I realise much time has passed since sailing on the Mar Mostro, nearly a month somehow, but it was a total stand out experience and one that I would like to document on the blog. The kind of experience that surprises vastly beyond naive expectations.
And to be honest I really wasn’t in the know. Not in the least. About the race or the boats or simply the level of development and excellence. While some of the boats were introduced before the start of the Pro-Am races the commentor mentioned “tennis with Federer, driving with Hamilton” – this is what sailing on an Ocean Race yacht pars with. I’d been told this is the F1 of the sea, but truly, with little yachting exposure I just couldn’t have known.
What I do know is carbon – and ‘know’ is applied liberally there. The fibre allotrope which is used for most of my cycling equipment though is one I appreciate daily. And to see so much carbon used – almost exclusively – was wild from my perspective. These lads were keen to push every boundary. “Mass is the enemy of performance” to quote Ernie Gruhn, and it was made tangible onboard the Mar Mostro. There is not a glimpse of convenience below in the cabin, where paint would be spared if it could. Priority belongs to the ability to shift weight down below. But I’m skipping ahead.
Arrived at nine bells into the V&A Waterfront, more timely than usual, still expecting to race one of the two Pro-Am races. Which are an opportunity for the crews to take delegates and sponsors onboard for some fun without having overall standings implicated. Puma’s crew had decided that morning though that with the broken mast fixed within the previous 48hours there was more they wanted to test before having to race seriously on the Saturday. This was a blessing, their decision to not entertain two groups of six that came onboard, but instead to get on with business at hand. I dont think I’d have had the same sense of awe had I not got to see them in this state of preparation. I liked it, feeling like I was nothing but in the way. It was for real, they were for real, and they had to accommodate us but not dance to our ignorant questions.
Not racing meant a delay as well though, till midday. Of the six, 4 were a little older and more sophisticated than the two odd sailing candidates: Jack Parow and myself. If you’re unfamiliar with the man, you’d be forgiven for smiling at how close Captain Jack Sparrow is to his stage name. But watch this: Cooler as Ekke music video and humour in the moment. Where would one start conversation, if at all?
Puma have roaming containers that build an upstairs deck bar and a downstairs retail space, all with Volvo Ocean Race specifics and their sailing apparel range. While waiting, some stealing was suggested. I left with some purple sailor boy shoes that grip like a booger on a cold ride, and drain water through five linear holes under the midfoot. Pretty neat I thought. So too this really fresh sailing specific jacket; which I’ve only got to use on the Vespa voyage from Cape Town to Stellenbosch, but then it is summer. Parow got himself the bottom half of the bad boy sailing getup, the kind you’d wear down to the roaring 40′s I’d suppose. The bottoms looked like some space aged dungarees. He could pull off any look, including that one.
Eventually a rubberduck ferry’d us across to the Mar Mostro, at that time quite near Robbin Island, swapped us for the previous six, and then three hours of surreal sailing started. Which could also read as three hours of observations with a minute of personal steering. Loved it.
Sadly no photos were allowed below deck. So clean and minimalist down below which for a three week stage seems aggressive. And it is. The nine hammock nets can be adjusted for pitch dedending on the lean of the boat, that was about the only comfort adjusment I could find. Another nine are opposite side for when the yacht is leaning the other way.
Four hourly rotations they take, but consider going below, drying, if at all, eating something, and then by the time you sleep you surely have scantly more than three hours to. And apparently various tasks uptop require all hands on deck, whether it’s your sleep allocation or not. I’m grumpy after the 7 vs 8 hours of sleep… Real men these. Not fair weather athletes such as myself.
I could go on and on, but the fine detail was stellar. The carbon finishing on everything (even the sail is made of carbon strands), watching the cohesive non verbal team efforts, feeling the wind against my face, having Table Mountain screaming magnificence. Really magical time which is fixed in my mind’s eye for the ages.
Again, sport has afforded me opportunities I’m so thankful for. Sport is a brigdge, often to surprises. This was as fine as any. Many thanks for the Puma head office and all the lads there who offered this opportunity my way.