It's early Monday morning on March 18th. As most mainstream Americans' roll out of their warm beds, rub the sleep out of their eyes, and brew their coffee, a world away the crews participating in the Volvo Ocean Race are already hard at work.
November 4,2014. Leg 1 onboard Team Alvimedica. (Amory Ross/Team Alvimedica/Volvo Ocean Race)
The Volvo Ocean Race is probably one of the craziest and most intense races going on in the world of sports today. Imagine traveling at high speeds through churning oceans in freezing cold and blistering heat for up to 20 days straight. There is no Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso or energy drink in the world that can get you ready for that. It is one of the worlds greatest displays of endurance, intelligence, and skill with the best sailors in the world.
It was started back in 1973 with the goal to circumnavigate the globe in sailboats as fast as possible. In typical legendary fashion, it started out as a conversation in a smokey bar, probably over a few too many brews, among the most adventurous sailors in Britain. Today it is a true conversion of man and technology battling against the worst Mother Nature has to offer.
March 19, 2015. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing tackles steep and angry seas as they pass East Cape, the eastern-most point of New Zealand. (Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race)
February 17,2015. Leg 4 to Auckland onboard Team Brunel. Day 9. (Stefan Coppers / Team Brunel / Volvo Ocean Race)
The 2014-15 edition of the Volvo ocean race began in Alicante, Spain. From there the race took competitors around the Horn of Africa, through the Indian Ocean, across the pacific, around South America and finishes in Gothenburg, Sweden. It is just as long and grueling as reading and visualizing that last sentence. All told the race started in October and finished in June. Competitors raced through all seasons, in every condition imaginable, across multiple hemispheres and time zones.
This is truly a unique group of people that are willing to endure the hardships in order to call themselves the best sailing crew in the world.
“You get used to being thrown out of your bunk every five seconds, eating freeze dried food, getting no sleep. Apart from that its fun.
”It’s unlike any race I’ve done, it’s such a unique race. It’s strenuous mentally and emotionally. You get exhausted, you get tired, you feel like shit sometimes. But it’s not that bad if you can mentally handle it.”
— Rome Kirby, PUMA Ocean Racing (2011-12)
In the end, that is their only prize for winning the race. There is no prize money, no vanity, and certainly no stardom relative to the superstars that permeate the headlines of ESPN or Sports Illustrated. These individuals do it to prove to themselves and their teammates that they have what it takes. They stare down the vast ocean, take a deep breath and give it everything they've got.
The narrative reads like a true love story. There is a sense of adventure and wonderment. The competitors embrace the challenge and revel in the struggle. There is sometimes indescribable loss along the way, but for anyone that has ever finished the race, it is true bliss and joy. Isn't that what love is all about.
March 30,2015. Team Brunel and MAPFRE rounding Cape Horn. (Rick Tomlinson / Volvo Ocean Race)
October 18, 2014. Leg 1 onboard Team Vestas Wind. (Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race)
February 25, 2015. Leg 4 to Auckland onboard Dongfeng Race Team. Day 17. Kevin Escoffier inspects the leech line on the MH0. (Sam Greenfield / Dongfeng Race Team / Volvo Ocean Race)