- Calm before the Storm?
Jane Pruden, from Global Ocean Race sponsor bluQube|http://www.bluqube.co.uk] reports from Palma on the last few days leading up to the double-handed circumnavigation race
It was good to be back on familiar territory…as a sponsor we’ve supported other sailing events in the past such as the Global Challenge, with stop-overs in Cape Town and Buenos Aires some years ago, and more recently supporting Steve White in the Vendee Globe and Katie Miller in the OSTAR.
But every event is quite unique, budgets differ, boats are bigger, locations and climates change… My colleague Lorraine and I were curious to find out what Palma would be like for the start and finish of the double-handed Global Ocean Race and I’m glad to say we weren’t disappointed. It’s the first time that the Mallorcan capital has hosted such a prestigious event and with one of the island’s locals, Hugo Ramon taking part, there was bound to be some additional cheer at the start-line. You couldn’t help but be impressed by the Palma skyline with its vast marina full of super-yachts set against the background of a mountainous landscape and an imposing but beautiful cathedral.
Sense of camaraderie was touching
Arriving on the Thursday to a balmy 25 degrees, a few days before the start on the Sunday, we were able to get to know the crews and offer help where we could. Seventy-two year old Nico Budel and his team had arrived late, having been delayed in Eastbourne due to bad weather! Our hearts went out to them, as it meant that the last few days were likely to be manic.
From the outset though, what really touched us was the sense of camaraderie between the teams. I’m sure the competitive spirit will engage once at sea, but in the run up to the race start the skippers were keen to help each other out. Sailor, Paul Peggs with his extensive experience of boat-building could be found fixing something on another crew’s boat or offering his advice, whilst other rallied round for last minute supplies for competing teams.
Sponsorship gets personal
As a sponsor we really like to get involved with the events, as it gives you a real sense of being part of something, and makes it more personal when the race gets underway (we’re encouraging our staff to take part in the Virtual version of the race being run by United Games in aid of the Global Vision Sailing Trust). The teams seemed to be surprised, but grateful, that we wanted to get involved. Although we’re not technical, sometimes it’s the simple things that help, such as handing out bottles of ice cold water to the skippers in the heat of the afternoon as they work on their boats, or locating a chandlery for supplies.
The trickiest request we had was to locate charts of the South Atlantic at 10pm on Saturday night for one of the teams as a backup in case of failure of navigation system…Conrad Colman and Hugo Ramon on Cessna Citation were working under floodlights loading equipment for the boat, and we were happy to be able to offer help organising what was going to be packed, and what would be taken to the container to be transported to Cape Town. During the days running up to the race Lorraine and I became experts at laminating maps, loading gear into containers for onwards travel to the stopovers and locating last-minute gear.
Enhancing the appeal of Freeze-dried food
On the Thursday, shortly after we arrived, we had the more enviable task of handing out goody bags to all the sailors. I think there is still the impression that sponsors turn up, slap a logo on the boat, and want something from you. For us, we could only imagine the sheer enormity of undertaking a circumnavigation, from the sleep deprivation through to being away from loved ones for months at a time.
We tried to anticipate what would be useful to them on their voyage. From previous races, we knew that the cuisine on board isn’t the most inspiring, so we included a range of ‘lucky dip’ sauces like sweet chill, oyster and hoisin in an effort to spice up freeze-dried meals. It reminded us of Steve White’s penchant for porridge and we wondered if any of the other crew would be stocking up in the same way.
With space and weight at a premium, one of the biggest decisions is what food supplies to take during the forthcoming 40-odd day leg. Some teams, such as Ross and Campbell Field on BSL were relying solely on freeze dried food, prepared by adding boiling water whilst Phesheya Racing were hoping for a little more variety, having sourced ready meals that weigh a little more but are tastier! The hand-warmers we provided also went down well especially with Phesheya’s Phillippa Hutton-Squires (who thought these will be essential in Southern ocean).
The goody bags provided a talking point (as well as the rivalry of WorldCup Rugby) and we spotted Ruud Rijsewijk and Frans Budel from Sec Hayai sporting their bluQube t-shirts on more than one occasion!
By Saturday, most teams were pretty much ready for the off. Phesheya Racing had to make a final decision on which sails to take. You’re allowed to take 9 and they had 10 so had to make a tactical decision on which one to leave behind. They’ve unveiled their new spinnaker in full bluQube branding and hope to be able to use it on the way into Cape Town.
Ironically, Marco Nannini and Paul Peggs decided to re-name their boat “Financial Crisis” in light of the struggles they’ve had getting to the start line (they are still looking for a title sponsor!). Of course the boats do need funding (sailing is not an inexpensive pastime) but we got the impression that ‘money’ is the last things on their minds. For most (many amateur sailors) this was a dream that was about to become reality, something that they would be able to tell their families and grandchildren about in years to come.
Despite the last minute checks and final preparations, the general vibe of all crews was ‘calm’, particularly Nico Budel’s team who had arrived late, so we were half expecting them to be the opposite. Whether or not everyone was shaking inside is another story, but keeping busy seemed to take their minds off the huge challenge ahead of them. From chatting to the teams they seemed eager to get going. Several of the teams, such as Halvard and Miranda on Campagne de France, and Ross and Campbell on BSL appeared very calm and under control as they had completed their preparations early.
Back to nature
What was particularly interesting was how significant this race will be from an environmental perspective. The route the crews will be following is travelled by very few vessels, and consequently little is known about the environment in some of these remote places. The teams have been asked to log any wildlife sightings to assess populations of various species, but also marine debris. People often forget that sailing is also very much about getting back to nature and you could tell from stories of previous races that the sailors were very much looking forward to getting up close and personal to the marine-life from dolphins to porpoises. The sailors’ love affair with animals also seemed borne out in the large number of on-board mascots from seals to hippopotami!
As if to break any last minute tension in the air, a torrential downpour hit Palma on Saturday and Race Ambassador, Dee Caffari joked she’d brought the rain with her from England. That evening was a chance for personal meals with friends and family. We’d joined Nick and Phillippa of Phesheya Racing on the Friday night, with friends that had sailed from Cape Town on their own boats and happened to be in Palma, and it was, for them, a big boost to have that kind of support. Sadly for Conrad and Hugo on Cessna Citation, they were still working on their boat. It was also nice to see that Dee Caffari and Alex Thompson, IMOCA Open 60 sailor, were on hand on Saturday evening to support the sailors.
High tide of emotions
There were emotional farewells on the quayside as the boats prepared to depart, as well as Phillippa Hutton-Squires’ mum giving Paul Peggs a final haircut! Some family members went out into Palma Bay on board the boats and then transferred off to a RIB shortly before the start.
Many of the teams had close family to see them off, including partners and children. Campbell Field on board BSL had his wife and young son to see him off. His son’s first steps had been only 2 days earlier in front of a crowed race village, fortunately just in time for Campbell to see. These sorts of scenes bring home the enormity of the undertaking and how long they will be away and the potential dangers they may encounter. After tearful goodbyes the teams set off into Palma bay escorted by a spectator fleet. With light winds, the boats had to chase the breeze to start their 6,800 mile leg to Cape Town.
After taking part in four circumnavigations, Dee Caffari summed it up perfectly, “Now they just want to get off. Once they’ve crossed that start line they just want to sail their boats. They’ll be thinking about weather, tactics and trying to make sure that their boat goes faster than any of the others.”
To follow the Global Ocean Race visit www.globaloceanrace.com and view via the race tracker. bluQube is also providing race and skipper updates at http://oceanracing.bluqube.co.uk
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