Getting the word out
It will be interesting to track how Volvo’s new public-relations venture works on each boat, or whether the plan creates friction among sailors during long stretches at sea. While all of the men’s boats have eight sailors (the women’s boat has 11) aboard, each also contains a ninth crew member who is designated the boat’s on-board reporter. The reporter, tasked with generating daily pictures, videos and written content via the complex communications array on board, is not allowed to handle any sailing duties. While the media product will certainly be screened and polished by boat or race officials before it is posted for public consumption, there are not many places for sailors to hide. For instance, Azzam is outfitted with five cameras and six microphones. Ready for Big Brother: Seven Seas?
Eyes wide open
At various points over the past few days, the seven boats in the regatta have taken visitors out for a spin off the Alicante coast, and the reaction has been predictably positive. Several guests were allowed to steer the boats and it quickly became clear that, when manning the wheel, visibility is often an issue. There are steering wheels on both sides of the aft portion of the boat and, even then, the massive sails block views of half the ocean – partly the reason there are two wheels to begin with. During the pro-am race over the weekend, boats were darting around and crossing within a few metres of one another at the starting line, giving on-board guests an unexpected thrill. “No doubt, there’s a pretty big blind spot,” said Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew member Matt Knighton.
Flags of convenience
As Azzam skipper Ian Walker piloted his boat to a runner-up finish in one of the week’s pro-am races, he delighted in pointing out to on-board guests from the US that he was whipping the Alvimedica vessel, a joint US/Turkish boat. Informed in jest that the boat was “American” when they won and “Turkish” when they lost, Walker laughed. “So, they’re like Andy Murray?” he said, standing at the ship’s wheel. “British when he wins and Scottish when he doesn’t?”
Buried deep in Volvo’s fine-print race requirements is a notice that applies to all on-board crew in the around-the-world event. At some point in the six months preceding the start of the race, all crew members must have a comprehensive medical exam and be cleared by a physician. In a clear nod to the long stretches of time spent at sea, they must pass a dental exam, too.
Birthday boy Adil
Azzam racing crewman Adil Khalid, a UAE native, turns 26 today. This will mark his second around-the-world trip on the government-sponsored yacht. On Azzam, only Australian race rookie Luke Parkinson, 24, is younger.
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