Sydney Hobart Race: Lessons of an Embedded Reporter

Published on January 14th, 2014

All we know is what we know, and must understand what others don’t know. Like offshore racing. For the start of 2013 Sydney-Hobart Race on Dec. 26, Australian media ABC embedded a journalist for the 628 mile event, onboard Clipper 70 PSP Logistics, where Kumi Taguchi was to be an active crew member. No preferential treatment. Here are her observations…

Yes, it exists and yes, it is debilitating.
There were very few of us not on some form of seasickness medication. Two of our crew were out for days, lying helpless, unable to function. The southerlies and swells and jolting and night sailing are manageable – you can have some level of control over how to move your body and what actions to take.

But once seasickness takes hold, it has you in its grasp. Even when you don’t have it, you worry about getting it. And once it starts to hit you worry that it will get worse, and so begins an anxious cycle. Cooking smells and airless living below deck make it worse.
The Heads

They are no fun. There is no real privacy and there is no time or space for modesty. Multiply that discomfort by a thousand when the boat is heeling or crashing head-on into waves: you can’t sit straight and you are doing all you can to stop falling off, or to prevent any waste from falling out of the bowl. And waste does spill over. And yes, it’s your duty to clean it up.

It’s not uncommon to see crew members cursing as they head on deck with a plastic bag of their own mess – unable to pump it properly away, and basically having to dispose of it themselves over the side.

There is no washing. You use wet wipes to “clean” yourself. But staying as clean as possible is one of the rules of the yacht and it’s seen as a disservice to your fellow crew members to let your cleanliness slide too much. Having said that, it’s not unusual to stay in your clothes for days on end.

One story that does the rounds is of a woman who was on a six-week leg and didn’t change her leggings the whole time. Once she got to dry land, she had to soak in a bath before taking her leggings off, because the hairs on her legs had grown all the way through the fabric.

It can be deafening. Imagine 31-tonnes of metal, crashing into waves. With no suspension. When the sudden jolts come, they are frightening. Communicating while on deck when the seas are rough is a huge challenge, especially when everyone has their wet weather gear on and their mouths are covered. There’s a lot of shouting.

Click here for the complete story.

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