'It was an eventful trip, characterized by rough conditions reminiscent of the famous Sydney-Hobart Race. We faced big waves and strong winds, but the boat rose to the challenge'. That was the verdict of Bouwe BEKKING (NED), skipper of the MoviStar, who showed his satisfaction upon arrival to Wellington, New Zealand.
Since leaving the port of Newcastle, Australia last week, the MoviStar Round the World Race team has come up against a tough meteorological agenda, increasing the difficulty of the initial training stages and testing. 'A finicky low pressure system approached differently than we'd hoped for, meaning that instead of sailing downwind we had to battle them head on for 30 hours straight', comments 2004 Olympic gold medallist, Iker MARTÍNEZ (ESP), the team's offshore helmsman. 'Tacking with these winds and waves is not so enjoyable, as we have to move all the gear from side to side for maximum performance'.
'My view was that the route to Wellington was going to be relatively simple as the forecast was good,' continued BEKKING, 'but immediately upon leaving Australia the winds started to pick up, reaching 35 knots, and averaging out at 30 knots, as the front travelled faster than all the models showed. Anyway the first couple of hours were really fun, as the wind was coming from behind, top boatspeed so far 36 knots!'
'For the team it was very satisfying to know that the boat and rig could handle these kinds of conditions without any structural problems, as we have 'fallen' off some famously huge Tasmanian waves', continued the team's skipper. 'We had a goal of testing the boat's resistance - but didn't expect we'd have to go through such a severe exam so early in the game.'
A positive team environment on board is another key aspect towards success in the Round the World Race. Starting with the departure from Galicia on 12 November 2005, and finishing with the arrival in Gothenburg, Sweden on 17 June 2006, the crew will have spent a total of seven months on board their 70 foot long home. Under such intense physical and mental pressure, the quest to maintain team chemistry is key.
'I am very pleased with the atmosphere and chemistry of the team, and especially of how they withstood the hard and uncomfortable conditions in this first journey', noted BEKKING. 'Even for us sailors it normally takes a day or two to come into a routine. The first night on board was especially trying, with a strong frontpassage and very confused seas.'
'We also had to withstand the wet, both on deck and below,' said MARTÍNEZ. 'Just what we wanted to prepare us for the competition that awaits us!'
Navigation from Australia to New Zealand is all open sea, the same route to be carried out in the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006 in February 2006. Hitting a big fish is just one of the risks encountered in travelling through such waters - an undesired occurrence which took place during the Sydney-Hobart Race and in the MoviStar's maiden ocean voyage.
'We collided with something underwater doing over 20 knots of boat speed,' recalls BEKKING. 'We think it was a big fish. We've had to double check the underside of the boat before continuing over to Rio de Janeiro'.
'During the race we'll have a 48 hour pit stop in Wellington' explained trimmer Xabi FERNÁNDEZ (ESP), 'and while we planned only to stay here two hours, we've had to stay in port for a few days to change the water maker, which stopped working en route to Wellington. The Easter holidays didn't help us in that sense. We also lifted the boat out of water to check out the effects of the underwater collision'.
The team will take advantage of the stay in Wellington to review all the systems and make an overall account of their first ocean journey. 'Although we didn't find the best sailing conditions, we have been able to cover 470 nautical miles in 24 hours, showing good speed' enthused Andrew CAPE (AUS), navigator of the MoviStar.
General manager of the team, Pedro CAMPOS (ESP) adds that as and inshore helmsman, he is satisfied with the results of the strategy as planned out months back.
'In June of last year we decided on carrying out a major training session for the MoviStar en route to Rio, pushing it to its limits in the Tasmanian and Southern Pacific oceans, as well as in its voyage through the mystical Cape Horn. These training sessions will allow us valuable margins in manoeuvrability. The strategy is working out perfectly: 1,500 nautical miles from setting out to sea, we have already tested the team and the boat under the most difficult conditions.'
The next stage of training will take them to Rio de Janeiro, travelling through Cape Horn, a voyage totaling 6,700 miles.