Dee Caffari blogs from on board Turn the Tide on Plastic in the Volvo Ocean Race
Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race and the start of a 45,000-mile odyssey for Turn the Tide on Plastic.
By Dee Caffari
Last Updated: 10/11/17 1:50pm
We are sailing from Alicante in Spain to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon in a relatively short sprint that is sometimes more difficult than the longer length legs.
It is not quite long enough to get into a full rhythm, yet the intensity is harsh. We have so far been at sea for a few days and we are still in sight of our rivals. We split from everyone in the Mediterranean Sea only to converge together at the Gibraltar Straits and have been locked in a fierce battle ever since.
This kind of intensity is exciting, we are literally looking at every decimal place of boat speed all the time. Having enjoyed some close racing in the practice races I am pretty confident that this will be the sign of things to come for the whole race around the world, making this an awesome race to follow on the tracker.
Any mistake is brutally punished and the idea behind a successful race is consistency.
The Turn the Tide on Plastic team has only been put together very recently. We were unveiled in June, the crew were selected during July and we began racing in August. We trained in September before completing the mandatory safety courses while the boat was given her final check - then we were off to Alicante for the start of the Volvo Ocean Race.
My focus on selection was to have 60 per cent of my crew as under 30's. As a result, there is little previous experience of the Volvo Ocean Race in the team. This makes us vulnerable to the more experienced teams, however, I have selected very talented sailors who can make a boat go fast.
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It is about us not making too many mistakes and continuing to improve. The rate at which I have seen my team grow has been really impressive so we will be a team to watch out for - the critics cannot write us off!
I have a diverse crew comprising of 10 nationalities. We sail in English although we are picking up sayings in each others' languages that probably should not be repeated off the boat. It makes the dynamic great on board and I am enjoying the fresh approach my guys take to stuff.
Liz Wardley was my first pick as an experienced sailor to help me out with this project and she is the boat captain. There is not a single nut or bolt on this boat that she does not know about and she can fix anything that may or could happen to us. We sailed together in the last edition of the race and are enjoying this new team we have created.
Also helping us out in the experienced department is Martin Stromberg from Sweden, who has taken part in this race three times and has won it with Groupama back in 2011/12. He is a calm focus and brings a wealth of experience to the new sailors.
The funny aspect of this campaign is the fact that so many of my team come from other backgrounds, like America's Cup sailing and Olympic sailing, so they don't really have any idea what they are letting themselves in for in this race. The questions they ask are about living on a boat for three weeks at a time rather than the sailing. They know how to sail - they just haven't been offshore for as long or as far. I do laugh a lot at some of the questions they ask.
The health of our oceans is a mess due to our obsession with plastic and in particular single-use plastic. By design, plastic is built to last and yet so much of what we use can only be used once. This throwaway society that we have been living in has contributed to plastic pollution in our oceans and now we have proof this is beginning to affect our own food chain. We are all talking about it.
The synergy with having a young crew is they understand it is their responsibility to make sure all of us solve the issue now so future generations can continue to enjoy our planet. My team speak about the issue in a very genuine manner and they really care about the difference they can potentially make. This is an exciting time for them as role models and real-life ocean heroes.
Leaving the Mediterranean we were saddened to see a group of balloons floating on the surface of the water. These do not break down and are often confused by marine life as food, making them sick.
A fellow competitor had some plastic on their keel. This slows down a boat and effects performance as well as reminding us of the issue that is out here. The same incident happened to us during the Prologue race and we had to spend time stopping the boat going backwards and clearing the plastic before we could resume racing.
As a result and through good habits we check, using an endoscope, the bottom of the boat. We are able to see our boards, keel and rudders every morning at daylight and every evening before it gets dark to check we are clear of any rubbish and in particular plastic that could affect our performance. A sad reality to how full of rubbish our oceans are.
We have another few hundred miles of sailing to go in the Atlantic before we arrive in Lisbon at the weekend in. We are planning on giving it our all.