The Volvo Ocean Race Sails Through Miami

It’s raining in Miami, and we’re sitting inside of the Camper pavilion waiting for the weather to clear, Josh with his forehead on the table while I make idle conversation with the woman across from us.

“It’s embarrassing,” she says, gesturing to the low turnout for the day of in-port racing, though considering the weather, I imagine there were several factors in play. Still, there’s no doubt that the race village here in Miami feels different from the one in Alicante. In Spain, where the race started in November, you could power a blender on the electricity buzzing through the atmosphere.

Here, the crowds and the teams seem more reserved, with visitors scampering to find cover among pavilions or in the tents set up by the various sponsors. When we head in to the media tent to pick up badges, a familiar face greets us from Spain, an old friend who puts down her mobile phone to catch up on gossip. She smiles. We’re the only ones checking in.

Midway through this marathon of a race, the atmosphere here is heavy with fatigue and determination. Over 30,000 nautical miles have been sailed around the world to this point so far, and teams still have to cross the Atlantic Ocean before they reach home. As soon as the boats pull back into port in Miami on Saturday, the shore crew is hard at work turning over the boat for the next day of sailing. Bunks are being hosed down, masts are being rigged, sails reconfigured. Frankly, there’s little space for celebration and the crowd seems to respect that.

Still, it’s easy to see the hope and determination still coursing strongly through many of the sailors. We meet up with our old friend Nick Dana, the Media Crew Member (MCM) on Team Abu Dhabi’s Azzam who’s bearded, tanned and about six years older than he was in Spain last November. There’s nothing but hunger for the race in his voice, however, and as he wanders through the ship with us, he tells us of his excitement for the next leg, excitement to be in his home country and excitement to kick this next leg in the teeth.

We leave the ocean racers in the late afternoon heat and drizzling rain of Miami, quietly rigging the boat and preparing for the next leg. Josh and I will be tucked safely away at the downtown Marriott tonight, while tomorrow the crew will be filed away into their carbon fiber bunks as the ships sail eastward. Divergent now, our paths will cross again soon.

Follow the Volvo Ocean Race as the teams sail into Lisbon Lorient and Galway.

Photo Gallery: On board Team Abu Dhabi’s VO70 at the Volvo Ocean Race

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

[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.]