Sunday, May 17, 2009

Volvo Race comes to Boston

The Volvo 70 Ocean Race is an around the world race that first took place in 1973.

It is a grueling and dangerous race described as "the longest, most demanding and perilous sporting contest the world had known" in the Overview on the race official web site.

The site goes on to describe the course: "During the nine months of the 2008-09 Volvo, which starts in Alicante, Spain in October 2008 and concludes in St Petersburg, Russia, during late June 2009, the teams will sail over 37,000 nautical miles of the world’s most treacherous seas via Cape Town, Kochi, Singapore, Qingdao, around Cape Horn to Rio de Janeiro, Boston, Galway, Goteborg and Stockholm."

"During the race the crews will experience life at the extreme: no fresh food is taken onboard so they live off freeze dried fare, they will experience temperature variations from -5 to +40 degrees Celsius and will only take one change of clothes. They will trust their lives to the boat and the skipper and experience hunger and sleep deprivation."

There were 7 entries this year. An American team, Puma (pronounced P00-ma in America and Pew-ma elsewhere), two Swedish teams (Eriksson 3 and 4), two Spanish teams (Telefonica Blue and Telefonica Black), a Dutch entry called Delta Lloyd and an Irish (Chinese sponsored) boat called the Green Dragon.

A Russian entry did not start the race.

"Each of the seven entries has a sailing team of 11 professional crew, and the race requires their utmost skills, physical endurance and competitive spirit as they race day and night for more than 30 days at a time on some of the legs. They will each take on different jobs onboard the boat and on top of these sailing roles, there will be two sailors that have had medical training, as well as a sailmaker, an engineer and a media specialist."

I went with two friends to watch the start of the 7th leg from Boston to Ireland. We stood across the harbor from the main pier to get some images of the boats against the Boston skyline. It was surprisingly cold and a mist came in to add some drama to the show.

The race was supposed to begin at 1pm and the boats were out in the water by about 12pm. There were lots of spectators both in the water on boats and on the banks.

The Puma boat was ahead of the pack when the canon fired but the others very quickly lined up behind it and pretty soon Telefonica Blue had caught up and overtaken the Puma boat.

The boats all left the harbor and then had to circle back and take a loop in the harbor before heading out to sea again. It was quite a show.

The Boston fire boat was spraying water with Rowes Warf in the background.

We waited for them to come back with their spinnakers flying in the mist.

We heard that a tanker (at first we heard it was one of the natural gas tankers that basically shuts the harbor down) had arrived and was going to stop the beginning of the race, but in the end there was only a 15 min delay.

We heard a couple of days later that Selma Hayek had been there and had taken a turn at the helm of the Puma boat. She was announced as the godmother of the boat before the race.

I went back and looked through my photographs and wouldn't you know it - there was one with a bunch of photographers on the Puma boat all pointing their camera at the helm. Selma Hayek is at the helm. An official blog with photographs show her and her husband on the boat and the team blog describes the event: "For the first hour or so the actress Salma Hayek was onboard along with our PUMA executive team and her husband. She christened the boat a little over one year ago and we consider her to be our glamorous godmother! Her husband is our “BIG” boss. He seemed to know all about the race, the team and many of our exploits. It was great to meet them especially Salma and it must have been a treat for them to get the buzz of the pre-race dock scene and departure, hopefully they all had a good time."

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