Leg 1, day…not sure.

I’m not sure because I’m not counting down the days until I can chew proper food again. I’m not sure because changing my clothes and catching a whiff of myself doesn’t elicit a gag reflex. I’m not sure because I’m not stuck in a carining carbon tube where even sleeping is a challenge. I’m not sure because my skin doesn’t feel like biltong, nor does it require a full body wipe down in baby wipes once a week. I’m not sure because my hair cut doesn’t look like I jumped into a ceiling fan (equator crossing haircuts) And I’m not sure because I’m busting for the loo three times a day!

In fact, leg 1 so far has been quite easy on my body. As I write this, I’m kicked up in an apartment over looking the Dubai skyline. Tomorrow, I will hop on a plane to head to Cape Town where I will get a few days surfing in before our ship Azzam shows up on a cargo vessel and we are back to work. It was terrible misfortune that allowed us to miss doing the first leg of the Volvo as well as a real bummer for those of us who have not done this leg before. I, along with the rest of the boys, was pretty gutted when the mast came down just hours after the start. We pretty much knew that the leg was over for us at that point, but there is a long race ahead yet.

The team remains positive. The guys are probably more hungry now for a win then ever before. And we know our boat is a weapon. The giants of the race are gaining strength in the first leg to Cape Town. But no doubt we will be dubbed ‘giant killers’ on our arrival into Abu Dhabi.

Follow Gadling Blogger Nick Dana as he sails around the world in the Volvo Ocean Race with Team Abu Dhabi here.

Volvo Ocean Race begins with a bang

A few weeks back, Gadling Labs took a wander around Team Abu Dhabi’s VO70 ocean racer and one thing was apparent: weight is key. Non essential components are stripped from the ship, appointments are minimal and everything that can be made out of lightweight composite is incorporated — even the steering wheel.

Four hours into the race, the team learned a drawback to composite materials: when they fail, it’s usually catastrophic. Luckily, nobody on the boat was injured and there was a backup mast in Valencia. After a few days in port, the team briefly set out for Cape Town, but decided to withdraw in order to prepare for the next leg.

In the meantime, the four remaining teams are still headed towards the Cape of Good Hope. You can follow the race around the world for the next nine months at VolvoOceanRace.com.

Volvo Ocean Race kicks off from Alicante, Spain

It’s dark when I wake up in Alicane, with heavy, blue-grey storm clouds twisting upwards through the Mediterranean sky. Somewhere, 10,000 feet above this small Spanish city the gods are fighting over weather patterns; there’s a dash of clear blue sky here and a seam of storm clouds there, a maelstrom of wind, cloud, rain and energy hashed up atmosphere. In my view, it’s the perfect condition for sailing.

Out on Team Abu Dhabi’s VO 70 though, the weather conditions take a turn. Stale, soft wind starts to blow in from the southwest and our head sail softens. So the officials delay race start for another twenty minutes. In the mean time, our skipper Ian Walker spends time prepping his crew and exploring the winds around the race waters. And we wait.

It’s the day before the official launch to the Volvo Ocean Race and I’m out on a practice run with Team Abu Dhabi, who have invited me to come out and explore their operation before the kickoff. Alicante, a modest city two hours southwest of Valencia is both the opening port for the race as well as home base for the media operations and the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race museum. Over the next nine months, six teams will sail from here around the horn of Africa up into Abu Dhabi, around India, into China, across the perilous southern ocean and then into the Americas before reaching European shores once more.

Many among the management compare the event to the Everest of sailing but it’s more than that. It’s years of boat building, design, planning and execution. It’s the logistics of hop scotching tons of freight and support staff among ten ports across the planet, alternating ports to keep up with the boats. It’s holding onto your guts amidships when the swells of the southern ocean are trying like hell to pull them out of you.

There’s a grave determination among the eleven men on this ship as we cross the starting line and dig into the first leg of our race. Each spinnaker will be cast and folded hundreds of times in the next nine months, each sailor pushed to his limits. In Alicante, the weather is warm and the men are still strong and cheerful. Our world – this ocean will soon have its way with them.

[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.]