Behind the scenes: sailing on a VO65 ocean racer...

On an ocean racer, everything is built for speed. The boat is stripped of any comfort. There are no cabins, no beds, no shower, no toilet, no personal space to put your stuff. There is no cooking done on board.

The only personal space you have: each crew has a hook - this hook #7 was mine - to hang your safety jacket and maybe a small bag with your sailing gloves and head torch.

There is no toilet.
Forward below deck, without doors or curtains to close or give privacy, there is "the throne".
It is a carbon fibre bowl (everything on this boat is carbon, to save weight). You can do pipi in it (manually pump water in and manually pump it out. Electrical pumps would add more weight), though most crew (except our female crew), pee standing at the stern of the boat.
If you need to do a #2, you strap a biodegradable bag over the throne bowl, do your thing, make a knot in the bag, put it in a bucket, climb on deck (holding your "bag" in one hand and hanging on for life on anything you can grab to hold your balance), and toss the bag overboard (preferably downwind, otherwise the bag with "your thing" ends up in the boat).
PS: The throne "swivels" on two hinges. So, as our boat heals a lot, the throne stays horizontal through the swivel. I have never done "my thing on a swing" before... There is a "first" for everything in life, I guess.

There is no cooking done on board.
There is one small "cooking" platform (which I got to know intimately as I hit my head hard on its corner while pulling the gennaker belowdecks) with 4 mini compartments: A very small sink with salt water and fresh water pumps, two small compartments (left and right), where crew water bottles are stored. And in the middle, there is a small camping gas stove, which can be used to warm up like 2 cups of water in a small pot. Even for that small amount of water, it takes 10 minutes to heat it up.

We don't take the heating pot off the camping cooker as pouring hot water on a healing/moving boat is a hazard. So to heat water, we (manually) pump some fresh water in a cup, and pour that in the pan. Light the camping burner. When the water is warm, turn burner off (important, don't forget!), and with a cup, scoop up the hot water from the pan into a drinking cup for instant coffee, or into a freeze-dried food bag.

So we never warm up meals in the pan... For warm meals, we warm water, and pour it into a freeze-dried food bag. Close it for 10 minutes and then use a spoon to eat it from the bag. We had good quality, high calorie freeze-dried food on board. Goulash, spaghetti bolognese, chicken curry, mac-and-cheese, vegetarian pasta, meat-potato mash, etc... All of these were stored in a grab bag.
The pro-crew of our boat knew exactly which freeze-dried food to go for: They knew exactly which bags had the highest calorie and tastiest meals. As we were burning so many calories, we were eating almost every 6 hours. I never drunk that much water in my life, neither. As you are sweating a lot, we were -eh- quite active and we were sailing in the tropics, we needed to drink a lot. I think I consumed 3 litres of water per 24 hours. Note: to save weight, the fresh water tank was only 40 litres, so the water maker was running several times a day.

There is no fridge or freezer on board. So your "source of food", are 3 bags: One with all freeze-dried food, one with all snacks (protein bars, chocolate bars, cookies, nuts, muesli..) and one bag with longer lasting fruits (apples and oranges mostly).

I said I know "the small cooking platform" intimately: One time while pulling a big gennaker sail from the deck into the storage area below deck below, I was standing in this area with the cooking platform, "receiving" the sail bag. And instead of the bag coming down half a meter in a go, the boat hit a wave and the 200 kg bag came down 3 meters in a go. I was pushed off my feet, and landed 3 meters further back, slapping the back of my head against the corner of this cooking platform. Luckily, on this boat, there are no sharp corners, to avoid crew to get hurt. It was quite a dive, but apart from a bump on my head, and a damaged ego, I was not hurt...

There is no washing or showering on board.
There is just no space for it, nor can we afford the weight. The small sink we use to rinse our spoons and cups, we also use to brush our teeth, and splash our face.
If you want to clean yourself a bit more thoroughly than cleaning your teeth or splashing your face, you need to use a small cloth from a box of wet cleansing cloths. And that is it.

In the picture you see the "entrance" of the below decks, as you come down from the deck. Left and right the hooks for our safety jackets, left and right each 2 bunks. Grab bags for freeze-dried foods, snacks and fruits. Middle under white cover, the engine (mostly used to come in-out of the harbour, and to charge the batteries). The cooking/washing sink, water bottle storage and bags on the wall with instant coffee, sugar, dry powder milk, some plates, spoons, paper towels.

PS: this picture gives the wrong impression as if it were bright below decks. It is an enhanced picture. During the day or night, it is dark, like really dark. During night, there is only a very faint red light in each compartment, so we use head torches with red lights (no white light allowed on this boat at night, with one exception: to look at the sails while trimming).

This boat, below decks, is really, mostly, empty space.
So, below decks, there are three compartments: As you come down from the deck, the central area with 4 bunks, the "cooking area", food storage, engine cover (oh and also the window to look at the kanting keel): the aft area with 8 bunks, navigation station and media desk.
And then forward, apart from "the throne" (our substitute for a toilet), there is nothing. Just empty space. That is where we store the sails. It is just one black carbon fibre space-ship like area, with no light. And where sound from the deck (grinding winches) and waves hitting the hull, are amplified...

A big black whole of nothingness. But exciting, by itself, as it give you the sound, touch and feel of just mere raw optimization for.... speed.

There are no beds on this boat.
Below decks, there are three main compartments:
In the middle, as climb down from the deck, you have the space you saw in previous pictures: the cooking platform, our hooks for safety jackets, 2x two bunks, food grab bags, access to engine and kanting keel.
Forward is an empty compartment with "the throne" (substitute for a toilet) and sail stowing area.

Aft is a space with 2x 4 bunks (4 on each side), and in the middle, the navigation desk, and aft of that, the "media" desk. Both desks' seats are on one side: a two person swing, which keeps you horizontal somehow.
So, in the aft compartment there are 8 bunks and 4 bunks in the central area. The bunks are a bare-bone frame of carbon with a woven mat. The angle of the frames is adjustable, so, if you sleep windward, you can adjust a rope, fixed to the ceiling to basically tilt your bunk 30-40°, avoiding you to fall out and hurting yourself.
The 2x 2 bunks in the central area, are slightly higher from the bottom, so they also have straps, as in that space, you need to strap yourself in as you would get really hurt if you fall off your bunk when we tack or gybe, or when an awkward wave would hit us.

Below each bunch set, is an area you can store your personal bag. But as there are no compartments in the stowage area, all bags are on top of each other. So as each crew grabs their bag, to get their stuff, your own bag keeps on moving within the stowage area.
As we are 17 crew with only 12 bunks, we are "hot bunking" (sharing the same bunks): no-one has a dedicated bunk. When you come off watch, you look for a free bunk, and climb into it. That by itself is a bit of an adventure as the boat is often healing 30° to 35°. So if your free bunk is the upper one, you step on the side of the storage area, step on the side of the lower bunk (where someone is already sleeping in, trying not to hit or step on them), heave yourself into your bunk, adjust the angle of the bunk with a rope, and hope for the best. After your rest, you take all of your personal belongings, and clear the bunk.

As an interesting note: this boat does not have a "flat floor" or floor boards. The bottom - which you use to move around - is the actual hull, and is slanted. And it gets wet. So moving around forward and aft, below decks, is an "art" to hold your footing, trying not to twist your ankle, keep your footing, holding on with your arms to whatever you can hold on to...

We run on 3 hours on-shift and 6 hours off-shift. But when we do maneuvers (tack, gybe, hoist or drop sails), we needed to have all hands on decks. So you never know, in your "off" period when you will be called on deck. And normally we only get a 5 minute warning before any "hands-on-deck"... This might be during the day or in the middle of the night. So it can be quite a scramble to get ready.
Many times, when I knew manoeuvres were coming up (as in this regatta, we were sailing inbetween islands and course markers, I could estimate how long it would take until we reached the next manoeuvre), I just did not undress nor did I even take off my safety jacket during a rest period. I just grabbed my sleeping bag compressed into a tight bag, from my personal storage bag, which I used as a pillow cushion, and tried to rest. I never "slept" during our 3 days regatta. I kinda dozed off a bit, as a "all hands on deck" call could come any minute.

The compartments, where the bunks are, apart from a very faint red light, are completely dark. Dark during the day, darker-er at night. Apart from using our red-light head torches, no other light can be used. So sometimes it is a bit of a challenge to find your own storage bag in the stowage compartment, and go through your stuff, at night... I was looking for my spare socks in my bag, one night, as mine were soaked when our bow took a nose-dive. But I never found them in my bag...

The central area bunks were the least popular to sleep in, as this was also the space where crew came down from deck and went up, prepared their freeze-dried food, dressed and undressed, so loads of red light torches, people talking, bumping into your bunk etc... It was also the area which was used to push sails up on deck, and drop sails down below. So "a lot of activity"...

Note to be made: as our below-decks was pretty hollow, and housed in a carbon fibre hull, it acted as a sound-amplifier, a boom-box. Every trim, or sound made from the deck got amplified below decks. But it did not bother me, the sounds belowdecks were less than on the catamaran we sailed across the Atlantic 2 months ago!


Post a Comment

To avoid spamming and profanity, comments will only show up after I (manually) clear them.

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Kind people supporting The Road to the Horizon:
Find out how you can sponsor The Road

  © Blogger template The Business Templates by 2008

Back to TOP