Volvo Ocean Race diary part 2: Meals vary from disgusting to not bad
Getting the first leg out of the way has helped banish doubts I had about undertaking an ocean race
This is weird. We finished racing at the weekend but still after a week at sea I’m not sleeping properly. I keep waking every four hours as if we’re still in the watch system except we’re not – leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race has ended and we’re all safely ashore and living in comfortable hotel rooms once more.
Getting this first leg out of the way has helped banish any doubts I had about making the decision to suspend my Olympic campaign for Tokyo 2020 and undertake an ocean race.
The two events couldn’t be more different even though both are all about sailing. At least with Olympic sailing you get to go home in the evening, have a shower and eat real food. This race is very different, and the intensity is unrelenting.
I’m still quite nervous about the next leg which will be 6,500 nautical miles starting on Sunday racing from Lisbon to Cape Town. We’re expecting it to be 22 days but we’ve packed food for 23 so the ETA better be accurate!
So far each time I’ve gone to sea I’ve doubled my existing ocean mileage. Before making the decision I sailed a 600-mile passage with the team, which was 600 miles longer than anything I had done previously offshore. Two more trips plus this last leg of the race has brought my sea-time up to about 3,000 nautical miles, so leg two should see it close to 10,000 nautical miles.
The next three weeks also involves crossing the equator which involves a ceremonial visit from King Neptune with his assistant Queen Codfish, roles played by more experienced crew members.
The ceremony varies from boat to boat, but I’ve heard it can involve eating a disgusting mixture of “food” plus getting your head shaved. My hair is already short to keep it from getting tangled in gear and for easier drying so arriving into Cape Town almost bald isn’t a pleasant prospect even for the guys on board. Still, at least I’m in charge of provisioning the boat so I’ll have a say in what goes on board.
Our meals are all freeze-dried and vary from disgusting to not bad, except all have the same texture which is akin to porridge. Worst experience to date has been the chicken jalfrezi. Less said the better.
We also take vitamin supplements, and have an allowance of three snack bars a day of either protein or chocolate or both. I love the Fulfil Nutrition bars that are made in Ireland as they are both protein and chocolatey, and they kindly sent me a supply that has gone down really well with the crew.
We are merging into a really tight team on board Turn the Tide on Plastics which will be really important later on in the race. We fully accept that we have less experience than most of the other teams so our race goal is to try to get on the podium for at least some of the legs.That is achievable.
The other teams are so experienced that they’ll only make small improvements, while we’re learning quickly and catching up. Our last place into Lisbon was not a long distance behind, just a few hours. For sure, on a longer ocean leg that gap could translate into a day or more, but watch by watch we’re all learning ways to make the boat go faster.
Even all of our most experienced crew only have half the number of round-the-world races under their belts than Bouwe Bekking, the skipper of Brunel, who is on his ninth circumnavigation. Yet we managed to stay ahead of his Dutch team for the first half of the last leg, so we should be able to do that again.
We also have our sights on David Witt’s Hong Kong entry Scallywag as they are in a similar situation to us, and could be challenged on the race to South Africa.
Meanwhile, I think I have this sleeping thing sorted. What works best is placing my flip-flops and books under the bed on one side to tilt it so it’s more like my bunk on board – constantly at an angle.
All I need now is the sound of rushing water to send me off to sleep.
In conversation with David Branigan