Azzam crew trainng to be jack of all trades
Editor’s note: The Englishman Ian Walker again will be skipper of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s boat, Azzam. He is writing a monthly message for The National leading up to the race.
The Volvo Ocean Race (VOR), which starts in October in Alicante, is one of the world’s toughest sporting endurance events.
It is also a commercial challenge to deliver a return on the sponsors’ investments as well as a huge logistical operation.
It puts management skills on trial through the allocation of resources and the supervision of a team of 24 people from all over the world and the team that wins this race will be the one that has planned and prepared the best.
That started for us the day the decision was made to enter the race. After nearly 12 months of planning, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ador) are now more than half way through a series of training camps in Cascais, Portugal.
VOR teams never have enough preparation time. Even with months to go we still have to make tricky decisions on priorities so as to use the weather to our best advantage.
There is a lot of work to do ashore, but I know that the teams who spend the most time on the water will be the ones that excel in the race.
Every time we go afloat we make sure we have clear goals. We are also mindful of the risk of over training. It is a delicate balance between working hard and pushing ourselves to the limit. We also have to make sure we make time to let our minds and bodies recover.
So the sailing team’s training is broken down into a monthly cycle of about three weeks training with a week’s rest. This rest period also gives the shore team time to work on the boat.
As sailing is a technical sport, our training is geared towards understanding our equipment.
This VOR is different to previous races as all of the boats are identically designed and built.
Because every team has the same boat, sails and mast, the key to this race is going to be the quality of the people, and which team uses their equipment best.
Our aim is to make sure we understand how to get the best performance from our boat.
During offshore training we conduct boat speed tests at as many different wind speeds and wind angles as possible and we experiment with the many variables, such as dagger-board, sail or boat trim, to work out the optimum settings across the range of conditions.
An on-board computer gathers data from sensors around the boat up to 10 times a second and we carefully analyse this data to plot the best performance settings.
As well as gathering data we must move forward other areas of our sailing while we are at sea.
We need to refine our crew manoeuvres – “boat handling” – as well as improving our straight-line steering and trimming techniques. This is when open and honest debriefing is essential.
On a Volvo Ocean 65 everybody needs to be able to fill many roles, and so the more we swap jobs around in training the better all-round sailors we become.
Every crew member steers the boat for about an hour of their four-hour watch to give everyone lots of training time at the wheel.
The individual performances will be reviewed and, during the race, the best helmsmen will be prioritised. When not at the helm crew will be trimming sails and grinding.
As we move closer to the race start our training will include more long offshore passages with two transatlantic training crossings to come in the next four weeks.
These Atlantic crossings will be the culmination of our first three months of training before we arrive in the UK for Cowes Week and the 2,000 mile Round Britain and Ireland Race.
So far we have sailed about 3,000 miles on our race yacht, Azzam, and, by the time the race starts, that will be more than 15,000 miles. The VOR is more than 39,000 miles.
Thanks to everyone for the continued messages of support on the ADOR Facebook and Twitter pages. It is great to know that so many people wish us well.
It feels like we are a long way from Abu Dhabi right now.
But we will be back in December, hopefully celebrating a win, at the end of Leg 2.
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Published: May 28, 2014 04:00 AM