Team Russia update

Mark Covell waxes lyrical about his team mates

Thursday November 13th 2008, Author: Mark Covell, Location: United Kingdom
Just one crew change for Team Russia has been announced for Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Owner Oleg Zherebtsov (RUS) is on board for his first Volvo leg, as Kosatka begins its race to Cochin, India on Saturday 15 November. Boat captain Nick Bubb (UK) has taken up Guillermo Altadill’s position of watch leader on the boat.

Team Russia’s line up for Leg 2 is as follows:
Andreas Hanakamp, (AUT) Skipper
Wouter Verbraak, (NED) Navigator
Stig Westergaard, (DEN) Watch leader
Nick Bubb, (GBR) Watch leader and boat captain
Mike Joubert, (RSA) Bowman
Oleg Zherebtsov, (RUS) Bowman #2 and pit
Ben Costello, (NZL) trimmer
Rodion Luka, (UKR) trimmer
Jeremy Elliott, (IRL) trimmer
Camron Wills (RSA) grinder
Mark Covell, (GBR) Media crew

The second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race follows a new route, taking the VO70’s back across the Equator on a 4,450 nautical mile journey to Cochin, India. The fleet is due to arrive on 3 December.

Mark Covell reports:

As we await the beginning of the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, I thought I would say a few words about the great collection of crew I will have the good fortune to sail with on the next leg to Cochin, India.

They will have to put up with me getting in the way, pushing cameras in their faces, asking stupid questions and me having a lot more sleep than them all. So please let me introduce Team Russia’s sailing crew, Ten Men and Strong.

The skipper of Kosatka, Andreas Hanakamp, is a man who leads by example. His style is not one to stand high on a burnt out tank and give rousing speeches of ‘how the road is long or the mountain high’. Instead, he is a man of action. He takes notes on notes, fastidious in his planning. When something has broken on the boat you will usually see Andreas getting involved and solving the problem. His understanding of how a boat works is wide and diverse. From electronics to mechanics, from hydraulics to osmosis, he has a great working knowledge. The other skill I believe he brings to his role is to let the people who he has hired be and do what they are best at. He has said to me before that he loves how the team shapes itself and not how he has forced it. His passion for the sport is abundant he has no time for those who talk the talk, Andreas only respects those who walk the walk.

Wouter Verbraak is our navigator. Like all good navigators, he is supremely confident. His metrological skills and 200% dedication to the task far out ways the fact that he is not the most experienced Volvo navigator in the fleet. I have said before in a previous Blog how I think this is one of the hardest jobs on the boat. He had a tough time on leg 1, but has never looked down or defeated, instead he always looks for the next opportunity to make a gain.

Nick Bubb, Bubbnick or Bubba is watch leader on this leg as well as boat captain. He is probably the hardest working man on board. His likeness to Mr Darcy in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice has been pointed out by many of our female shore team.
Aside from his female admirers, he holds down a normal watch and pulls his weight trimming, helming and grinding. After all that is done, he starts his rounds of boat checks. With head torch on like a burrowing mole, he shuffles silently about, tools in hand tightening things, which are loose and loosening things that are tight. On the last leg, he ratcheted and wrenched to such an extent he developed RSI, (Repetitive Strain Injury) in his right elbow. My advice to young Nick, during the Cape Town stop over, was to change hands or get some one else to tighten his nuts. I think that was his plan anyway!

Stig Westergaard is watch leader, Finn legend and all-round mad Dane. He is a man of many talents; he prides himself in his ability to think outside the box. Working with Jez Elliott, Stig was instrumental in moving our sail inventory to the edge of the box and then some. You always know when Stig is on the helm, as you will rapidly start wishing you had more then just two hands to hold on with. Give him a full moon and 25 knots, Stig with a mouthful of Beef Jerky, will scream and shout with joy like a kid with a new toy. He always has a wisecrack with a Scandinavian twist to it. More sensibly, he leads the way on safety on deck, always looking out for the pitfalls to avoid. He has also taken his watch buddy, Rodion Luka under his wing. Stig is teaching him the ropes, the wheel and the winch. Personally, if it were me, I couldn’t think of a better professor.

Camron Wills or “Cam” is the youngest on board. As nipper he spends long hard hours on the coffee grinders standing in the front line head-on to the waves eating them for breakfast. His machinegun South African accent, harsh and direct, is the exact opposite to his nature. Cam’s way of getting through a hard day or cold watch is to push harder and dig deeper. He is a man who is only as great as the last meal he ate. Cam is as solid as an ox and is the strongest ox onboard. However, as much as he will hate me for saying this, Cam is a real gent. He thinks with a head much older then his years and takes his responsibilities both on and off the boat very seriously.

Ben Costello or Beno is our mild mannered antipodean representative and unlike any Kiwi I have ever sailed with before. There is none of the usual “blar blar blar” bleating like a New Zealand Lamb. He quietly gets on with his watch, is good at helming, trimming and mending. “Hey Benno, you Rock! There should be more Kiwis’ like you who work hard and get on with the job without having to be a signed up member of NZ Team Tough.”

Jeremy Elliott, or Jez is our sail specialist. On loan from North Sails he is the wind under our wings. He is constantly critiquing our set up and in my humble opinion is the best trimmer on board. He is a fine sailor in his own right and has often sacrificed time on the water for design time in the office. When we blew up the A4 within hours of the race start on Leg 1, Jez and Beno worked non-stop day and night to get it flying again. You would never guess that the repair was done in the cramped conditions of the hull instead of a full size sail loft. Modest to the extreme, Jez goes about his work quietly and fastidiously without even a grumble. He is often left walking the dog; holding the sheet trimming in tricky times because he is the best man for the job.

Rodion Luka or Hot-Rod as he has become known is our very own Olympic medallist from the 49er Class. You may ask yourself, what’s a Ukrainian dinghy sailor doing on a powerful Volvo 70 with its massive loads and unfamiliar winches and routines? But, Mr Hot-Rod to his friends is breaking down the preconceptions by the day. He is a very proud and determined young sailor, constantly asking questions and learning fast. He is serving his time as well; an apprenticeship on the Volvo comes with strings attached. Big heavy strings, Rodion has to trim, grind, cook and clean just as much as the next man. However, his wide and always happy smile stretches from ear to ear when you give this boy the wheel. He may as well be back at the Games on his twin trapeze high performance skiff, because he understands better then most how a hull shape like this wants to be driven. You have never witnessed a happier man than Rodion Luka in big waves and a strong wind at the helm of a Volvo 70.

Mike Joubert, Mikey, Mr Volvo himself; this is his fourth Volvo / Whitbread Ocean Race. This lad grew up with round the world ocean sailing as an ambition ever since he could sail. He is also humble in his approach, listing many great sailors that he has learnt from. I asked him how many legs he had won? “Hard to be sure, a few,” was his answer. I somehow feel he will not stop sailing round the world until he has claimed the title he has dreamed of all his life, even though this is the man who said from the Southern Ocean, “I will never, never, never, ever do this race again!” But he is back again with Team Russia racing the Volvo. I think I prove my point.

When Mikey is on watch his work rate is non-stop, always looking for what needs to be done. Adversely, I have never witnessed someone who can come off watch eat quickly, prepare for a rapid get up for his next watch in four hours time and go to sleep within a second of his head hitting the bunk (no pillow available). Unlike the typical stereotype involved with ocean racing, he is an intensely dedicated family man, with pictures of his kids and wife stuck up around his bunk. He talks about them a lot and I think gains great strength in the support that they give him on his chosen path.

Finally our owner and friend Oleg Zherebtsov joins us on the second leg. I speak wholeheartedly for the entire crew in welcoming Oleg back onboard. He was greatly missed on the last leg. It felt like borrowing someone’s car and going for a joyride; extremely good fun but knowing it’s not really yours.

Crew changes always alter the dynamics of how a team works. Oleg is a driven individual; this positive attitude will further encourage everyone on the team to push themselves to their limit. For us we had 23 days at sea in Leg 1. This is Oleg’s Leg 1, his first taste of life at the extreme; we are all looking forward to sharing this with him.

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