By Dave Hudson
As boat after boat crosses the finishing line between the little islands of Ilha do Pai and Ilha da Mae, with the monolithic Sugarloaf in the background, there’s a common thread that runs through the powerful emotions so palpable amongst the crews on board.
It’s an overwhelming sense of triumph. We did it. We crossed the ocean. We survived the dangers. We dealt with the problems. We’ve experienced something few people on the planet can even imagine. We’ve sailed4good. We’ve risen far above the pettiness of everyday life. And we did it together.
And then once ashore, the war stories.
Stories of coincidence. After two weeks of not seeing another boat, a mid-ocean middle-of-the night port-starboard cross, a few boat lengths apart. Carefully negotiated by VHF. It happened.
Stories of hardship. A newly fitted alternator fails early in the race. The back-up alternator fails. No way of using the water-maker, so strict water rations. No longer any instruments. So no option but to sail the rest of this high-tech race in very low-tech mode. And they did. It happened.
Stories of leadership. Guys, we’re all exhausted. We’re not cutting it. We are going to take down our sails, all sleep for two hours, wake up refreshed, and then grab this race by the throat. And they did. It happened.
Stories of fear. We’ve listened to the advisory. Our first experience of a sub-tropical cyclone. The wind builds. The sea builds. We’re down to two reefs and a No 5 headsail. The seas get steeper. We get rid of the main. Don’t think we’ll have enough control with the storm jib, so stay with the No 5. Seas get even steeper. Struggling to keep control. Helmsman double harnessed, everyone else down below. Having to steer deep to avoid broaching. Being forced even further south than we want.
Face real fear once, and you’ll understand it forever. Is this little boat really going to make it? It did. They did. It happened.
Stories of the cerebral. This race wasn’t what we expected. Not what the brochure promised. It wasn’t a nice easy mainly-down-wind ride to Rio. It was far more interesting. A much more complex set of weather systems. As a life-long navigator, something I could really get my teeth into. I loved the difficulty of it. I’m doing the next one. It happened.
The Cape-to-Rio. So very much more than a sail-boat race.