Leg 6 is turning out to be one of the closest fought battles of the race so far and while it makes incredible viewing for fans worldwide, for the men in charge of leading the crews it is a stressful and exhausting situation.
With tactics more at play than ever before in the fickle winds around the Caribbean Islands, the skippers and navigators have been working overtime to analyse and evaluate every last bit of weather information received in case it holds the key to success.
On second-placed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, skipper Chris Nicholson and navigator Will Oxley have been getting as little as four hours’ rest a day as they search for the smallest of opportunities to pounce on leg leaders PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG.
“We have stayed with the normal watch systems and it is Chris and I that tend to get the least sleep in these situations — which is not a lot anyway,” Oxley said.
“I have had maybe eight hours in the last 48 hours.”
Telefónica watch captain Neal McDonald knows all too well the pressures of leading a team in the Volvo Ocean Race having skippered Assa Abloy in 2001-02 and Ericsson in 2005-06.
“Although it’s pleasant sailing it’s quite stressful when the weather changes so often,” he said.
“You can see all your hard work disappear in a matter of hours. It’s easy sailing in physical terms but stressful in mental terms. It’s easy to see leads change very quickly.”
Having masterminded PUMA’s near-flawless tactics so far, navigator Tom Addis said rounding the next waypoint, on the small Bahamian island of Eleuthera, ahead of their rivals would be a major milestone in their quest for a second successive leg win.
“Whoever is first round there will be able to breathe a little bit easier because that will get you across the top of the Bahamas,” he said.
“You still have to cross the Gulf Stream, which could be quite light, but it would be a pretty big thing to lead around the Eleuthera Lighthouse.”