Anthony Nossiter on the VOR: 10 years away

Anthony Nossiter on the VOR: 10 years away

Friday April 20 2012 Author: Anthony Nossiter ADOR Location: none selected

After a 10 year break from the Volvo Ocean Race, one always returns to the sport with vigour and excitement. America’s Cup and Olympic sailing is purely fair weather day sailing; to be complete as a professional sailor one needs to get offshore. Ten years away from Volvo dilutes your toughness, it’s only natural to require another dose of ‘harden up’ after a decade of fair weather.

Unlike most sports, yachting provides a relatively long sporting life for its athletes. The combination of fitness, power, skill, wisdom and smarts on a boat is achieved at various points in your career. The key is to pull a crew together that has the right mix. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has this.

Not a lot has changed in the Volvo Ocean Race culture in my absence. The ‘versatile’ on deck chatter is still present and not restricted to yachting, lucky for me there is still a solid cone of silence on all data disclosed while on deck.

The on board camera is new and has caught me out a little, it captures all on deck shenanigans even under the cover of darkness. You can’t get away with a little ‘evening on deck dance’. Ultimately the boats are still extreme, there is nowhere to hide and this class definitely toughens up great men of this sport even more.

The big difference I find is the boat speed and on deck water levels. I have never had the experience of sailing on such an anti-social vessel when the breeze gets up. You try to have some communication, but whether it is a joke or a serious chat, the general reply is yes and a sympathetic smile. It’s a little like asking for directions in a friendly foreign country.

You work it out quite quickly that chat is restricted to a minimum. Whether you are donning a balaclava, helmet or wet weather jacket hood, the communication is impaired. Understandably, how can one enjoy a chat when the fire hose is pointed in your face for most of the watch?

On the other hand, once fair weather returns the first days are full of chatter, it’s like you’ve just had the gag taken out of your laughing gear and you can commence normal communication again. You have to get enough words out in the fair weather moments to compensate for the heavy-weather silence, otherwise you may be perceived as rude or a mute. Or both.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has given me this opportunity to Volvo it up again. The experience is one to savour. To step into a professional yacht racing team with all the required resources is very satisfying. Southern Ocean legs are always the toughest on the men and gear. And on the boats.

It was after the first night at sea when we returned to base for a repair that I really saw how hard the shore team works. We were back in the race by the next day after an extraordinary night by the men and women of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. This test has continued, and here we are now in Brazil awaiting the arrival of the good ship by freight for a major all in effort to start the next leg on time. It’s a great test to the team, to fight on and succeed when many would just throw in the towel.

I have seen this movie before, but never seen it dealt with in such an enthusiastic way. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has unfortunately experienced more hurdles than most. The results to date are not what anyone would have wished for, but when the going gets tough the tough gets going! There are still legs to win and points to gain! The race is not over and the integrity of the team will keep us striving for success. To win some hotly publicised legs in the USA and Europe will make our efforts well worth. The men and women of this team will fight to the finish, the synergy and culture they have built over the years is only getting stronger through adversity. I look forward to being part of the puzzle, bringing Azzam home strongly to Europe and getting back in the race to score the points we so deserve.

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