A sailing race across the southern ocean – what a rollercoaster! CWF’s Damian Foxall describes conditions on the boat half way through leg five of the 2015 Volvo Ocean Race.

Mar. 29, 2015

We lost contact during the first windy, rough and dark second night, a baptism of water and spray pelting us as we were trying to find the right gears and buttons on the new boat. Then a building, downwind breeze over the following days pushing hard but at a level we THOUGHT was safe.

We were surprised by a potentially disastrous Chinese gybe in the middle of the night. Hit by a 45 knot wind the boat slammed into an unplanned roll and lay flat, the rig and sails parallel to the water, the keel out and everyone hanging on!

It’s hard to describe the stress onboard. Our minds race: did anyone get tossed overboard? Is anything damaged? Can we start the standard recovery process?

It takes three hours to get back on track and we lost about 50 miles. Incredibly that time there was no major damage…apart from moral and the knowledge it will be along climb back up the leaderboard from the back of the fleet.

This my fifth Volvo race, and ninth time into the Southern Ocean and so I take some of this in stride. The automatic reactions that you develop in any job come to play, many of them details: how to eat, dress, adjust the sails, drive the boat, sleep. In any environment that is sometimes brutal, this makes me remember past races and most importantly appreciate what my crew mates on team Donfeng have been living for the last year of preparation and five months racing.

I’m only a visitor here for one leg of this race: I have the advantage of fresh energy, easy laughter and I enjoy being with such a great team.

The conditions let up, the sun comes out and as we chase cyclone Pam across the pacific the seas become amazingly easy and we forget the rough start.

We are so far from land that the closest person to us is in the space station.

We are really on our own in this amazing place.

We see pilot whales, albatross, and petrels playing on the waves and then in the middle of nowhere we see two seals floating sleepily a long way from home (or their home is a long way from everywhere else).