Life on the high seas

29th May Galway Volvo Ocean Race

The sun was splitting the trees, music was playing and everyone was
delighted with the prospect of a four day weekend. The Volvo Ocean
Race had come to Galway. I have just started to do a series of radio
reports on adventure sports with a view to getting involved in radio presenting, and I couldn’t think of a better place to come to in Ireland.

A marina that is normally filled with nondescript oil tankers had
transformed itself in a few days to a millionaire’s hideout. A dozen
world class yachts all lined the marina, each costing in the region of
20 million euro. Schoolchildren and their teachers were being escorted
on tours as other people sat with a beer and pretended they were in
Cannes for the day.

Having gone to the South Pole with a huge team behind me, I was
intrigued at the dynamic behind a successful yacht team. Luckily, I
got to go to the top. Ericsson 4 came into Galway with a pretty
unassailable lead. They have a 13 point gap over their nearest rivals.
I got to catch up with two brothers on the yacht, Guy and Jules
Salter.

When you think of yachting, the first thing that springs to mind is
the glamour. Yet Guy and Jules were quick to dispel the myths. A few
months ago in Alicante, they were forced to say goodbye to their
families for at least 8 months. They live in cramped conditions below
deck eating pre-hydrated meals trying to snatch any sleep they can.

For both men, it seems to be a vocation. Similarly, sometimes I can’t
explain what drove me to go to the South Pole. Guy and Jules sometimes
have to question themselves when they are locked in their own watery
prison. They are battered by icy waves relentlessly, leaving no time
for reprieve. In a true test of man against nature, the only thing you
can rely on is your team. Ericsson 4 have a huge team behind onshore,
constantly working to enable things go smoothly and I was able to
catch up with two more interesting people before the day ended.

In the South Pole I was lucky to be supplied with some incredible kit
from Helly Hansen. When you’re out in such a harsh environment,
clothes become some of your primary tools of survival. I was able to
meet two Norwegian designers from Helly Hansen who supply Ericsson 4.
The one thing that sticks in my mind is when they talked about the
sailors facing a wall of sea everyday. It was such a vivid metaphor
that brought the whole experience alive for me. The guys at Helly
Hansen have to listen to the sailor’s every need. If they get their
equipment wrong, it really could be a matter of life and death.

After a whirlwind of interviews, I came out of Galway with a barrage
of ideas and thoughts. The Volvo Ocean Race is often seen as Formula 1
on water. Why else had so many people gathered by the marina to sip
beer and take photographs? However, like many things appearances can
be deceptive and I left with an incredible admiration not only for the
sailors who risk their lives at sea, but also the relentless
commitment of their backing teams left on the shore.

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