In the few days that I’ve been back from Alicante it’s been difficult for me to explain the sheer magnitude of a VO70 ocean racer to my peers. These sailboats are unlike your average Sunfish or J-105. They are massive, precision engineered creatures, optimized for weight, balance and speed. They are moving cities, with 11 men onboard, bunks, cooking and wash facilities. They’re also information superstations with a handful of remote controlled cameras, a satellite uplink and enough CAT-5 cable to impress any technophile.
At Team Abu Dhabi’s invitation we brought a team out to Alicante, Spain in late October to get a unique snapshot of the team and the race from the beginning. Days before the official launch we were out on the chilly Mediterranean waters on a practice run armed with only a handful of sailing experiences under our belt and a Canon SLR. The below gallery is what we captured.
Sailing on the deck of a VO70 is like riding on the back of a dragon, mythical, awe inspiring and terrifying at the same time. As the ships tack and jibe back and forth near the starting line it’s eerily quiet save for the occasional shout from the skipper or the stress-groans from the carbon-fiber hull. To see this much mass and power moving in such grace is a humbling experience. To see the ships race is unforgettable.Ships leave Alicante and head towards Cape Town on the 5th of November. You can catch up with the fleet at nine other ports around the planet through the summer of next year. The full schedule is at volvooceanrace.org.
[Editor’s note: Team Gadling joined the Volvo Ocean race at the request and expense of Team Abu Dhabi. Media support made the ships sail no faster nor the writers get any wetter while on assignment.]