Mark Covell from the Indian Ocean

Team Russia's media man on taking the dust track east and naked encounters with the crew

Wednesday November 26th 2008, Author: Mark Covell, Location: United Kingdom
I’ve never stolen my dad’s car and taken it for joy ride, but if I had this is what it must feel like. 48 hours ago we stole the keys, let the handbrake off, freewheeled it down the drive so as not to wake the folks. We are now off, heading out east to seek our fame and fortune. Oh yes, we do have the top down and with Creedence Clearwater Revivals, “Up Around the Bend” blaring out of the stereo as loud as it goes. “Up around the bend,” says it all. The opening lyrics say: "There’s a place up ahead that I’m going. Just as fast as my feet can fly. Come on the rising wind. We’re going up around the bend".

However, we’re not going round the bend. I must make it absolutely clear that we are not desperately hitting a corner. The decision came from the information processed. An easterly strategy was formed. Heads were scratched, views were voiced and data was questioned. I admire this team that it is brave enough to do something different. Wouter Verbraak our navigator or Wouter the Router spent a long time trying to disprove investment in the east. The more he looked the stronger the data said straighten up and fly right.

So the whole crew now know we are on a dangerous joyride. They have sensed the tension and upped the anti, pushing harder. I didn’t know there was a harder to push, but apparently there is. We have not donned the magical cloak of invisibility and morphed into stealth mode. We know the fleet is watching us and like the law, they are planning a roadblock at the old sawmill on the back straight. The thing is we aren’t on that road; we took the dust track, up past the haunted barn, over the hill and far away. They now can’t get to us if they wanted to with out downing A-sails and beating up to us. The music has just changed on the stereo; we’re now bouncing to Malcolm McLaren's 80s hit “Buffalo Gals, Go Round the Outside”.

So as we sail out to Cornersville, population one. Ready to ring the bell hanging on the edge of the map. We wait nervously for dad to ring and say, “It’s okay son, you’ve had your fun. Just bring the car back home safely and it will all be OK.” The reality is we’re not taking calls and we’re still running wild, down that Eastern dust track, ready to hang a left and see if we can out run the fleet. We are having fun and if it works or it doesn’t you can’t say we didn’t try. The glow of the morning sun is now lighting up the horizon. With one hand on the wheel, elbow resting out of the car door, top still down and the in-car stereo is still playing out loud and proud, “Fat Bottom Girls” By Queen “Won’t you take me home tonight?” Please.

A Close Shave in the Wrong Trousers

As I write this, the sold 20-knot trade winds are becoming less and less stable. The dreaded Doldrums must be just up ahead. We have already had our first onset of heavy tropical rain, warm, refreshing and forcing a sail change. It was pitch black and as the crew worked quickly forward on pealing the new headsail. I put down my heavy blog, stripped butt naked and popped out of the aft deck hatch like Marilyn Munroe appearing out of the President's birthday cake. (Hold that thought) How refreshing to get a natural doosh in a tropical shower, a great chance to have unlimited fresh water.

I closed the hatch tight and with soap, raiser and shampoo in hand I quickly whipped up a total body lather from tip to toe, worthy of any 50’s Barber Shop. I was now fully covered in foaming olive soap, smelling like the foothills of Tuscany in spring. When suddenly the rain came to an abrupt stop. Like a practical joke, someone turned the tap off. I am now stood in my birthday suit on the aft deck in the pitch black looking like Shaun the sheep before he was shorn, with the wind getting up quickly.

The boat starts to heal up, the speed starts to build, voices from the bow raise as the noise of the wind notches up the tension. I am now faced with needing to get water, any water to get free of my soapy fleece. I dash forward and grab a bailer and a harness. I wasn’t about to lean over the stern, at night, in the slippery buff, collecting water without being clipped on. I popped back on deck just as the crew shuffle back into the cockpit with their foredeck work done. With out lingering on the visual too much, just imaging the scene as I nonchalantly teetered past a working Volvo Ocean Race Crew in nothing but a offshore safety harness, with crutch strap fitted, covered in foaming soap looking like Mr. Whippy on the way to a bondage party. The only thing that I could come up with as they looked on in disbelief was “Good work lads, keep it up”. They certainly didn’t say the same phrase back to me. The relationship between crew and media man can be strained at times. I didn’t see this one coming and nor did they.

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