Packing for the trip

September 21, 1997|By Ellen Gamerman

The lighter the boat, the faster it is. Given this basic fact, the crew can bring only the essentials. Sometimes, even the basics are too heavy.

* Each team member can take only the clothes that fit into a two-gallon, zipper-lock bag. This includes two pairs of thermal underwear, one fleece pullover, one pair of thermal socks, one pair of light socks, one T-shirt and one collared shirt.

* In the heat at the Equator, the crew will wear shorts with padded seats for sitting long stretches. Large bottles of high-octane sunscreen are a must.

* In the icy Southern Ocean, the team will pile on every layer of clothing available, including their spray overalls, jacket, sailing boots, neoprene hood and Kevlar-reinforced, neoprene gloves.

* The crew can bring two pairs of socks each, but no underwear for as long as 30 days at sea. Instead, they each will bring one Speedo bathing suit, which they will wear under their clothes.

* They each can bring a toothbrush if they cut the handles off. One tube of toothpaste - "crew paste" - is allowed on the boat. There is no shower or hot water.

* Each crew member must be equipped with a survival suit. The suit, a high-tech, double-layer dry suit with a face shield and a hood, can keep a crew member alive for up to 31 hours in the Southern Ocean. Without a survival suit, a crew member could die in less than an hour. Attached to the shoulder is a personal EPIRB - a radio device that can send a signal to aircraft to locate a sailor thrown overboard.

* Crew members are not allowed to bring personal belongings, with the exception of a small picture or good-luck token.

* Books are not allowed. Crew members who are desperate for something to read can pick up a first-aid manual or the engineering guide, which must be on the boat anyway.

* Each crew member can eat 32 ounces of freeze-dried food and protein shakes per day - about 4,500 calories. Salt and pepper are allowed on the boat in limited doses. Alcohol and cigarettes are forbidden.

The daily grind

All hands are on deck during race starts and finishes, in extreme weather conditions and in the event of a mechanical breakdown. When the boat is surrounded by competitors, more crew also are asked to leave the off watch and help get the boat moving as fast as possible.

Normally, however, the 12-man crew works four hours on, four off and four on standby.

A half hour before each watch, a crew member wakes his off-watch teammates. Most of the time, when they are not working, they are sleeping. They change into their gear and take 20 minutes to fix and eat a freeze-dried meal.

As the watches change, the crew can use this time to perform tasks - such as sail changes - that require the manpower of 12 men instead of six. The new watch gets a brief update on weather conditions, race position and course changes.

Before and after every watch, the crew checks to make sure the boat is not dragging any seaweed from its rudder. Any drag can slow the vessel.

There is no eating or relaxing during an on-watch period. The crew trains to perform every maneuver with six people - the number of sailors on deck for a typical watch - but for difficult tasks such as jibing in heavy wind, sometimes the crew will call the skipper and navigator above deck to lend a hand.

When their watch is over, crew members go below deck to eat. With only six bowls and 12 men on board, they take the bowls just used by the oncoming watch. The off-watch crew has four hours to eat, bail water from the bilges, fix broken deck gear, pack sails and keep the boat dry. When these tasks are completed, they crawl into sleeping bags (often wet, just abandoned by the off watch) and try to get some rest.

Throughout the journey, the crew is adjusting the clocks to adapt gradually to the time changes as they move east. When the time changes, they try to adjust the schedule so that the resting crew gets an extra hour of sleep.

Pub Date: 9/21/97

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