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VOR14740

Under Volvo Ocean Race 2008 – 2009 med 70-fotarna hade besättningarna fullt upp på Södra Oceanen på väg mot Kap Horn. Som ett smakprov på hur Dongfeng, Azzam, Brunel, SCA, Mapfre, Alvimedica får det inom kort, kan Rick Deppes målande beskrivning den gången fungera. Han var mediaman på Puma och etersom storyn var så intagande sparade jag den.

På etappen från Auckland, runt Kap Horn till Brasilien är frågan om någon kan återge förhållandena lika väl? Många saltdränkta havskappseglare känner igen sig i Ricks dramatiska dagsrapport. Läs och känn draget under fotsulorna.

Curt Gelin

Monday 16 march 2009 0333 GMT Southern Ocean

”Luckily with our new, bigger rudders, we have a little more control than in the past to deal with these monsters, but inevitably, there are some waves that you go down that you just cannot escape. You take off downhill and see the boat speed rising into the thirties, the bow starts to bury as you are frantically looking for a way out. However sometimes all the exits are closed, so you have no choice but to brace yourself and prepare for impact!

The spray pitches up as the nose goes under and you feel the boat decelerate. All of a sudden the boat is pointed 45 degrees down. At this stage, you can see nothing but water and you hang on hoping to maintain control, the spray settles, hopefully you are still going straight and then you are off again until the next one!!

Well that´s what we signed up for! I'm not exaggerating when I say it's a bit wet and wild in our little corner of the universe today. Big waves and a max wind that we have seen of 47 knots, which is a lot of wind for one of these boats...  You just can't slow them down so the helmsman just has to sort of go with it, very dangerous and requiring  incredible skill and experience.

Our primary helmsmen, Rob and Sid and Erle and Justin have been doing an amazing job keeping the boat on the rails as we charge towards the scoring gate at Cape Horn, which is at this very moment in time 693 nautical miles away.

I'm working in the nav station tonight, it's very luxurious. I can't get into the media station because Casey has turned my area into a temporary boat building facility.

Driving the boat in these conditions requires the driver to take in an infinite number of visual inputs every second  he is on the wheel: wind-speed, heading, boat orientation, crew safety, the wave to the left or the the slightly better one just behind it, apparent wind angle - on and on, information is flying at him. Like a jockey, the helmsman is feeling the boat through his boots and through his hands on the wheel; the boat is talking to him and he to it.

The helmsman  must constantly process all this data, make instant decisions and then react by either gently coaxing the boat in the direction he wants to go or alternatively taking charge and physically muscling the wheel, letting the feisty thoroughbred know that he's running the show, all this happening in a split second over and over for hours on end. All the while the new data is coming at him.

The helmsman goes through this process whilst being physically pounded by tons of water rolling across the deck up to three feet deep. The crew can protect themselves, they can turn away from the spray or find a little corner to hide in.

The helmsman must stand square to it, looking forward and taking the full force of every wave. Of course once in a while the sea gets the  better of even the best, as Rob Greenhalgh found out earlier today ... one of the big ones ripped him from the wheel, fortunataly his tether came up tight and prevented him from being washed out the back of the boat, but  unfortunately, as it came tight, it crumpled the wheel. Erle reacted instantly by jumping on the other wheel and bringing the boat under control.”

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