Today marks the 7th day of racing for Alex in the Vendee Globe!
Our team director, Stewart, will be sending a weekly blog out for the duration of the race. Here is his first weekly update:
Hard to think that so much has happened since the race start in Les Sables less than a week ago. After we said goodbye to Alex and the boat, the team returned to Les Sables with mixed emotions. On one side satisfied with a job well done and on the other a sense of loss as both man and boat leave us and part of us is gone. Since the start of the campaign I always said to the team that we have to be able to look inside ourselves once we send Alex and the boat off and ask ourselves a very simple question “did we as a team and each of us do everything within our power to put him on the startline in the best possible shape?” and I think the answer most of us reached on Saturday 10/11/12 was a yes. With much hugging and laughter we all changed out of our soaking clothes (schoolboy error on my part of tucking my oilskins into my boots meant boots full to overflow of water) and the team party got started! Later that evening, all the technical teams converged in the large onsite bar tent and the atmosphere was great – all bound together by the work done and the sending off of our sailors and boats. Also, hard to not notice the massive adrenaline comedown which leads to some very tired looking support crew with the same look in the eyes – did I remember to do everything? Have I forgotten something? Is he/she going to be ok? What is going to happen? It is there in all of us as we start into the next stage of the Vendee Globe journey.
I guess it makes sense to assume that each Vendee Globe team works together with the skipper as a team up until the start of the race and then the mantle is handed over to the skipper and we can do no more but sit and watch like all the other supporters and fans of this great race – but in fact, our job just changes and in some ways becomes more challenging. We run a watch system 24 hours a day 7 days a week in the office to support Alex and the boat and keep him going throughout the entire race. We constantly live on the edge of a bad phone call and due to my constant surges of adrenaline every time Alex calls me I have told him that when he calls his first words to me are to be “everything is ok” to help my nerves! We have a system in place with Alex and the boat that by 08.30 GMT every morning Alex has to check in with the on-watch team and at 08.31 I start to worry if he has not checked in – thankfully so far in the race he has been checking in well before that – he jokes that he calls in early to check everyone is in the office! The brunt of the watch system and the calls falls on Ross, Clarkee and Tim who manage the watch systems together with Eleanor and Lara. In addition the family and friends all hang on for three months with a non-stop feeling of “I wonder how it’s going?”. As a team we all need to be available and within an hour of the office for the entire race to ensure we are able to effectively manage any crisis that the race throws at Alex and the boat.
So the race so far, good start, in the middle of the line with no drama, full main and J2 as planned and a pretty straight course to the tip of Spain. First night was difficult with lots of squalls and no sleep and knowing how tired I was after all the excitement of the start, on the morning of the second day Alex was beyond exhausted. Around the corner of Finistere and a few gybes to keep him out of the shipping lanes and he starts to get into the groove. One of the things that gives Alex and the team a level of confidence is that Alex has sailed HUGO BOSS across the Atlantic 3 times solo in the last 12 months which means the shock of being alone and sailing is somewhat tempered for him and he is well trained and prepared for those first few days. A determined push out to the west on day 3 slips Alex down the leader-board with a little bit of concern about whether it will turn out to be the right choice, into day 5 and the move to the west is justified with a climb back up the leader board to 6th in good pressure with good sail choices and he is flying. As of last night and this morning Alex had managed to put some miles on Jeremie Beyou and JP Dick and that is deeply satisfying for both Alex and the team. 4th position – Wow – better than any of us could have hoped for at this stage.
Hard to really get our heads around the fact that there are already so many great boats out of the race, Marc, Kito, Louis are all shocking and knowing how much work goes into one of these campaigns our hearts and thoughts are with them. For Sam – heartbreak. She is a great sailor and brings a huge amount to the race and the class, and to be honest in the office today we are all gutted by the fact that she is out of the race. Will be a poorer race without her.
The weather ahead looks like it will be light for a few days now until the leading pack re-enters more established trade winds that will route them all down to the doldrums which they expect to make in about 5 days. For Alex and the team having consolidated into a solid position it is now all about settling even more into the race – sleeping, eating, routine maintenance of the boat and letting the miles slip by. This is a race of attrition – the fastest boat and the fastest sailors all face the stark probability that they are 50% likely not to make the lap, and minimising mistakes is a key part of that and keeping on top of the little jobs that can turn into major issues if not dealt with properly.
We have had some great messages of support for Alex through facebook and twitter so keep them coming. They make us all laugh here in the office and we send them to Alex every day and lifts his spirit with everyone.
Friday 16th November
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