Tim Kent looks forward to Leg Five, discusses the trials and tribulations that will face all the skippers, and talks of life after Around Alone.
In any sport one can think of a story of a player who loses sight of the immediate goal and makes a huge mistake. A football player who goes to look where he is going to run before he catches the ball - and drops it. The soccer player who looks at where she is going to shoot the ball - and gets it taken away by the other team. The temptation to look beyond the immediate goal to the ultimate one is very strong everywhere, nowhere more so than in an event that covers months rather than moments.
As you might imagine, here in Salvador there is a lot of talk about what everyone will do after the Around Alone. Skippers and shore crews all have plans and dreams; talk of Mini-Transat's, Figaros, match racing, the Transat Jacques Vabre, the Vendee and even - horrors - real jobs can be heard during lunch and dinner. But in the end, the talk comes back to Leg 5. The Around Alone sailors gathered here in Salvador have girdled most of the globe. The two Southern Ocean legs that are the focus of the race are behind us; Cape Horn, the Everest of many sailors lives, has been summitted. We have covered over 24,000 miles of sailing in a race of 28,800 miles, leaving "only" 4,000 miles to go.
The efforts of every crew belie the thought that the race is almost over; they are working just as diligently on their boats as they have at every stop. Alan Paris, whose boat arrived looking in its usual great shape, is getting it's battered standing rigging replaced. The crew on Pindar has spent the last three days up the rig, re-lashing and double-checking. Kojiro Shiraishi is working on his mainsail today. The crew on Bobst Group is getting ready to reinstall the repaired keel on Bernard Stamm's boat. On Everest Horizontal today, we are replacing solar panels that were literally torn from the deck by the force of Southern Ocean waves. Every boat has a list, and the goal is to check off every item.
Every skipper is getting congratulated for rounding of the Horn and reaching Salvador, but this race is far from over. Four thousand miles of sailing is the equivalent of a land trip from San Francisco to New York and back to Chicago. It is longer than the first transatlantic leg of this race. The evidence of the pitfalls that can befall skippers and boats in the final leg are very real. In the final leg of the last Around Alone race, Brad Van Liew was dismasted and JP Moligne, who had romped to a first place finish in Class 2 in all of the previous legs, came home second with a man-sized hole in his mainsail. We have to pass through the tempestuous Doldrums, deal with heat, shipping, changeable weather and finish in New England in early spring. I sailed Everest Horizontal out of Newport last April into a 60 knot gale that lasted 16 hours and left the boat and rigging coated with over an inch of ice. As much as I look forward to my return to Newport, we could all do with missing a system like that one.
So as the skippers and shore crews deal with heat, head colds, stomach problems, difficult logistics and separation from family and friends, we are all keeping our heads down and focussing on the most important, immediate goal - to finish Leg 5.