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16 May 2002, 02:23 pm
Reflections in La Rochelle
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Volvo Ocean Race
La Rochelle

As the Volvo Ocean Race nears its conclusion, with just a few weeks left, it is natural that people become reflective, not only the sailing teams but also the shore teams as well.
Here, we talk to Richard Mason, a first timer in this premier ocean race, racing onboard second placed Assa Abloy, who has had the adventure of his life, and can't wait to do the race again.

"It has been absolutely fantastic," he says. "It's a brilliant race, and it's been the experience of a life time for me, being a first timer, and one of the younger guys around. It has been every dream come true for me and more! I am a little concerned as to what to do in four weeks time."

Often at this stage in the event, the crews are looking forward to spending some time ashore, and some do not want to consider doing another race like this again, but Mason is different. He is firmly hooked. "My hand would be the first one up, I would definitely do it again," he says in answer to the question. "It's a brilliant race. There is no question about it. It's the best round the world yacht race there is in the world, certainly fully crewed. There is nothing harder. Some of the guys that have been coming into the race and doing one or two legs, guys that did the last race, have said that the boats are that much more extreme, that much harder to sail and physically and mentally. It's a fantastic challenge, and you have to have that challenge. I hope there is another Volvo Ocean Race."

It's been a true adventure for Mason; he says it is like a dream come true. His best memory, the one that sticks in his mind the strongest, is winning the leg in to Auckland, Mason's hometown. "It will stick in my mind for ever. Every sailor from New Zealand dreams of that. To have that dream come true… I still have trouble actually realising that it did come true, winning the leg coming in to Auckland and winning the Sydney Hobart. For me that was a massive high point."

But it is the Southern Ocean that makes this event special and continues to lure the sailors back, race after race. "You just can't take away the awesome beauty of that place," explains Mason. "It's a pretty horrid place, but it's pretty fantastic and there is something that keeps drawing you back there. Definitely the best sailing in the world."

The Volvo Ocean Race has been a huge learning experience for Mason, whose teammates are fully international. "There are so many memories to take away, the sailing, the working of the team, the way the whole campaign has been run. We have a real mix of nationalities and humour onboard the boat. We have really developed as a team throughout the race and we are enjoying one another's company onboard now and I think that is quite a significant feature of the Assa Abloy crew. We have developed together over the race. By now a lot of the other teams will be ripping each other's hair and teeth out at the moment, but we are having a great laugh.

I think the significance of the team is that we have learned to survive together. Down in the Southern Ocean, egos aside, whatever you have to do, you have to do it to survive that particular moment, and someone's particular character might have something to offer there. That has all come together now, and every one is in the position to tease the next guy and there is plenty of that going on. Between the English and the French, and the Spanish in amongst it, it is very, very humourous, and of course, we have the Kiwis to keep everybody honest."

Richard Mason was talking to Guy Swindells.
Volvo Ocean Race Media/ISAF Secretariat
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