Volvo Ocean Race: The highs & lows of sailing the open seas

Friday, February 27, 2015
Team SCA in action in the Volvo Ocean Race. ​Image courtesy of Team SCA.

The Volvo Ocean Race Village for the Auckland stopover of the gruelling round the world event opens in Viaduct Harbour today, with the first of the race yachts expected to sail in tomorrow. While many of us will be soaking up the sun, sounds and champagne of the Race Village in Auckland's Viaduct, for the teams taking part, there's very little downtime.

In this guest blog, Corinna the on board reporter for all-women Team SCA tells us more about the highs and lows of sailing the open ocean.

“Ex-American President, John F. Kennedy once said: ‘all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea-- whether it is to sail or to watch it-- we are going back from whence we came.’

This is a quote that feels near and dear to me. The salt water, the sea, the ocean (whatever you want call it) heals all: cuts, broken hearts, and stress.  It is a place of magical inspiration for stories-- written, photographic, or video. And the sea is a place I am extremely fortunate to go back to every day.

A life on the ocean is not necessarily easy. You are at the mercy of the elements: waves, extreme heat, extreme cold, and wind. Racing around the world is no easier - you are constantly concerned with the weather and the whereabouts of the other boats.  It's so easy to forget where you are and what beauty you're surrounded by, simply because of the competitive element. But when the days begin to blend into one, the sunsets all look the same, your position has not changed and nor has the weather, that's when the magnitude of the sea and the ocean begins to settle in. You have that: 'oh my' moment and suddenly the ocean's power makes you feel very small and insignificant. Suddenly, you feel very human.

The doldrums, or the area of no wind on either side of the equator, is the one of the best places for this. The doldrums, and the Southern Ocean. There is a stillness in the doldrums that exists nowhere else on earth - unless you know of a spot on the beach, where you can watch the sun set, are completely alone, and put ear plugs in so you don't hear a sound except your own breathing. The world stops in the doldrums - literally and figuratively. There is hardly any satellite coverage to receive news from the outside world and there is NO wind. But the doldrums, in this place of stillness, offer a place of reflection - a place of experience, to understand the ocean's beauty and power.

The Southern Ocean is the exact same, except bitterly cold and with more wind and waves than one person needs to experience in a life time! Here, you experience the ocean on another level. Instead of peaceful reflection, it's more like: knock you off your feet and get smacked in the face with all of the ocean's power behind it!

Folks we meet say we are mad to race around the world on 65ft carbon sail boats, without showers or real food, but I think we're the luckiest group of sailors on earth. Our work place is in the elements, in the force of nature, at the mercy of the ocean's powers. Some days are incredibly challenging: you're wet, cold, and tired - you want to be anywhere other than where you are currently. But that's when it's vital to stop and think outside the 65ft carbon racing machine and really see, feel, and experience your surroundings.

The salt on your skin may sting and create a nasty rash with time, except it is healing what's below the surface: a stressful day’s racing, a bad position report, missing family, a nasty cloud that sucks all the wind. The salt water cures everything - problems disappear and allow you to really enjoy what could be miserable experience. The ocean opens up your heart and allows you to feel. JFK was correct when he said we are a part of the sea, because without it, without the opportunity to see and experience the world on such a powerful magnitude, I know I personally would feel lost and incomplete. And if you don't agree, then go for a swim in the ocean as soon as possible and experience the sea's unleashed power!"

Keep up to date with the crew's progress on the Team SCA website.

Find out what's happening at the Volvo Ocean Race Village for the Auckland stopover

Team SCA battle the elements. ​Image courtesy of Team SCA.
Team SCA mid race. ​Image courtesy of Team SCA.