Nick Bubb diary

On leg three of the Volvo Ocean Race and whether the demise of Team Russia is temporary

Saturday December 27th 2008, Author: Nick Bubb, Location: United Kingdom
Although I should probably start with the report from Leg 3, it is impossible to avoid the news that due to a lack of funds, resulting directly from the global economic crisis, the team’s management has decided to suspend racing while further sponsors are sought. One of the saddest things about this is not just the lack of frontline action out on the ocean but the break up of one of the most amazing collections of people I’ve ever spent time with. At our final team dinner there were tears in the eyes of many, what people had to say will remain private but suffice to say, guys don’t like having their toys, boys and girls all taken from them in one foul swoop.

We may not be at the top of the leaderboard, but we are not at the bottom either and if you ask anybody on the dock which team’s having the best time, both on and off the water, the answer virtually always come back Team Russia. This may be ‘the Volvo Ocean Race’, the most hardcore and professional yacht race in the world, but we still partied hard.

Developing a great team spirit can only be achieved by sharing experiences and these can’t all come from time on the ocean, only 30% of the team were out there anyway! We all knew the rules even though they were never written down, party as much as you like but don’t miss the morning gym session and ensure your area of responsibility is under control. Undoubtedly the last six months have been some of the best times of my life, when I joined the team in June I didn’t really know any of them and now I feel like I’m leaving 30 life long friends behind. I fly back to the UK tomorrow ready to see all my friends and supporters back home and can’t help but reflect on how lucky I am, even though it is going to be desperately disappointing not to be leaving Singapore with the rest of the fleet. Maybe I will sign up for the real game and see if I can crack the top 1000 in the virtual skipper competition.

Anyway back to Leg 3, one of closest races in the history of the Volvo. It was a downwind start from Cochin and we so nearly nailed the pin end with a great timed run but unfortunately, the kite took ages to pop open (it is ‘wooled’ together into a sock to stop it flapping and potentially ripping on the way up) in the light breeze. It was fairly irrelevant in the course of the race anyway though, as we chose to hug the shoreline whilst the others choose lanes slightly further offshore. Showing great light air speed we kept pace with Telefonica Black and slowly eased away from Green Dragon and Delta Lloyd. The first night was all about the transition from sea breeze to land breeze and we played a great game which saw us pass Ericsson 4, Telefonica Black, Ericsson 3 and Puma but lose to Green Dragon who did well inshore. For the next 36 hours we match raced Ericsson 3 and were encouraged to keep them well astern, but in the process lost out to the others who slowly but surely started to extend on us. By this time Delta Lloyd was well behind the rest of the fleet.

As we crossed the Indian Ocean on our 1000 mile beat towards the Straits of Malacca, we encountered a range of conditions but mainly found ourselves hard on the breeze with frequent large squalls. I believe the biggest of which saw my watch well set one night, with one reef in the main and a medium sized jib up in around 18 knots, before we were hit by a 37 knot bullet and driving rain of such intensity you could not see more than a metre in front of you. Luckily we emerged unscathed and battled on but it was tough going. As the squalls passed and the wind dropped you were forced to re-stack all the kit before moving it back as the next squall approached, a mammoth effort all round!

Eventually Ericsson 3’s pure horse power saw them slip away from us and we had to be content with a solid lead over Delta Lloyd and Green Dragon just ahead. As we passed the scoring gate at the NW end of the straits in 7th, the fleet started to bunch up. Ericsson 4 lost their lead and the front 4 converged, set to race ‘en masse’ to the finish with Telefonica Blue finally taking the win. We clawed our way up to Green Dragon and on the last night finally drew level only to be thwarted by the final transition between thermal breezes on the last night. We had a great blast to the finish with the code zero up and a fresh 20 knot northerly. The action wasn’t finished there however, as we hammered along at speeds of between 18 and 23 knots in the pitch black we encountered a dreaded fishing fleet…….. thankfully they were well lit, that is all but one who we think the guys were sleeping onboard. I saw it just at the very last minute, threw the helm over and we missed it by around 5 metres. In 10 seconds they were gone but my heart rate must have been up near the 200s. If we’d hit them, it would have been utter carnage, one fishing boat would have become two and I dread to think about the consequences for us. I was a mighty relieved man when the sun came up for the last time and we coasted into the Singapore Strait! We finished an hour after Green Dragon and around 9 hours from the leaders. This was a massive improvement on leg 2 and bearing in mind the cloud hanging over our futures for the whole leg, the team spirit was fantastic.

None of us know how things are going to work out now, but it seems stupid that we have most of the key parts of the project in place such as the vast majority of the budget, a competitive boat and an ambitious crew, but can’t quite close the circle. I have become passionate about this campaign and so am not prepared to sit and do nothing. We need another 1.5 million euros to finish and I intend to chase down every opportunity to help keep it afloat. The boat is going to Cape Town to be ready to head across to Rio should we get money to restart there, or if not, then either Boston or Galway are options.

Thanks for all your support, it’s been awesome. Keep following the race and in return I will keep you posted with any developments from the inside!!

Happy New Year.

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