Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nearly There: Volvo Ocean Race Stockholm

The Volvo Ocean Race "circus" is nearly done with it's global tour. Currently there is not enough coffee or hours in the day to keep pace as it feels someone has hit the fast forward button. Fast forward seems the theme, since arriving into Sweden it's been the most intense sailing-related trip to date. Just when I've sorted out the public transportation system of Gothenburg to Marstrand (it makes getting around Boston seem like child's play;) I'm packing up for a road trip to Stockholm.

We did not get on the road till nearly 10:00pm Sunday evening, however with the long days it felt like 5:00pm till when we finally rolled into Stockholm at 4:00am Monday morning when it looked and felt more like 6:00am...are you still with me? Basically drove through the night, though the "night" is about two hours long.

We sorted ourselves, selves being much of the media crew and made a bee-line to bed. The boats at this point were ripping it up and word was we needed to get sorted quickly as the ferry ride out to Sandham, a lovely Swedish island was nearly a 3 hour meander away.

So, we all took a nap, far from a sleep and a couple hours later, after discovering that the Stockholm Race Village could legally be mapped as a "small town" - it's massive, making Boston's Fan Pier seem nothing more than a street corner affair.

The old Pirate's of the Caribbean is on site, formally owned by Mean Machine's Peter DeRidder and now named the White il Mostro is quite striking.

As I got my legs and meander about the village, yet to see more than a quarter of the offerings, it's time to gather for the ferry ride to Sandham.

The ferry ride, though long, was AMAZING. The islands are gorgeous. The little homes perched about on the rocks - beautiful. Many of us found ourselves perched on the upper deck, bundled and huddled to stay warm, though unable to tear ourselves away from the view.

When we arrived into Sandham, we had about two hours before Puma and Ericsson 3 were expected to cross the line. This again kept the pace - quick, quick.

In fact, basically discovered the temporary media center, hit the head, checked email and headed out. When you are so focused, sleep, eating, etc. are all put on the back burner and the body goes into another mode, which I am just now coming out of two days later. Just part of the lifestyle and worth it. This has been an incredible venture made perfect with the spectacular finish between Puma and Ericsson 3.

There are no pictures to perfectly paint the insanity on the water as these two boats match raced all the way to the end. A Volvo 70 tacking dual, true test of the sailors endurance on such an impressive, powerful and exhausting boat. Now add in an impressive spectator fleet. They had to perform this impressive show of crew-work in the middle of it all. In the end, Puma prevailed as Ericsson 3's jib did not pass through cleanly during one tack, getting hung up on the radar mounted mid-way up the mast.

Would it have been lovely for the delightful Magnus Olsson and his E3 crew to take this leg, oh yes! What a party it would have been. However, Puma earned this leg win and was quite impressive and exciting.

Shortly after Puma and Ericsson 3 secured their lines, showered in champagne and endured the obligatory photo shoot; Ericsson 4 quietly slipped into port. Followed by the Green Dragon, Tele Black and Delta Lloyd. When the last boat was processed, media and sailors gathered for the ferry ride back into Stockholm. The shore-crews swapped their inland berths for the sailors while they stayed in Sandham to look after the boats and prepare for today's Sprint race into Stockholm.

We sailed back into Stockholm just before 5:00am and a repeat of the prior morning took place...straight to bed for a "nap" and back to work. I was joined on the ferry by Delta Lloyd's Wouter Verbraak, Nick Bice and Eduard van Lierde and found it quite impossible to fall asleep! Between the lovely rising sun, these boys where wide awake! Well, not Eduard, who had a serious case of the "snaps," poor chap!

The trouble was, they too had never been to this region of Sweden and with the dawn already upon us, the sites - beautiful.

The tale is longer than that, so merely a briefing on the last two days. A lovely way to reflect back and await the teams arrivals into port. Earlier this morning the shore-crews motored the boats part way, where they met the sailors and VIPs to participate in a sprint race for the final bit. A nice alternative since people could not enjoy the arrivals into Sandham.

More to come...

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