Six-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran and three-time winner Stu Bannatyne joined the Team Alvimedica crew for leg five where six of the eight race crew were taking on the infamous Southern Ocean and Cape Horn for the first time.
Three times Volvo Ocean Race winner, Stu Bannatyne (NZL) Stu reflects on the team’s performance and how the team has evolved since he first met them.
The New Zealander, who is a former NZ Sailor of the Year winner, first sailed with young American co-founders Charlie Enright and Mark Towill almost a year ago as they were building their team with a Transatlantic training session from Lisbon, Portugal to Newport, RI, in June 2014.
First sailed as a Mentor during Team Alvimedica training in 2014
When Charlie first approached me to join the team and help him with some coaching and getting the team up to speed, I was pretty excited. I looked forward to join the team and impart some of my experience and knowledge and hopefully help the guys out. Certainly that first Transatlantic trip was a bit of an eye opener about the boats and also the level of experience of the guys. They had a few guys with VOR experience but certainly Charlie and Mark and some of the others were new to it all, and to be honest, it showed. Some pretty harsh lessons were learned on that Transatlantic trip.
Stu Returns nine months later
I left them after that and they did a bunch more sailing and more racing before I joined them again in Auckland in March. They had posted some good results up until Auckland. It was very interesting for me to see just how far they had progressed. I was looking forward to seeing how they would go in the Southern Ocean and the leg up to Brazil.
Southern Ocean – The Proving Ground
In the Southern Ocean, I was really impressed with the way the guys sailed the boat. Our first goal was to get to the Horn safely in one piece without damaging anything which we did successfully and I know some of the other boats struggled with that. That was a huge plus for us – and actually leading at that point in the leg was a plus on top of that.
The guys did really well in the Southern Ocean. They were smart, they were not overwhelmed by it – they were aware of the potential of stuff that can go wrong down there. They managed the boat well and managed the sails well and they were able to keep it going fast.
They have a great team spirit amongst the guys. That combined with the awareness of getting the boat safely through the Southern Ocean combined to produce a good result for the Cape Horn rounding and ultimately the podium for the leg.
Boat preservation vs. Boat Speed?
This leg was very important in terms of figuring out some of the limits of the boats and how hard you can push. The Southern Ocean and then after Cape Horn when we had to traverse a fairly nasty low-pressure system, we had to find the limits on these boats. We have found these boats are really strong and can be pushed very hard. We were being conservative at times, but the guys now have a good handle as to how hard they can push these boats.
Continued Improvement always the Goal
Continued improvement is the goal of all the teams in this race – Team Alvimedica, Charlie and the guys probably started at a lower level than everyone else so they had a bit more improvement and catching up to do but the results have shown they have gotten pretty close to where these top teams are. They should be very happy with their rate of improvement, but I have stressed don’t rest on your laurels but keep striving to raise the bar even higher again. So the goal is to keep improving until the finish.
Where do they go from here?
I have shown them a few things I hope that’s upped their game a little bit more. Fingers crossed they can have a win in the leg to their homeport. And of course, there is some very tough competition out there but these guys have proved now that they can duke it out with the leaders – they could be right in contention at the finish in Newport.