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Volvo Ocean Race ~ Matt Knighton OBR, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

The GPS tracks on the computer look like a dogfight between two fighter planes. Brunel will go one way, we’ll go the other – the serpentine nature of going fast in a straight line is remarkable.

The amount of cloud action and seaweed that needs to be maneuvered around is as thick as fog up above and a moving carpet down below. We’ve deliberately broached the boat so many times tonight to clear weed off the keel and rudders that everyone has canted their bunks an extra 20 degrees so they won’t fall out when the boat is on it’s side. We’ve given up trying to hang on. Mother nature may be trying her hand again at meddling with the overall standings but we don’t mind. If anything, Brunel is clearing a path for us behind – at one point they had so much vegetation on their foils that they had to back down the boat, we gained close to a mile when it was all over. The dogfight is paying off. As of this writing we’ve now closed to within 5.5 nm of their second place position, a far cry from the painful 20+ nm lead they had just 48 hours ago. Furthermore, the entire fleet is now spread out in a perpendicular plane pointed at the finish line. For the top 4 teams, there is less than 6 nm of separation. Ian loves how this is playing out.

No breakaways to the south or north – everyone is holding together. With the thousands of miles left on the track, he’s patient to wait. It’s a boat speed and angles game once again and he’s keen to play. It’s now about managing the top 3 teams and keeping the boat in one piece – another reason we’re thankful for the shape of our sails after 5 legs. Only a few more miles until we cross the equator for the fourth and last time. Under the night sky at the back of the boat Justin was laughing, “It’ll be nice to be back home, back in civilization.” Daryl didn’t skip a beat in his displeasure with Justin’s disrespect for the South. The humor is out – today has been a good day. Amory Ross OBR, Team Alvimedica We successfully closed the door to the Southern Hemisphere early this morning with our fourth and final equator crossing. A quick headlamp-lit toast from Charlie capped the ceremony before a last offering to King Neptune of warm Coca Cola. We gave our thanks and appreciation for looking over us this far, and maybe a final wish for some generous fortune during the remaining miles.  I think we’d all agree that for a mariner’s tradition we often make light of there’s something very meaningful about crossing Earth’s waist for the final time. You think about where we were when we crossed the Equator a week into Leg 1, the very first time for Mark, Charlie, and Alberto, and you think about how far we’ve come as a team since then–there’s enormous pride to the achievement. It’s a different feeling this time, looking back on the Southern Ocean and all the miles we’ve accrued since October. Not to subtract from the significance of the upcoming legs but in many ways it feels like we’re on the downswing. Regardless of the many points still up for grabs, the days onboard are limited and it’s only north from here to Gothenburg and the race finish. But the squad is still together and stronger than ever. While we’re all excited for the time we have left onboard, this morning was the first in a rapidly-approaching list of “lasts,” and it all happens too fast. But since we’re currently sitting at the back of the fleet—the aim is to avoid this kind of last, and hopefully forever.Volvo-Ocean-Race-Matt-Knighton-OBR-Abu-Dhabi-Ocean-Racing

Abu Dhabi’s occasionally visible to our east and we sporadically see leg-leaders Dongfeng on AIS, just 13 miles or so to the north. Obviously we can’t read too much into the leaderboard. We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing and hope for a shakeup at some point soon! I mean, 9 liberal splashes of Coca Cola should help pull a few favors from the big man downstairs! Corinna Halloran OBR, Team SCA Happy Days There should be a billboard saying “Welcome to the Doldrums!” Alas, there is not. However, it would have been a lot easier to identify when we arrived. Because it certainly hasn’t felt like we’ve arrived—unless you look up and watch the massive clouds form overhead. For the last 24 hours, we’ve been sailing a sustained 15-20 knots—that’s not like the Doldrums. The Doldrums are supposed to be void of all wind. The Doldrums are supposed to be miserable. They’re supposed to be dramatic, but frustratingly dramatic—not dramatic because green waves crash over the bow and crash into the cockpit in a very majestic way. The Doldrums are supposed to be the exact opposite to what they are at the moment. But hey, we’re not complaining! We’ve sent it the last 24 hours and everyone appears to be on cloud nine. There is a saying: it’s the little things that make us happy.   And for us out here, that could not be truer at the moment. So to have wind it feels like we’ve just won a million bucks—Stacey said it was a 9.5/ 10 day and the only thing to bump it up .5 is if we could see another boat. “The favorite part of my day was when the breeze picked up yesterday morning,” Justine said. “We had a rain squall, the nothing, and then the acceleration from the Brazillian coast hit us and we’ve been off since.” We’ve been rocketing along! The best part of Libby’s day was the morning’s position report. “I wanted to be the most windward boat, but I didn’t expect to have just a gauge between us and the rest of the fleet. I didn’t plan on the gap to be 15+ miles. So when I got the position report, and I saw our track and they’re track, I was honestly a bit surprised. But we’re in line with the leaders so I’m pretty happy about that. At first it was an ‘oh no’ but the more I think about it and devise a plan, it actually works for us and in theory we should get headed first. It’s been a good move for us.” As a result of being the most Northern boat, we celebrated our own mini-milestone in the early hours of the morning: we were the first Volvo Ocean 65 to sail back over the Equator. This is the last time we will sail over the line in the race and the first time to not have any Equator virgins. So to be the first boat North, we are taking it as a milestone for us on board as well as a good sign! OBR, Team Alvimedica We successfully closed the door to the Southern Hemisphere early this morning with our fourth and final equator crossing. A quick headlamp-lit toast from Charlie capped the ceremony before a last offering to King Neptune of warm Coca Cola. We gave our thanks and appreciation for looking over us this far, and maybe a final wish for some generous fortune during the remaining miles.  I think we’d all agree that for a mariner’s tradition we often make light of there’s something very meaningful about crossing Earth’s waist for the final time.

You think about where we were when we crossed the Equator a week into Leg 1, the very first time for Mark, Charlie, and Alberto, and you think about how far we’ve come as a team since then–there’s enormous pride to the achievement. It’s a different feeling this time, looking back on the Southern Ocean and all the miles we’ve accrued since October. Not to subtract from the significance of the upcoming legs but in many ways it feels like we’re on the downswing. Regardless of the many points still up for grabs, the days onboard are limited and it’s only north from here to Gothenburg and the race finish. But the squad is still together and stronger than ever. While we’re all excited for the time we have left onboard, this morning was the first in a rapidly-approaching list of “lasts,” and it all happens too fast. But since we’re currently sitting at the back of the fleet—the aim is to avoid this kind of last, and hopefully forever.

Abu Dhabi’s occasionally visible to our east and we sporadically see leg-leaders Dongfeng on AIS, just 13 miles or so to the north. Obviously we can’t read too much into the leaderboard. We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing and hope for a shakeup at some point soon! I mean, 9 liberal splashes of Coca Cola should help pull a few favors from the big man downstairs! Halloran OBR, Team SCA Happy Days There should be a billboard saying “Welcome to the Doldrums!” Alas, there is not. However, it would have been a lot easier to identify when we arrived. Because it certainly hasn’t felt like we’ve arrived—unless you look up and watch the massive clouds form overhead. For the last 24 hours, we’ve been sailing a sustained 15-20 knots—that’s not like the Doldrums. The Doldrums are supposed to be void of all wind. The Doldrums are supposed to be miserable. They’re supposed to be dramatic, but frustratingly dramatic—not dramatic because green waves crash over the bow and crash into the cockpit in a very majestic way. The Doldrums are supposed to be the exact opposite to what they are at the moment. But hey, we’re not complaining! We’ve sent it the last 24 hours and everyone appears to be on cloud nine. There is a saying: it’s the little things that make us happy.   And for us out here, that could not be truer at the moment. So to have wind it feels like we’ve just won a million bucks—Stacey said it was a 9.5/ 10 day and the only thing to bump it up .5 is if we could see another boat.

“The favorite part of my day was when the breeze picked up yesterday morning,” Justine said. “We had a rain squall, the nothing, and then the acceleration from the Brazillian coast hit us and we’ve been off since.” We’ve been rocketing along! The best part of Libby’s day was the morning’s position report. “I wanted to be the most windward boat, but I didn’t expect to have just a gauge between us and the rest of the fleet. I didn’t plan on the gap to be 15+ miles. So when I got the position report, and I saw our track and they’re track, I was honestly a bit surprised. But we’re in line with the leaders so I’m pretty happy about that. At first it was an ‘oh no’ but the more I think about it and devise a plan, it actually works for us and in theory we should get headed first. It’s been a good move for us.” As a result of being the most Northern boat, we celebrated our own mini-milestone in the early hours of the morning: we were the first Volvo Ocean 65 to sail back over the Equator. This is the last time we will sail over the line in the race and the first time to not have any Equator virgins. So to be the first boat North, we are taking it as a milestone for us on board as well as a good sign!

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