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First arrivals… and a new office look

It’s the middle of November and it’s 30 degrees outside which can only mean one thing – the VELUX 5 OCEANS team have decamped to the Southern Hemisphere! We’re now fully set up in Cape Town, South Africa, awaiting the arrival of the skippers after a month alone at sea. Brad won the 7,400-mile leg on Saturday after a painful approach to the finish line which saw him totally becalmed, sails flapping, about eight nautical miles out. A few of us went out on a chase boat to welcome Brad in and found him slumped over a winch, fists pounding the deck, wailing “Life’s not fair!”

Brad flapping around off Cape Town

After all that time at sea with no company, no decent food, no shower, no change of clothes, it’s no wonder Brad was frustrated. Thankfully the wind finally filled in and at 5.51pm local time he crossed the line to claim the victory. Today we’re gearing up for Gutek’s arrival. It’s looking likely to be a night-time arrival which could make for some brilliant pictures with Cape Town lit up in the background.

Anyway, in other news we’ve got a new look in the VELUX 5 OCEANS offices – the moustache is back. The reason for the very dodgy 1970s porn king look is not just for fun, although I’m sure you will all agree we look pretty damn good. This month is not November, it’s actually Mo-vember, the month of the moustache. All around the world men grow their ‘taches to raise awareness of and funds for prostate and testicular cancer. Of course it’s also look stupidly cool too without too much come-back. Let’s face it guys, we’ve all wanted to grow a moustache but never been allowed. Now is that time! Check out these pics of the team…

Me hard at work, moustache on show

So the rules are simple: start Movember 1st clean-shaven and then grow a moustache for the entire month. There is a serious side to Movember though, and the moustache becomes the ribbon for men’s health. Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men, so we’re doing our bit to raise much needed funds for the Prostate Cancer Charity. So, if you want to donate to Movember go to www.movember.co.uk or www.prostate-cancer.org.uk.

Crisis planning! Calling Brad with communications director Tim Kelly

All for now!

Will

PS. Yet again I promise to write more often… sorry!

PPS. Thanks to the amazing photographic talents of Anna-Helene Kirk and Ainhoa Sanchez for the pics

Home sweet home?

What a difference a few days make. This time last week I was just gearing up to leave La Rochelle and fight our way through the blockades, strikes, petrol shortages, burning mounds of car tyres and all the other French pastimes. Here I am now sat on my couch at home with my slippers on, watching the rain pour down like stair rods and the wind whip through the trees. It’s grey, it’s dark and it’s the middle of the morning. It’s England in the winter. Sometimes, the life of a writer is far from glamorous…

That said, in a fortnight’s time I’ll be touching down in Cape Town for the next stage of the adventure. I’m looking forward to a few ‘braais’ (barbeques) in the sun. It’s a not too shabby 25 degrees out there at the moment which will be just the ticket to get over the clocks going back another hour in England. Nothing like a bit of winter sun to perk everything up!

Before the Cape Town stop begins though I’ve got a million and one things (and I do not exaggerate… much…) to do. The boats and their brave skippers are still ploughing south, about to hit the dreaded Doldrums. That means content aplenty from all of the skippers which keeps me on my toes. Well, keeps me on my couch anyway.

One of the coolest things about this race is the way fans can follow all the action from onboard the boats and get a real feel for what these guys are going through. Videos, photos, phone calls, written blogs – you name it, they’re providing it. Head over to www.velux5oceans.com to check out the latest action.

Guess who’s back… back again…

Before we get started I must apologise to everyone for failing spectacularly to write anything blog-related in the past three weeks. Official VELUX 5 OCEANS content has been flying out of my fingers at a rate of knots (yes, I will unashamedly elbow in any nautical reference I can) which has left little time for blogging. This, of course, is no excuse. I am guilty of first rate blog neglect, and for that I am sorry.

Anyway, the good news is that I’m back! I swear I just heard a global sigh of relief… I got back to England’s green and pleasant land last night after four solid weeks in La Rochelle. We nearly didn’t make it home thanks to the protestors in France who made it nigh on impossible to get fuel and then when we got to Cherbourg we found all 10,000 of them heading directly to the ferry port… But it all turned out ok in the end and here I am typing on my couch at home.

It’s amazing how when you are abroad for a long time you forget that England in the winter is actually freezing cold. I’m still in La Rochelle mode – big mistake. When it’s only one degree outside, shorts and sandals are a bad move, trust me. Brrrr!

It’s a far cry from the amazing weather we had in France. It only rained a few times over the whole month, and was mostly sunny and warm. In fact, we couldn’t have asked for a better start to the VELUX 5 OCEANS. As soon as the race village opened thousands of people stopped by to have a look round, admire the boats on the pontoons and chat to the skippers about their mammoth challenge ahead. The skippers themselves were brilliant too – not one of them was ever too busy to talk to an interested visitor. They were repaid with a fantastic send off from La Rochelle under clear blue skies and with more than 400 spectator boats including the magnificent Belem on the water to wave them farewell.

It was an emotional occasion to have been part of, more so than any other yacht race start I have been to. And right there is the whole point about the VELUX 5 OCEANS. The guys who are taking part in this race are not sailing rock stars with millions of euros of sponsorship, brand new boats and a huge shore crew. They are just normal people wanting to do something extraordinary. Just like the original circumnavigators or the 27 yachtsman who lined up in 1982 for the first edition of this race, people connect with the skippers because they are simply following their dreams. And that, dear readers, is the spirit of the VELUX 5 OCEANS.

The coolest rugby shirt in the world… ever?

The design of rugby shirts has, in my humble opinion, travelled a rocky road over the past few decades. The days of massive collars and long sleeves are long gone (however trendy ‘retro’ is supposed to be). Then a few years ago supporters all round the world were left reeling by the decision to make their favourite teams’ shirts totally skin tight. Great if you are a 6ft pro sportsman, muscles bursting at the seams. Not so great if you are a slightly porky armchair fan, literally bursting at the seams.

Then there’s the colour schemes. Whoever decided England should play the world’s muddiest sport in white was clearly crazy. Not as crazy though as the one who thought Stade Francais, leaders of French rugby, those manliest of men, should play in bright pink. Then, this shirt came along.

Sir Robin scrums down with the Atlantique Stade Rochelais front row

Sir Robin scrums down with the Atlantique Stade Rochelais front row

Yep, rugby and sailing combined on one garment. Atlantique Stade Rochelais, La Rochelle’s top rugby club, got the shirts made up in partnership with the VELUX 5 OCEANS for their Amlin Challenge Cup campaign. Call me biased, but that is one cool shirt.

PS. Worry not, Sir Robin is not really a front rower. His position of choice is flanker…

When it’s raining it’s raining

They say it never rains but it pours. Well, that’s certainly true in La Rochelle at the moment. Torrential is not the word. I have seen more luminous yellow jacket hoods today than I have in all my time racing yachts offshore. I went to leave the Mercure Hotel this afternoon and promptly turned back round as I was greeted by this:

Rainy La Rochelle

Of course, a little bit of rain doesn’t mean that life stops for the VELUX 5 OCEANS media team. It seems our room has become the place to hang out today. Although they are about to take on some of the worst weather conditions in the world, the skippers don’t seem too fond of getting a bit of practice in the elements today and have taken solace in our office. A very excitable Brad Van Liew has just spent an hour browsing Youtube trying to find a song to sail out of La Rochelle to. Needless to say most suggestions were brash, loud and utterly fitting.

The guys I feel most sorry for today are the boys from Marine Camera Solutions. They’re fitting state-of-the-art camera systems to all the boats and keep returning to the hotel looking like they’ve just done several lengths of a swimming pool fully clothed.

For once, I am quite content holed up at my desk…

Nous sommes arrive

Well, we’re here, La Rochelle, home of the VELUX 5 OCEANS. Actually, we got here Thursday afternoon, but we pretty much hit the ground running and it’s taken me until now to find the time to scribble some thoughts.

The ferry and drive down to La Rochelle were pretty standard. French roads really do make you appreciate how congested English ones are. Anyway, we arrived in La Rochelle around 4pm and in true media style went straight to the Mercure Hotel, where the press office is based, and set to work. By 7pm we were flagging so we headed to our apartments – and what an apartment it is. Right on the Quai Duperré, three floors up, with a stunning view over the Vieux Port and the city’s famous towers. I reckon I am going to be alright living here for the next month…

Since then, it’s all been kicking off – Brad arrived around the same time as us on Thursday and Derek was in really early in the morning on Sunday. Must remind skippers to be more considerate with their arrival times! The other skippers are en route and soon there will be a full compliment in the Bassin des Chalutiers (a chalutier is a trawler by the way – every day’s a school day).

That’s it from me for now, some of us have work to do.

The view from our apartment

Time flies when you’re having fun…

Blimey, where does the time go eh? I’m pretty sure it was only yesterday (ok, it was two and a half weeks ago… Note to self: write more blogs) that I was writing about only having three weeks to go before upping sticks to La Rochelle. Well, three weeks have disappeared in a flash and now I find myself completely unorganised, faced with the prospect of exporting my life across the English Channel on Thursday. Thursday! That’s in, like, five days’ time! It’s almost like it’s come as a shock. Of course, I’ve known about this date for the best part of six months, but it’s safe to say beyond deciding in my head what suitcase I am going to take (easy – the one all the race team got given) and how many pairs of shorts I’ll need (again, easy – one) I have done very little by way of preparation.

Before we get too far into this, I had to admit I’m still lying in bed. Well, more propped up against the bedroom wall, but I haven’t fully made it to a respectable state of dress. It’s Saturday morning, you see, and my last Saturday with my girlfriend, and Saturday Kitchen (a cooking show, for those not in the UK) is on the television. It’s not my usual location for working, but this morning we’re having a lazy one. Happy times. Actually, I have a bit of an ulterior motive for my laziness – I’m putting off packing. Basically, I have done no preparation for this trip whatsoever. Despite being 27 and fairly responsible these days, I am being particularly slack. I feel like I’m some school kid putting off a particularly nasty bit of maths homework. Even now, I have chosen to type this blog rather than get up, face the world and drag clothes from my wardrobe into my permanently open travelling bag.

These last couple of weeks have been increasingly hectic. Our skippers have either set out on their qualifiers (or are in the final stages of prep) or are dodging Atlantic Ocean hurricanes en route to La Rochelle as I type (rather you than me, Brad and Derek). The race itself has teamed up with PredictWind (weather forecasting) and Medical Support Offshore (expert doctors) and we’ve taken a good look at the new home of the VELUX 5 OCEANS, and the new home, albeit temporarily, of one Will Carson, La Rochelle.

But of course the highlight of the fortnight was the premiere of Charlie St Cloud in London’s Leicester Square. The film features the VELUX 5 OCEANS as the yacht race the heroine Tess is due to compete in. On Monday a few very important and influential (ahem…) media team members went to an advanced screening of the film in Leicester Square ahead of the premiere on Thursday. So, we saw the film before anyone else, including the VIP celebrity types at the premiere. In my book that makes us very important and influential – have I already mentioned that? In the cinema we sat not far from television presenter Miquita Oliver – rock and roll! The film is great for the VELUX 5 OCEANS – we get a name check and the yacht in the film is covered in our logos. I’m told that in the world of corporate sponsorship our 15 minutes of fame is worth about £10 trillion. Ok, maybe not that much, but it’s a lot.

Having already seen the film once already, and not wanting to steal the limelight from leading man Zac Efron, I gave the actual premiere a miss. Too important and influential, you see. I left that to our press officer Sarah who along with our PR team did a great job getting a gaggle of beautiful (and VELUX 5 OCEANS branded) girls all sporting ‘I love Zac’ t-shirts to the front of the scrum of screaming fans. By all accounts it was a great night, especially for getting the race some grade A exposure in front of the world’s cameras.

And so now there’s just a few working days left until we jump on the fastcat to Cherbourg. There’s still plenty more news to come from us this week, although I can’t guarantee any Hollywood stars this time round. Anyway, it’s probably time for me to go. I have a game of rugby to play this afternoon and lots to do before then. Lots to do, but packing can wait…

We are Sparta!

So here she is in all her glory – Chris Stanmore-Major’s Eco 60 Spartan fresh from the shed looking really very lovely. In just under a month Chris and his team have transformed Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s Saga Insurance into this beauty. Getting her out of the shed and into the water is a really big milestone for Chris and his gang – it’s one step closer to getting to the VELUX 5 OCEANS start line on October 17.

The boat’s transom is the Union flag and the hull carries the number 300 in reference to its historical name – both nice touches!

Check out more pics below – and there’s also a little video of Chris talking about the launch.

Three weeks to go!

Today marks a a bit of a landmark in the countdown to the VELUX 5 OCEANS for all those behind the scenes. Exactly three weeks today the media team will be packing up, jumping on a cross-Channel ferry and heading to La Rochelle to set up camp for the next four weeks. It’s an exciting time – you can only spend so much time planning and preparing before you just have to get on with things. It’s also a fairly daunting prospect given the amount of work we all have to do before we go. My poor old laptop keyboard is taking a real bashing at the moment, trying to get everything sorted in time for our various deadlines. Of course, a lot can be done in three weeks but it will be a serious case of heads down.

Once in La Rochelle the race management team have sorted us out with some great apartments overlooking the Bassin des Chalutiers where the VELUX 5 OCEANS race village is going to be. I’m really looking forward to the buzz that there will be around the race village with so much going on. Anyone who can make it down to La Rochelle between October 10 and the race start on October 17 will not be disappointed.

I’m off to the launch of Brit skipper Chris Stanmore-Major’s newly refurbished Eco 60 Spartan in Gosport this afternoon. I’m promised very good things from all who have seen it – apparently it looks amazing. I’ll post pics and video when I get back so you can all judge for yourselves.

Anyway, while I am writing this I am not writing the million and one other things I have to do! Back to the grindstone…

Welcome to Will’s World!

Do you want all the juicy gossip and inside information from behind the scenes of the VELUX 5 OCEANS? Then you’ve come to right place. Over the next nine months, through this blog, I’ll be bringing to you the inside scoop on all things VELUX 5 OCEANS as we travel around the world on the Ultimate Solo Challenge. Stay tuned folks!

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