“I’ve probably got the most inexperienced crew in the Volvo Ocean Race. We announced middle of June, did sailing selections in July and then we had a chance to train in September. Having said that, we are not seen as the guys who are going to trail behind. Our sailors are very talented – they just don’t have direct experience of the Volvo Ocean Race. It’s all about developing them into offshore sailors. We have every opportunity to get on the podium and every opportunity to upset a few of the salty seadogs that don’t think me and my team should be there.
I’ve told the crew that it’s some of the best sailing they will ever do, and I think they are either going to love it or hate it. Of course, it’s a huge responsibility to take a relatively inexperienced crew into the Southern Ocean, just because the weather is that little bit harsher and rescue is that little bit further away. When things get nasty and things go wrong, that’s when we have to find our resolve, but I’m confident that we can do that as a team.
The conditions on board are pretty dark and damp. If it’s wet outside, it’s probably damp inside too. Nothing really dries out. You need to be quite organised. We have minimal kit but it’s easy to lose stuff in the bilges as everything is black carbon down below. Diet-wise, we eat freeze-dried food. Technology these days offers an awful lot of variety – we’ve got gluten-free diets and vegetarians on board and they are all catered for, but you do get bored of the monotony. You don’t get excited about the food as such; you get excited about adding fuel to your body so that you can do your job.
Every two hours, two fresh people come on deck and do four hours on watch, four hours off watch. Their ‘off watch’ is time for them eat, drink, sort themselves out and try to sleep. If we do any maneuvers or sail changes, though, we wake everybody up, so your average four hours off watch really means about two hours sleep. It sounds awful but you do adapt to it after a few days.
The environmental messages we are sending out through our Turn the Tide on Plastic team are very genuine. It’s lovely to have a sustainability message that everybody wants to take on board, as opposed to corporate brand sponsorship. We care passionately for the playground we operate in and as a result, we’re getting some great partners who want to align with us. Eco Works Marine is just one of those - they have a marine cleaning product that is good for the seas. It shows we’re putting our money where our mouths are.
We had our first Ocean Summit in Alicante yesterday with industry leaders and government officials – we’re telling them the problems that we are seeing first hand and trying to share the message that things need to change. We are going to hold seven summits like this across the Ocean Race stopovers and I think we’ll gain momentum to make change happen, which is exciting.
When the race finishes, I will go and see my dog Jack. He has endured my going off around the world a few times now – he loves it when I get home.”