Life is limited on The Ocean Race

Published on January 5th, 2023

When the 14th edition of The Ocean Race starts on January 15, there are many unknowns, even for a two-race veteran like Annie Lush. The British sailor is preparing to step on board GUYOT environnement, the IMOCA skippered by French offshore sailor Benjamin Dutreux with Olympian and Star class World Champion Robert Stanjek. She has some concerns.

“These IMOCAs are very different than the VO65s,” she says. “I mean, in some ways they’re less physical because you’re not getting smashed by waves every second you’re on watch. But if you’re foiling properly in any waves you can’t move around. It’s just not safe. The boat is jumping around in every direction, falling violently off waves, it’s insane. You can’t really do anything.”

By anything, Lush means pretty much anything… here she shares the basics of daily life:

It’s very hard to sleep. The noises coming out of the boat are horrendous. We’ve got a bunk but it’s better to sleep on the floor. When you’re foiling, you want to be as low in the boat as possible. You lie on a bean bag, although we’ve got some pimping mattresses now, thanks to the skipper’s girlfriend who’s a really sailmaker.

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The mattresses have got thicker and thicker over time, and they’re quite heavy so you wouldn’t never allow them on a 65. But we only need two of them and it’s worth it for the comfort factor. You lie down with your feet braced against the bulkhead, and you do your best to sleep.

But it’s pretty hard because it sounds like the boat’s going to blow up all the time, and there’s a zillion different alarms going off. I’ve never taken any headphones or technology on board before, no music, no movies, because I always wanted to be alert to what was going on up on deck on the 65. But on the IMOCA I think you might need to force yourself to tune out.

All the IMOCA skippers seem to wear ear plugs, so maybe I need to change my thinking about this stuff.

Eating is going to be a challenge, because you’ve got to make the food, you’ve got to boil the water. And getting the water from the kettle, into the bag, that’s really scary. We used to make food in a big pot, but that’s not going to happen, someone would end up giving themselves serious burns.

But even getting the water from the kettle into the packet is going to be hazardous. And then when you’ve done that, getting the food from the packet and into your mouth, that’s hard too. Which is why we’ve banned forks from the boat because it would be too easy to skewer yourself.

What to wear
I’m working in the pit, and there’s almost no need for me to go on deck at any point. I could be down below pretty much the whole race. I could just stay in my pajamas! Or maybe T-shirt and shorts. Except that I think that could prove to be a rookie error.

The problem is, occasionally you want to go out the back of the boat to look outside at the sails and see how they’re setting. It’s hard to do from inside. But even if you poke your head out for a moment, it’s like standing in a firehose. So you probably want to be wearing some kind of dry-smock, except that it can get really hot down below. There’s no easy answer.

How to, you know…
So… we’ve got a bucket, and I’ve sort of worked out how to wedge it into position, but it’s definitely a problem. I sent a WhatsApp round to the other girls in the race and asked, ‘Who’s worked it out? Who’s got a solution?’ Nothing back, no one has an answer. So anyway, it looks like we’re going to be sitting on a bucket, about a metre away from the person driving the boat.

I thought about maybe bringing like a little shower curtain with me and I just clip it up around me, you know? Or maybe put a mask over my face so they can’t see me? I have to admit I’m definitely jealous of the boys in this department. My biggest fear is… am I going to be the one – as we leap off a wave – am I going to be the one that concertinas the bucket?

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The Ocean Race 2022-23 Race Schedule:
Alicante, Spain – Leg 1 start: January 15, 2023
Cabo Verde – ETA: January 22; Leg 2 start: January 25
Cape Town, South Africa – ETA: February 9; Leg 3 start: February 26 or 27 (TBC)
Itajaí, Brazil – ETA: April 1; Leg 4 start: April 23
Newport, RI, USA – ETA: May 10; Leg 5 start: May 21
Aarhus, Denmark – ETA: May 30; Leg 6 start: June 8
Kiel, Germany (Fly-By) – June 9
The Hague, The Netherlands – ETA: June 11; Leg 7 start: June 15
Genova, Italy – The Grand Finale – ETA: June 25, 2023; Final In-Port Race: July 1, 2023

The Ocean Race (formerly Volvo Ocean Race and Whitbread Round the World Race) was initially to be raced in two classes of boats: the high-performance, foiling, IMOCA 60 class and the one-design VO65 class which has been used for the last two editions of the race.

However, only the IMOCAs will be racing round the world while the VO65s will race in The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint which competes in Legs 1, 6, and 7 of The Ocean Race course.

Additionally, The Ocean Race also features the In-Port Series with races at seven of the course’s stopover cities around the world which allow local fans to get up close and personal to the teams as they battle it out around a short inshore course.

Although in-port races do not count towards a team’s overall points score they do play an important part in the overall rankings as the In-Port Race Series standings are used to break any points ties that occur during the race around the world.

The 14th edition of The Ocean Race was originally planned for 2021-22 but was postponed one year due to the pandemic.

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