Volvo Ocean Race set to sail extreme waters

Volvo Ocean RacePutting sailing prowess and human ability to an exceptional test, the nine-month long Volvo Ocean Race is held every three years and set to take off this October. Called the most important and extreme offshore race in the world, those who take part know this is no pleasure cruise.

“What makes the Volvo Ocean Race so special is that it’s so extreme,” New Zealander Mike Sanderson, 34, told USAToday. “You’re going through the Southern Ocean plowing through waves and around icebergs and there’s snow. Then eight days later you’re coming up the coast of Brazil, and it’s 90 degrees down below and you’re sweltering hot and you can’t cool down.”

The 39,000 nautical mile race starts in Alicante, Spain in October 2011 and concludes in Galway, Ireland, during early July 2012, and will go through some of the world’s most treacherous seas via Cape Town, Abu Dhabi, Sanya, Auckland, around Cape Horn to Itajaí, Miami, Lisbon, and Lorient.

“The sailing you do in the Volvo Ocean Race is unparalleled,” said Australian Justin Clougher, 39, bowman for Pirates of the Caribbean during the 2008-09 race, his second.

Sailing teams of 11 professional crew that include sailors with medical training, sail makers, engineers and members of the media will race day and night, sometimes for more than 20 days at a time on some legs of the adventure. Experiencing extremes in temperatures and living off of only freeze dried food, the race is designed to test the skill and endurance of all on board.

According to the current schedule, the race will make its only North American stop in Miami, Florida about a year from now on May 18, 2012. Gadling was on hand for the 2008-09 race as well as the 2005-06 run and will provide complete coverage of the world’s premier global race and one of the most demanding team sporting events in the world.

This year, the Volvo Ocean Race invites you to keep up with all the current news and information with a variety of social-friendly tools at the OceanRaceGame that feature all relevant information about the race, the game and the players.

Flickr photo by MauritisV

Real Fishermen–Carpe Diem

Neil’s post about goulash reminded me of another controversial Czech specialty – fried carp. Don’t make that disgusted face! Carp can actually taste good, if prepared properly.

Europe has a fascinating history of fish farming, or aquaculture, dating back to the Middle Ages. Historically, monasteries were the centers of the nascent fishing “industry,” and many ponds were created to feed members of the Church.

This tradition dates back to the 11th century, and spread throughout Europe. My home country, the Czech Republic, was one of the biggest fishing centers, sporting as many as 25,000 fish ponds by the 15th century.

The primary meal fish is, and has been, carp, but eel, pike, perch, and trout are also common–and tasty–fish “crops.”

The tradition continues to this day, but you’ll have to travel a little out of the way to see it in action. You’re not going to see these events on a tour bus or just sitting around in the city. No, you’re going to have to get out to the country, to a local fish farmer.

The most common, most efficient, method is to drain the lake to one end, and just scoop up net-fulls of thrashing fish. In Czech, we call it a “vylov” (pronounced “VEE-lof”). The modern method usually goes like this: men from the village are invited to come at 4am, warmly dressed, ready to get drunk, and get wet. Waders or tall waterproof boots are required. Big, burly men catch, separate, and weigh the fish, which are quickly put into holding tanks on big trucks–essentially aquariums on wheels. Water, fish, and body-warming slivovice (90+ proof clear plum brandy–preferably homemade) are sloshed around in a frenzy until the lake is emptied. The pace slows somewhat, as the slivovice kicks in, but it’s still a blur of activity. The day is capped off by a big feast for the participants, with, of course, delicious dishes made of fish: fish soup, smoked fish, and fried fish.

Once a tanker truck is full, it’s bound for markets all over Europe, or, at Christmas time, particularly in Germany and the former Eastern block, the fish end up in big barrels for purchase by families who can’t wait to put their carp in the bathtub, where they swim briefly before being prepared in the Christmas Eve dinner.

Unfortunately, the European Union’s ridiculous, burdensome regulations are killing local agriculture and aquaculture. Better get there soon, or it will all be gone.

Dive Trip Report

Another place we haven’t much blogged about is the Solomon Islands. So I poked around a little and found this link to a very nice scuba trip report from the Solomon Islands. The site here is a pretty good one if you’re heading out soon on a trip and want to get the skinny on a particular dive spot. The posts are recent and can be nicely detailed, like this one from Cozumel, or this one from Indonesia with great photos.