This is the sixth in a series of articles that will follow the Volvo Ocean Race, focusing on its extraordinary aspects that will appeal to an audience unfamiliar with competitive sailing. The nine month race around the planet is the world’s toughest sailing competition.
For the weeks they spend at sea, the sailors in the Volvo Ocean Race are among the most intense and concentrated athletes in the world. Life on the yachts is cramped, noisy, and tiring. The crews survive on freeze dried food and get at most four hours of sleep at at time before they’re called back on deck. Unlike in the early days of the Volvo, there’s no alcohol on board, and there’s no such thing as kicking back. Ken Read, skipper of PUMA’s Mar Mostro, says: “There’s no downtime. If you’re awake, you’re working.”
But for all the intensity, the race around the world does come with at least one moment of levity: the time-honored crossing of the Equator. None of the boats dare to pass from one hemisphere to the other without bowing to King Neptune, there to judge first-time sailors for their maritime sins and extract his vengeance.
On the Mar Mostro, the god of the seas came in the form of Casey Smith, clad in a paper crown and what looks like toilet paper. Accompanied by Queen Codfish, he addressed media crew member Amory Ross and sailor Rome Kirby, the two Volvo rookies on board. Tied to the deck, they were charged with a variety of crimes: Ross was guilty of not putting enough M&Ms in the trail mix. As punishment, each sacrificed a chunk of his hair, resulting in the rather uncool “inverted mohawk.” Then they were covered in rotten food.
For their ocean crossing, team Camper followed much the same ritual, but with a heavier emphasis on the prosecution. Rookie Adam Minoprio faced 26 charges, most of which he dismissed as “just a good yarn.”
He plead guilty to all of them, however, and later admitted that several were true, including forgetting to pack lunch on several occasions, and offering to make tea for the sailors on deck, then falling asleep downstairs instead.
The equator-crossing ritual is rooted in tradition; sailors are a notoriously superstitious bunch. In a video podcast, the veteran members of the Mar Mostro crew recalled how they were hazed on their first Volvo: Ken Read was covered in Vegemite, Brad Jackson in gin and tequila. But as disgusting as it sounds, it’s clear that the guys have a great time. It’s one of the few opportunities to goof off in one of the world’s most intense and competitive events, and they don’t intend to let it pass by without enjoying it.