Ex-racer gives a view of the Volvo as boats near the bay

ON THE WATER

April 09, 2006|By ANNIE LINSKEY

A week from today, the Volvo Ocean race boats will sail (or drift) up the Chesapeake Bay. The boats will dock at Baltimore's Inner Harbor and -- if this stopover is anything like the others -- the water-weary sailors will be doused with champagne and embraced by family and fans.

They'll be completing a 5,000-mile leg from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We spoke with former Volvo ocean racer Chris B. Larson to get a feel for how the sailors -- who've been racing since November -- are doing at this point in the race.

Larson, 39, was a tactician aboard Assa Abloy for six of the nine legs of the last race. He lives in Annapolis and works as a professional sailor.

Tell me about the living conditions on the boat.

One of the most important speed-producing factors which you can control is the amount of personal items, food and weight you bring on the boat.

The boats are the same, so anywhere else you can cut weight, it in theory turns into speed through the water.

So, what is it like?

You bring on [the boat] gear which is designed for that leg. Two days before every start, we got a list of the clothing we could bring on the boat. A jacket, a shirt. There is no storage. The boats are wet. Two people share one bag.

Wow.

When you tack or jibe, not only do you move the sails, you move all of the hull interior. Every time you tack or jibe the boat, you look down the centerline and there is nothing there. Everything has been designed so it can be placed as far out the rail as possible.

It can take 30 to 45 minutes ... to have all of the stuff and sails moved.

Tell me about the intensity of the sailing.

On the Volvo you push as hard 24/7 as you do in a two-hour windward leeward [race].

You are sailing at an incredibly high level and pushing hard all of the time.

At this point in the race, how did you feel about the boat?

It is always a love-hate relationship. ... When it is cold and raining and you can't feel your fingers [Larson said he will be helping the Ericsson boat for the in-port race.]

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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