On Board Reporter Amory Ross gives us an update from Team Alvimedica on Leg 0, a mandatory Volvo Ocean Race rehearsal with the seven teams sailing to Majorca and back from Alicante:

It is common knowledge that the three weeks between now and October 4, the day of the first scored engagement between Volvo Ocean Race teams now surrounding us on the way to Palma in Leg 0, will go by too fast. There is no shortage of work to be done to the boats, to the bodies, and to the brains, but getting a handle on what’s feasible and most valuable during that time is easiest done at sea. Many of the distractions that tend to cloud onshore productivity are removed and it’s impossible not to focus on anything but the most pressing of processes: sailing this boat as a team, together.

This will be one of the youngest crews in the race. Our most experienced sailor, Will Oxley, is navigator, and his resources are largely directed at putting us in the right place on the map. The group of guys tasked with our performance through the water—they are either new to this race, or to their roles in it. So, as Ryan Houston suggests, “we probably have the most to gain.” Leg zero is our last chance to observe the other teams up close, to emulate, test, and experiment to our hearts content. In that sense, we are approaching these 400 some-odd miles to Palma with a very open mind.

But as Ryan continues, “maybe though, we also have the most to lose.” And it’s a valid point; we are built of ambitious, competitive individuals who are keen to prove themselves. For first timers Charlie, Mark, Seb, and Alberto, this is a massive opportunity on a world-class stage. And in the case of Ryan, Dave, Nick, and Will, all past-participants, this is now a one-design race and the excuses end. We have the tools and we have the talent and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to perform; expectations are high.

Regardless, Palma’s not far now and once through its bay, we make a hard turn back towards Alicante. This will be our final offshore session before leaving the dock for Cape Town, and that is a daunting but thrilling thought. A shiver of excitement just ran down my back!

Team Alvimedica completes Round Britain Race

Team Alvimedica have completed the arduous Round Britain and Ireland Race, crossing the finishing line off the Royal Yacht Squadron here at 5.59 BST on Saturday with an elapsed time of 4 days, 20 hours and 49 minutes.

The 1,802nm course took the fleet around some of the world’s most tactically challenging sailing waters, with many corners, headlands and obstacles to avoid, often in extreme weather conditions.


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Team Alvimedica enters final straight

Team Alvimedica on the final straight in the Round Britain Race in which valuable lessons have been learned.

"We are here to train and learn about the boat, of course, but part of training is also mentally learning to race hard, and until the end,” said On Board Reporter Amory Ross.

"It will be a long night, tonight, and everyone’s trying to rest up right now. Charlie’s telling the guys to prepare for an all-nighter and I think it’s being embraced. It’s quieter than usual and the pre-finish rituals of past are long gone. Nobody’s packing wet gear, finding clean T’s for arrival, or charging phones. This is definitely a test for us, and it’s time to wrap it up right!"


Short Term Memory


Short term memory. On rare occasions like this, it’s a magnificent thing. You could tell it was going to be a different kind of day the moment the sun came up this morning, that the second half of this race had finally begun.

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Sailing along the Irish coast and soon heading into the final straight of the Round Britain and Ireland Race.

Brief respite from a brutal Round Britain and Ireland Race as Team Alvimedica takes in a bit of history.

A ‘Nat Geo’ kind of 24 hours…

It’s a brutal race track but Amory Ross, Team Alvimedica’s On Board Reporter, finds a little time to take in the beauty that surrounds him.

It has been a real ‘Nat Geo’ kind of 24 hours. We first rounded the jagged Muckle Flugga of Shetland fame, which—until 1995 when it became automated—was the northernmost inhabited island in Britain, and the volcanic St. Kilda archipelago of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (one of only a handful that own that honour in both natural and cultural categories). These are places that few people ever get to see, and we ashamedly exert all this energy to sail up to these points only to hurry along without ever taking much notice; they are merely obstacles in the way.

But my trip to Tristan da Cunha last race onboard PUMA, when we were dismasted in the South Atlantic and stranded on the world’s most remotely inhabited island, gave me new appreciation for the unexpected destinations along the way. Nick Dana says the same about his visit to Chilé with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, and Ryan Houston and Dave Swete for Madagascar with Team Sanya.  So, today I came up on deck with my prepared Wikipedia stack and gave the boys a bit of a lesson. In case you were interested:

Muckle Flugga is about 300 miles further north than Cape Horn is south. It’s also about 300 miles south of the Arctic Circle. The lighthouse there was first lit on New Years Day in 1858, to protect Her Majesty’s great ships, and standing at 64-feet it remains Britain’s northernmost lighthouse. Rumour has it that the writer Robert Louis Stevenson visited neighbouring Unst, and that it was the inspiration for his map of Treasure Island.

St. Kilda is a group of five islands about 40 miles west of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, and 100 miles west of the mainland; they remain the remotest part of the British Isles. Its sea cliffs are the highest in the UK, with Conachair’s standing at over 1,400 feet above the ocean. These cliffs house the largest seabird colony in the northeast Atlantic with almost one million birds in the summer, including the world’s largest Northern Gannet colony—constituting about 25 per cent of the Earth’s population. St. Kilda has many pre-historic village remains, indicating people have lived there for two millennia at least, and they used to communicate with Scotland via unmanned mail boats set off in a northwesterly wind. St. Kilda’s only residents these days are scientists, conservationists, and military personnel.

Kind of nerdy, but I think it’s far better to know a little about where you’re going! Even if it’s just an obstacle along the way, these are incredibly rare and remote places and the more we know about them, the easier they are to remember.

Tough day at the office but spirits remain high

On Board Reporter Amory Ross is feeling “horrible” as the crew encounters fierce winds and and waves but spirits remain high for Team Alvimedica on the second day of the Round Britain Race.

This is agonizing. I feel absolutely horrible. I have never felt this way on a boat before—ever. It’s a combination of wind, waves, maybe some sort of sickness—a few of the guys have been fighting colds and coughs—and probably most importantly, working on my computer. The sea state is really poor and focusing on my screen is proving costly.

As I lay on my back trying to rest, I ponder how someday I might explain this line of work at a job interview; in particular the task of typing and editing on one of these boats. The answer is unclear. I don’t think it’s possible to make its difficulties tangible! The suggestion would probably involve an uncomfortably dark, windowless car, rain and a leaky sunroof, big potholes, and must-meet deadlines that are long gone.

 At least life is simple… For me, it’s about ‘best effort’. There’s only so much you can realistically accomplish when you’re feeling this crummy—and I need to make the food (which never helps), and send this content to all of you. I’ll get there eventually.

But in other news—the guys are doing a great job of reeling in the herd! We’re going well through the water and generally feeling great about the concept that this might be the worst of the bad weather. There’s a chance that from here on out it just gets considerably colder. Thankfully the only thing needed to overcome that is another few layers!

Brutal introduction to Round Britain Race for Team Alvimedica

Amory Ross, Team Alvimedica’s on board reporter, has been reflecting on a brutal introduction to the Round Britain Race as the crew enters Day Two.

“What a race,” mutters Ryan Houston, who paused far too long to hide the fact that he’s basically ruined from a few short hours of sailing. Admittedly ‘Housty’ musters the voice to finish his thought: “And it’s hardly even started.”

Ryan’s pretty accurate. The big low-pressure system named Bertha blew through overnight and cleared the way for our postponed start to go off without a hitch. That doesn’t mean it was any easier. We’ve been sailing in sustained 27-30 knot winds all day and we’re hurtling north back towards Bertha in quick downwind conditions. It seems all we do on this boat is go fast and life now is no different: wet, loud, and violently unwelcoming. First days like this really do make everything harder; particularly after an unexpected Sunday roast at the pub!

Discomforts aside, the real issue is the English obstacle course. We’re avoiding windfarms, oil rigs, commercial traffic, and having to observe shipping lanes designed for boats that can motor in whichever direction they like. We of course, cannot, and so we’re short gybing England’s congested southeast corner and in many cases spending just 10 or 15 minutes on each gybe before having to do it all over again. It’s exhausting but all we can do about it is focus on getting into our watch systems for night #1.

The sooner we can fall into routines the sooner we can start to rest. And rest seems to be the only thing that makes this kind of sailing any easier!

Team Alvimedica completes Volvo Ocean Race line-up

Team Alvimedica have completed their line-up for the forthcoming Volvo Ocean Race by confirming Matt Noble as the final crew member.

The full line-up will take part in the Round Britain and Ireland Race, which starts today from Cowes on the Isle of Wight and includes five Volvo Ocean Race teams. Severe weather warnings are in place and conditions are expected to be treacherous.

“The Round Britain and Ireland Race is our first competition against the other Volvo boats, and one of our last training missions before we sail around the world, so we are really happy to have completed our crew,” said skipper Charlie Enright.

“We are very excited to have Matt. He did the recent Transatlantic crossing with us, and everything worked out great. So, to complete the line-up is a really good feeling and we’re ready to move forward as a group.”

The appointment of the 28-year-old Noble, who hails from San Francisco and will be sailing around the world for the very first time, underlines Team Alvimedica’s commitment to blooding young sailing talent.

Noble, the fourth American in the team, finished third at two 29er world championships and won the International 14 class world championships in Germany in 2008.

Towill relishing Round Britain Race

Mark Towill is relishing the prospect of facing four of the other Volvo Ocean Race teams in the Round Britain and Ireland Race, which starts in Cowes on the Isle of Wight on Sunday.

“I think more than anything it’s the first opportunity where we can sail against multiple other Volvo 65s; from that standpoint it will be a good learning opportunity. It’s a coastal race with lots of corners and headlands, so it will certainly keep us on our toes, and there’ll be an emphasis on boat-handling, for sure. I haven’t done this race before so I’m looking forward to ticking that box. The most important thing is to develop on the things we need to work on as a team, and lining up with the rest of the Volvo Ocean Race teams to get a better gauge of where we are at.”

After two successful Transatlantic crossings, Towill is delighted with the team’s progression in a short space of time.

Charlie and I made a schedule back in January and we’re exactly where we wanted to be, so it’s all been progressing as planned. Now that we have solidified our team, we can use the Round Britain Race to learn how to work better together.”

Towill believes the team, the youngest in the Volvo Ocean Race, has found the right chemistry.

“It’s important to gel quickly and we’ve done that. How you work together and how you get on is a big part of success, and something we need to continue to refine. It will certainly be one of our focuses.”

As a newcomer to the VOR, Towill is savouring every minute of what will be a life-changing experience?

“It’s crazy to think what Charlie and I have achieved and done in the last seven months. Things are certainly moving very quickly and the start of the Volvo Ocean Race will be around the corner before we know it, so I’m certainly trying to take in every moment and enjoy the experience.”

Towill believe the team’s youth and hunger will more than make up for a lack of round the world sailing experience.

“I look at it as a challenge and an opportunity – something I am so excited about. We certainly are going to be the young team of the race and relatively inexperienced, but I actually think we’ve got a really healthy mix of previous VOR experience along with youthful ambition and drive. We’ve got a number of guys on the team who have done the race before. We’ve also got people like myself who haven’t done it but who are excited about this wonderful opportunity. We’ve got a really healthy mix, and it’s going to be a good group.”

Pushing Towards Southampton

Anyone that has done any amount of sailing around the English Channel must know that the four thousand horses now pushing us toward Southampton are anything but a shirking of duty. We had a beautiful sail past the Scilly Islands and along the Lizard, a welcoming coastline following any passage of that length.

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Getting Touched Up

Ryan Houston’s been asking for a “touchup” all trip. It’s his way of saying that he wants to get extreme, but there’s a certain kiwi calmness to it that makes it sound less sinister than the situations it can potentially define.

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