicante start. Before we know it, they’ll be in Boston, MA.


Friday, September 05, 2008

Creative Break

What is your Muse? What inspires you on a down day or breaks you from a rut in the work day? One’s object of motivation is a powerful tool in reaching goals of many levels.

Recently I was in need of creative break on a few writing assignments. It doesn’t seem to matter what I’m researching or writing about, catching up with a fellow sailor is my best practice to re-inspiring the head: keeping the words flowing. If I can not go sailing, talking about sailing is not a bad fall back plan.

This day I was working on a piece for a web magazine called Suite 101 when a call came in from fellow racer Tom Loughborough and one of the founding members behind the American Sailing League. We had got to chatting in Newport a few months back and with a common passion for more spirited sailing, became an easy conversation and has not stopped since. He rang for a chance to keep the chatter going with the addition West coast heart and soul behind the operations: Chad Freitas, one of two directors behind the San Francisco based Skiff Sailing Foundation and contributing force in the ASL.

Needless to say my work for Suite 101 was pushed aside for the moment because talking with these two passionate sailors about skiff sailing and their goals for the American Sailing League was just plain cool. The hour conversation, sadly cut short by technology’s inability to keep up with the three of us, left heads full of ideas, all which will be but a tease to those who read this - sorry!

Yes, a tease. That is exactly what the ASL did to the guests of San Francisco’s Pier 39. They teased spectators with a spirited display of 18 foot skiffs racing about in front of the pier. Add in live music, commentary, video and any means possible to share the sport. This included a fully rigged 18 footer on display, very nice!

The success of these events sprung from passion and a strong motivation to succeed. The folks of Pier 39 were pleased and the skiffs will return in 2009 to dance for the waterfront guests. The American Sailing League is just warming up and the time to listen and talk with them cured the writer’s block!

Now day dreaming about racing a skiff. Which is right up there with the day dream of catching a ride on a V70. This all leading me to remind folks of the upcoming start to VOR 2008 and that V70s are basically skiffs on steroids. Noticing a theme?

The Volvo Ocean Race will be something like no other sailing event for 2008-09. How so you may ask. Well, for starters, they are pulling all the stops on telecommunications and surely there must be a sudden job market for IT staff in the world of sailing.

Now, I’m not naive to the motivation for VOR to flood the senses with news and scoop, meeting the exposure demands of high paying sponsors is no small feet. But please fall victim! I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of those boys who like riding waves on 70 feet of carbon.

These guys know what they are getting into, are true athletes and great personalities for the sport of sailing. I hope you’ll bookmark the VOR website, take many coffee breaks and watch the action.

NOTE: On-site blogging begins once I get settled on or around September 29th. Aside from off-topic reports, event specific posts will be on my Sailing World Blog thru October 11th.