Volvo Ocean Race: Anticipating the arrival to Auckland
After 22 days at sea, SCA crew member Annie Lush anticipates the team's arrival to Auckland with a mixture of excitement and nerves.
"With less than 400 miles to go to dry land, I'm anticipating new sights (as a first time NZ visitor), and most importantly a bed (oh, and a glass of wine)! The distance seems like nothing: five more watches on deck, one more night of darkness to battle through, three more freeze dried meals to endure. We've covered over 6,000 miles already on this leg from Sanya aboard our pink V65. That totals over 50,000 miles we've sailed on her, so 400 is a walk in the park, right?
It might be only 400 miles but don't be fooled, much is still to happen. As I sit here typing we're moving along nicely, pointing at Auckland at about 15 knots. But we know by nightfall this will all change. Our breeze is dying, the top of the island is going to be tricky, with currents, transitions and patches of no breeze at all (never good on a sailing boat). This means endless sail changes, no sleep and plenty of coffee required.
We still have a lot to fight for. The leaders of our fleet have stretched away, getting into the new breeze first after our exit from the doldrums, but we're expecting them to slow down before us as we approach Auckland. This gives us an opportunity with two boats in our sights that we're determined to pass before our much anticipated arrival.
The atmosphere on board is electric. People are restless, trying to grab a last few hours’ sleep but not able to settle with the knowledge of what lies ahead. It feels like we've been dreaming of this stopover forever.
We'd barely left Sanya before talk of what our arrival to Auckland might be like had begun. Will there be people doing the haka? What should we eat first? How many spectators will there be? Which bar will we go to? It was the only thing keeping us going in those first few treacherous nights, as we fought upwind through big winds and slamming seas out of China.
But as much as I long for the comforts of civilization I always have a slightly anxious feeling approaching land. We've been out here for 22 days, just us, the sea, the sky and our competitors. There's been no phone calls, no emails, no weekends, we don't even really have day and night. Life is four cycle: four hours on deck, four hours 'off' (if you're very lucky), with only thoughts of how to go faster and how to outsmart your competitors at every waking moment. There's no bills, no Facebook and no TV. The only screen I watch is the glow of our competitors’ tracks on the map. That's very rare in life.
It’s also rare to see every sunset and every sunrise for 22 days, (probably not something to aspire to if you like sleep, but it's worth it). Each sunrise experienced on deck is magical, it's as if a great weight has been lifted and a new leash of life injected into the sleep-deprived crew. The orange glow of the lit compass numbers slowly fade and as the dark, muddling veil of night vanishes, suddenly everything becomes easier.
You can see the waves you're driving through, the trim of your sails, or even where you left your water bottle in the flurry of the night’s racing! In contrast sunsets have a calming influence on board. On our journey we've seen many and they never fail to impress. Red slithers of sun rays cast across the sky lighting small wispy clouds and turning the sea gold. Even dolphins jumping in the foreground, you name it we've seen it.
I often think if you were to paint these scenes or take a photo people would think you'd altered them, but it does exist and it's enchanting. That's probably why as the sun sets each day, even on our toughest days, there is a sense of euphoria on deck.
Everyone's eyes are smiling, no matter our position in the race. I guess it's because we know that while we might be lacking sleep and real food and days off, out here in the middle of the ocean we're experiencing something very few humans have the chance to. We're the lucky ones."
Team SCA sailed into Auckland in the early hours of Sunday 1 March, only seven hours behind the winner of the leg, MAPFRE (ESP).
Visit the Team SCA gallery for all the pictures of their arrival.