I subbed in for an injury-stricken Onboard Reporter squad to join old friends onboard Vestas 11th Hour for Leg 3 of the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race, from Melbourne to Hong Kong. The job was familiar but with new equipment (drones!), new faces, a new, un-sailed racecourse and updated daily requirements that focused on a revolutionary live show, it was an altogether different and rewarding assignment. It was also really great to just get back to a boat in the middle of the ocean.

Daily boatfeeds


“It has been a most uncomfortable return to this amazing race and a real testament to the collective days and hard miles the group has sailed so far –I’m not one usually susceptible to seasickness but my last time on a boat like this in conditions like these was sometime last Volvo Ocean Race and I’m paying the price of admission. I am fine on deck and alright in the bunk, but the media desk and it’s tiny laptop screen that wont stay still turn my stomach inside out near instantly. This morning is the first time I’ve been well enough to type, and I’m no longer aware of whether the bucket is a grasp or a run away. I think I vomited four times during yesterday’s Live Show. Conditions are back to the exciting variety with 25 knots of wind and a slippery, unpredictable downwind run up the east coast of Australia, directly into a strong south-running East Australian Current. As I’ve just come from the bunk I can describe it like this: one second your floating while the boat drops from under you, the next your pressed hard into the mat as it comes back up. Then squeezed hard against the outer hull before rolling across precipitously perched at the edge looking down to leeward. But I still feel better there than here so it’s time to wrap this up in hopes of returning to the camera at next attempt." January 3, 2018. Leg 3, Day 1

“We’re still in sight of the leaders as we have been most of this leg, but honest opinion from the gang will tell you the view is starting to get old. Nobody likes being third or fourth best, or even second best, when you know you can be the top dog. And there is no question on anyone’s mind that this boat has the speed to lead. There have maybe been a few missed opportunities here and there, maybe some slightly better fortune spread a little farther to the west these past few days, but we’ve watched from just next door as the top three shuffle around, patiently waiting for our turn to pounce. Irritating as it was witnessing MAPFRE slip through another couple of sticky tropical clouds last night unscathed – nobody is too fussed. We are less than halfway through this leg and though the first stage to the Solomon Islands is now behind us, passing Santa Ana at sunrise this morning, there are plenty of difficult decisions to make in the next few days and we know our opportunities will come.” January 8, 2018. Leg 3, Day 5

“Today we drifted. We drifted a lot and sailed very little. SiFi’s nav computer told him it would take us over 1,000 days to get to the Philippines at one point. Fortunately, that’s now down to 70 days and it’s never always such a vacant vacuum of wind – but today it looked like it could be and we all wondered just how long we might float here sweating through our days. One of the fun things about the Doldrums is that it’s never the same twice. It wont ever give you the pleasure of knowing what you’re going to get when you go in, and it will certainly never give you any idea once you’re in of just how long it’s going to take to get out. You get what you get and you make the most of it. Randomness, luck, and extreme heat rule this part of the world…” January 9, 2018. Leg 3, Day 6

“Delight from a night of steady progress in stable winds - precisely the kind we needed to sail away from the fleet and this inferno – was put on hold when sunrise delivered a towering orange wall of rain right to our bow. Two hours later relative fleet positions remain virtually unchanged but we are totally helpless again, bobbing around like a glass bottle full of sunburned frustration. The cloud effectively killed wind across this whole region so theoretically, everyone should all be stuck in the same situation. Also theoretically, the new wind should fill from the north and we are well positioned if that were to unfold, so spirits remain somewhat optimistic. But four days of this heat is just ridiculous... Yesterday’s clichés are starting to feel like reality, like we’re actually going to be trapped here forever. Everyone’s tired of sweating, tired of the relentless sun and of the noise the limp, heavy sails make slamming indecisively from side to side overhead. Patience is wearing thin but as we’ve said all along though, some clouds taketh and some clouds giveth; it’s out of our control and there’s not much we can do but ask that the next behemoth that tees us up is the kind that gets us out of here once and for all.” January 11, 2018. Leg 3, Day 8

“As miserable as four days of windless 40-plus degree temps (104+ for all of the people back home) and 33-degree (91) water can be on the mind and body, the Doldrums are a special part of this world. It is extremely remote and there’s a unique quality to sailing through there that I have always found intriguing; like it’s stuck in time and at any moment some lost square rigger from the age of trade may appear on the horizon begging for fresh water and a way out. It is also unburdened from human interference; we haven’t seen another boat or even a plane overhead in what seems like weeks. The deep blue ocean seems healthy and full of life. At night the warm water glows with abundant bioluminescence. Daytime brings feeding frenzies full of rare whales, sharks, birds, and fish. Nights are still and clear like no place I have ever seen - until they’re not - a stormy tempest of dense lightning and clouds that appear to be so high they touch space. I hate it but I also think I love it. It doesn’t pay much mind to seasons and no matter how unstable the rest of the world may be, the Doldrums remain the same. Stably unstable I guess.” January 12, 2018. Leg 3, Day 9

“In the very early hours of this morning we sailed over the Mariana Trench just south of the deepest known point in Earth’s oceans, Challenger Deep. It is nearly 11,000 meters deep (37,000 feet, 7 mi, 11 km), which is deeper than Mt. Everest, Earth’s highest mountain, is tall. It’s practically space. As I made a round of coffees for the on-deck watch my mind wandered… I wished I had a penny to flick over the side. How long would it take to descend to the ocean floor? How far from here would the currents take it? I envisioned its slow descent, twisting and turning into darkness. What amazing creatures would it pass on the way down, what unknown things would it find for company in the abyss? This is obviously a race first and foremost but in the three I’ve been a part of there’s always something more meaningful than 1sts and 2nds: a tangible grasp of the planet we live on. A greater sense for the distance between continents, the vastness of its remotes, the untold stories and faraway places we never knew of. We get to see some incredible things circuiting the world’s oceans and it’s one of the most rewarding components of this storytelling job. Sharing our adventures may spark a curiosity that in the Google-age could inspire someone to do something great. That could be a kid in a classroom who becomes the world’s next deep-sea trench explorer. Or maybe it’s a future whale expert, mesmerized as we were by our special encounter a week ago. A conservationist, concerned with increasing ocean plastics. Or simply buying a book on Micronesia’s storied WWII history, and specifically the Truuk atoll, now a world-famous dive sight. Obviously this is a race first and foremost, but for as fun as sailing downwind in a tropical 22 knots for five consecutive days can be, it does get monotonous. We engage in some great conversations huddled at the back of the yacht and often lament the lack of opportunities to use sailing as a means of adventure and education. Why must we always race past these places?!” January 15, 2018. Leg 3, Day 12

“And now we have the South China Sea and nearly 450 miles to go… This body of water has a terrible habit of churning up some retched seas. It’s the northeast monsoon season and there’s a cyclical blast of strong wind that comes down from the mountains, growing and shrinking almost weekly. It appears we’re in one of those surges now with steady 27-30 knot winds. And since we’re inside a large bay, wind creates waves and waves bounce off islands and continents and it can get all sorts of chaotic. I really don’t like it in here, never have. Furthermore, there are many small islands, oil platforms and marine traffic to avoid as we approach the Chinese mainland before racing up a busy, narrow river to the finish in downtown Hong Kong. But with 24 hours to go, the big push is on. This leg is far from over and there are any number of potential outcomes so the team is grinding hard knowing that there’s a nice break just around the bend.” January 18, 2018. Leg 3, Day 15