“I was right at the front when the second wave hit and went over us. I was completely underwater for like 15 seconds,” sniggers Liz Wardley, Captain of the Turn the Tide on Plastic team, as she nonchalantly shrugs off yet another bombardment from the elements. Wardley, Skipper Dee Caffari and the crew are just one of the seven teams taking part in the 2017 Volvo Ocean Race – a 45,000-nautical-mile race across four oceans in seven months, touching six continents and 12 landmark Host Cities.
Ahead of the race I’m in Gosport for Cowes Week, woefully underprepared and wandering aimlessly around the deck of Turn the Tide on Plastic’s Volvo 65 yacht. As an honorary team member for the day, I’m here to learn the ropes but – unknown to the crew – with the exception of a dinghy sailing course over 10 years ago, I’ve not stepped foot on-board a boat since. Well, nothing powered by the wind, at least.
According to legend, the first discussions about starting the race began in a smoky Portsmouth pub, over 40 years ago, which spawned the Whitbread Round the World Race. Navigating by sextant and dead reckoning, the first edition of the Whitbread took competitors into some of the harshest conditions on the planet, resulting in the tragic death of three sailors in the first race.