A Race in All Conditions
This is the fifth in a series of articles following 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. The Volvo Ocean Race is called the world's toughest sailing competition for good reason. Teams spend weeks at a time at sea, crossing the toughest stretches of ocean the planet has to offer. As they race around the globe, sailors encounter just about every kind of weather imaginable. Crashing waves, pelting rain, scorching heat, dangerous icebergs and even the occasional rainbow sighting are all par for the course. Lucky for us, each team has an embedded media crew member, and there's no shortage of fantastic photos of the world's best sailors battling its roughest conditions.
Gloom and Doom
While those of us not engaged in a global sailing race can spend a gloomy day curled up on the couch, the Volvo sailors don't have any such luxuries. Here, the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team sails under an ominous sky, hoping it won't take a turn for the worst. Of course, it usually does.
Rain, Rain and More Rain
Volvo Ocean Race sailors spend the majority of their time soaked to the bone, and not just because waves regularly crash over the boat. Here, the crew of the Mar Mostro suffers through a rainstorm during the second leg of the race, from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi.
"Waves Are Not Our Friends"
There's rain, and then there's rain. Ocean storms don't just mean tough sailing; they can quickly turn dangerous. The Volvo Ocean Race has taken more than one life in its 40 year history, and boats can be badly bruised as well. Puma skipper Ken Read says, "waves are not our friends." He knows something about what happens when things go wrong at sea- a broken mast stranded his team in the middle of the South Atlantic and led them to seek haven on the world's most remote inhabited island.
After the Storm
For those who survive the storm, Mother Nature shows her sweeter side with a rainbow. But Puma sailors Tony Mutter and Jono Swain don't stop to take in the view; they're looking for the best wind that will propel them on their way to Abu Dhabi.
But sunshine has its downsides as well. While on duty, sailors have no place to hide from the scorching sun, and even sitting down becomes a labor as the boat heats up. It's hard to tell which is worse: the heat, or the colder legs of the race, when the crew must work to avoid icebergs and deal with temperatures that drop as low as 25 degrees- below deck.
Of course, it can't rain all the time, and there are moments when the clouds clear, the sun appears and there's nowhere the sailors would rather be, nothing they'd rather be doing. With a strong wind at their back, boats can hit 46 nautical miles per hour and produce the most exciting moments of the nine month race.
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