The Blog

Six Degrees of Separation

There is a strange separation happening on board Team SCA at the moment, and it's about how well we are doing. There are two camps: inshore/match racers and the offshore racers...

There is a strange separation happening on board Team SCA at the moment, and it's about how well we are doing. There are two camps: inshore/match racers and the offshore racers.

I should note that both camps are incredibly important, as ultimately we need both perspectives in order to perform well in the Volvo Ocean Race. We need the inshore racers who are tactically gifted and can quickly read the immediate: the puffs, the trim, and the driving speed. But we also need people who see the bigger picture - to look ahead and read the weather, how it will change, how it will move, and ultimately how it will affect the present. It's an intertwining loop.

For inshore sailors, who are experienced in events such as the Olympics, you can sometimes feel as if you are not doing as well as you hoped. Basically, if you cannot see another boat, there is a sense that we are performing poorly.

Miles lost feel like they are to never be gained back again. A separation of thirty-five miles feels like the end of all days and we might as well pack up and go home--call it a day. In match racing, a thirty-five mile difference between you and the next boat would be awful!

Fortunately, this is offshore sailing and we're not the only ones who cannot see each other. In fact, none of the boats can.

In contrast the offshore racers, who are used to considering a bigger picture, know that as long as you stay within the same weather system as the boats ahead of you - you're all right. It's only when you fall off the back of the weather, like we did in leg five, that the race becomes challenging.

This is why it's incredibly strange when one person comes on deck looking like you've just rained on their parade and the next person comes on deck happy as can be. It's also strange because it's really hard to tell how well we are actually doing.

Is thirty-five miles a good thing or a bad thing? Is it actually thirty-five miles or is that gauge or bearing? Is it thirty-five miles with the mark being the finish? Or is it thirty-five miles that is actually fifty miles because when you draw the cursor from one boat to the next it's different than the next mark?! Honestly, your head begins to spin!

However, what we are realizing is that we are having difficulty with our boat speed, and naturally that can be upsetting - for both the little and the big picture people. It's frustrating because you look at the fleet and you can't help but think 'What am I doing wrong? What do we not understand that they do?'

This is where the root of all the frustrations at the moment lie: the speed of the boat, and why, if we put all this effort in to make the correct numbers, we still can't do what the other boats are doing. Performance wise, we're doing a great job, but when we receive the position report, we've suffered. We're desperate to know why, so much so that there's even speculation as to whether we are in our own private wind sucking hole (is Neptune really out to get us!?).

Nonetheless we're not giving up our idea that this is still our race. We currently have 1700nm from here until Newport, and as any sailor will tell you, a lot can happen in this time. So watch this space!

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