Friday, 16 March 2012

Auckland welcomes the race fleet – big time!

Auckland welcomes the Volvo Ocean Race fleet.
I’m very excited to report that I feel as close as I can to being an onboard media crew member since I took part in the last race.

I’m bringing this blog to you from the sea itself. I am commentating from onboard the VOR TV boat where they asked me to be the expert pundit for the live TV coverage for this weekend’s in-port and leg five race start.

As I type we are drifting around on hold as there’s very little wind. I hope we will be racing soon. Tomorrow, on the other hand, we have a good breeze forecasted. Tune into the Volvo site to catch all the action.

Passion and love
This Auckland stopover has been so busy, partly due to the passion and love for the sport of sailing in this country. The welcome fleet was one of biggest Auckland has ever seen and tomorrow’s in-port race will be huge. They don’t call it the “City of Sails” for nothing.

Camper with Team New Zealand opened the doors of their team base. Hundreds of children, little Kiwi next-generation Volvo Ocean Race crew, together with avid fans, queued out of the base, down the road and around the corner.

Posters were signed; they met the race crew and looked around the sail loft and base.

Supporting public
The poor boat swarmed with the supporting public. I pity the shore crew who had to clean and put the thing back to race form.

There was one man who wasn’t quite so comfortable with the thousands jumping on board the team’s Volvo Open 70. Shore team manager Neil Cox only put the boat back in the water a few hours earlier.

“At times it’s a bit hard to watch," Neil said. "I’m not sure what the state of the boat will be by the time it has finished. There’s an endless amount of child activity going on. If we’ve got two steering wheels left at the end of it we’ll have done OK. But if it can’t get through this then we’ll struggle in the Southern Ocean.”

St Patrick's Day
Each day has been themed around each participating country. This Saturday will represent Team Sanya’s Irish sponsor and the fact this race is just a prelude to the biggest party Galway has seen since the last time the Volvo came to town. St Patrick’s day will be well supported here in Sunny Auckland.

I'm really looking forward to the in-port race and getting the chance to impart some very cool Inmarsat factoids ! Like the data off the boats goes 36,000km up and 36,000km back to VOR HQ - that's about one fifth the way to the moon!

Stick with me, there's a lot more where that came from....

Next time I put pen to paper (or fingertip to keyboard) the fleet will be firing headlong into the Southern Ocean with a terrible forecast of 30 knot winds on the first night.

They will be “loving it” as they pin their ears back and head for Cape Horn.

Mark Covell

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