Volvo Ocean Race: Gear standards keep teams evenly matched

Published on October 9th, 2014

It’s now crunch time for the seven teams competing in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, as the start of the 6,487 nm leg from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa is an unavoidable deadline

For Team Alvimedia, the base is a flurry of activity with ‘all hands on deck’ from the sailing team and shore crew to get the boat and the crew ready to depart for Leg 1. This means early mornings and late nights of completing final boat maintenance, sorting spares for the boat, passing final checks from the Volvo Race officials, organizing daily food bags, performing final rig checks, taking the boat out for one final pro-am race, and of course each crew member must pack their personal kit.

All of these things must happen in a very organized and detailed fashion before the boat is packed on Friday evening with all the gear they will carry across the Atlantic ocean. With the new ‘one design’ theme of this edition of the race, all the Volvo Ocean 65’s is tested to ensure minimal variance in boat weight, dimensions, sails, rig, etc. This doesn’t stop with the VO65 boat design, but is carried over to what is brought onboard the boat for the race.

The consistency of onboard gear means the fleet will be evenly matched when it comes to factors that are in control of the race organizers and race outcomes will be based only on team performance. The impact – everything that goes on the boat must be sorted in bags by label and number and weighed before taken to the dock to be loaded on the boat.

In this report by Team Alvimedica, they share some of the tasks the team is doing in Alicante to prep for Leg 1 and meet the race requirements:

Food – Amory Ross, the team’s OBR, is responsible for more than taking amazing photos and awesome videos, but also makes sure each crew member stays clean and is fed well every day. He gave us the rundown on packing for the race, “For Leg 1 the team is required to take up to 26 days worth of food, but if the weather requires it can carry up to 28 days. We are given large bags that must carry two days worth of hygiene products and food for all nine crew members onboard.” These bags cannot weigh more than 25 kilograms. Sound simple? Amory must take into consideration the amount of calories each crew member consumes (nearly 6,000 calories a day). Weather is another factor. Once they go further south, past the equator, the conditions get tougher and the crew need to eat more. That means nearly doubling up on breakfast lunch and dinner during the bad-weaather days. Let’s just say these bags are jam-packed and Amory is confident his boys will get all the nutrition they need and smell good while doing it! We know what you are asking next, “How do they do the shopping for this?” Amory has a bit of help on this front and you can look forward to a story covering the shopping for the next leg.

Volvo Requirements – Volvo also has a long pack list for the racing teams, mostly for safety purposes. This includes anything from spare pumps, electric parts, extra winch handles, Musto survivor suits, even more spare foul weather gear, and a safety kite the boats can use in the off-chance they lose their rig in the middle of the ocean. Think of the kite you used parasailing along the beach while on vacation. Yes, even a kite that small can keep the boat moving towards land, but we all hope this sail stays in the bag. Even though these items are required to be carried on board by Volvo they still must be weighed to decrease the amount of variance from team-to-team. We had a race organizer on-site yesterday weighing all of the kit, while Team Manager, Mark Towill took note of the weight up to the tenth of a kilo.

Personal Kit – This isn’t your average vacation where you can wait till the last minute to pack your roller suitcase, check it on the plane, and sit back and relax while you are whisked away to some far away tropical place. Airline weight restrictions look generous compared to the limits our race crew have onboard Alvimedica. The crew are given one kit bag that must fit everything they need for more than 20 days at sea for variable weather conditions. This includes base layer thermals, mid-layers for colder conditions, socks, underwear, technical shirts, and sailing shorts/trousers. All of these items, including their extreme sailing boots must weigh in under 12 kilos (only 26 lbs.)!! That’s not a lot of space/weight for more than 20 days out at sea. Talking to many of the crew they get used to wearing the same set of clothes for days at a time and only changing their underwear once a week. Don’t worry, if you have plans to visit the team during one of the stopovers they will make sure to shower and the shore crew will have a fresh change of clothes waiting for them!

Preparing the boat for the race is on top of the tactical analysis and crew training needed for the first leg. Here are links to follow the team: Race websiteTeam websiteFacebook

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