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Changing States: Fresh Tracks and Clarity in the Mountains

I wake up in the darkness. The sun has not yet risen and the world is almost silent. I hear the fire crackling as the smell of coffee drifts up to the loft where I’ve been sleeping. I climb down the ladder to greet the new day, trading in my sea legs for ski legs. Grabbing a cup of coffee and my big Patagonia puffy down jacket, I head outside to breathe in the fresh mountain air. I Inhale. I exhale. I close my eyes.

Step, breath. Step, breath. Step, breath. Five women stepping in sync with our guide, silence beyond the crunching of the snow underfoot. The pace is brisk; beads of sweat are starting to form under my beanie. I’m breathing hard and my mind is focused. It’s a magnificent winter wonderland out here. The mountains surround me, and I get a similar feeling to when I am on a boat offshore with only blue water and the horizon as far as the eye can see. I try to remind myself to lift my head, look around and take in the scenery as we head towards the summit of McMillan, about 12,805 ft, our goal for today.

The past two days have been a buildup to the big climb, with some serious class time, field work, safety lessons… but not devoid of entertainment, laughter and heartfelt moments. Our guide, Karen Bockel, an AMGA Certified Rock and Certified Ski Guide—also described as an “Extraordinary Baddass”—expressed her love of manual labor in the form of chopping wood and digging snow pits, always with that big grin on her face. Her love for the mountains came through with everything she said and did, and her energy set the tone for the rest of us.

Our skin-applying capabilities improved with each day, as did our confidence in skiing variable terrain. One of the most memorable was a tree run: my right ski popped off in the second turn. I wiped out, and luckily a tree caught my runaway ski before it could disappear until spring. I was laughing and decided it was the perfect time to test my slalom abilities. I mean, I’ve done it on water, how hard could it be on snow? It was wobbly and not super-chic, but I made it to Karen with my ski and continued on for the day. Over the next couple days we would ski various snow pack and on one incredible pitch the Chicks tagged the Red Mountain Pass with some fresh tracks.

Each evening when we got back to the hut, the chores would be tackled before everyone settled in for the night. This included chopping wood and collecting snow to be melted for water. One night I went out with Dara and the sled in tow to help gather snow. On the way back to the cabin I had a misstep and went tumbling over! It looked like I had just finished a pitcher of beer (or two) and was stumbling back from the pub! I heard laughter from the deck of the cabin as my theatrics were seen by most of the crew and we all had a good laugh, myself included. We brought the snow in to be melted and boiled for drinking water, shoveling snow from the bag into the big pot sitting on top the wood-fired stove. Each evening, fresh stack of firewood is laid next to the stove, skins are hung and boots laid out to dry. We all gather around Karen for a lecture on avalanche safety and to discuss the plan and goals for the next day. As dinner is prepared, the smell of curry permeates throughout the hut as we gather around the stove to share a meal and stories into the night. The topics range from travel adventures, work, family and near death experiences.

The self-confidence, the satisfaction of overcoming challenges and sense of camaraderie that come out of situations like this are unprecedented. It is because of groups and communities like Chicks With Picks that so many women fine safety, comfort, fulfillment in the outdoors and a connection with the mountains and mother nature.

Inhale. Exhale. Staring out at the mountains, breathing in the cool mountain air, recapping the past few days I think about my own story and how we all have our own stories to tell. No matter how vastly different the life stories are for the women out here, they have led each one of us here. We were all driven to this moment, stepping in sync, facing the same challenges. We are all here for different reasons, we will all walk away with different lessons, yet we will remain connected through shared experiences.

Inhale. Exhale. I close my eyes. I realize that i’ve never truly owned my own story. There’s always been an underlying feeling of embarrassment, insecurity, shame and self-doubt. The visions come back. I wake up in the darkness. I am in the water, helpless, I can’t move my body. A man picks me up from under my shoulders setting me on the boat, darkness surrounds me as he silently walks away. February 14th, while many are focused on what flowers they are going to get or planning dates with their loved ones, this is the vision that plays over in my mind. That is the only memory I have of the day that I was drugged, raped, badly bruised and nearly drowned eight years ago. I was halfway around the world, away from any family and close friends, while working on my first adventure story. This story would begin my career as an adventure photographer and ultimately define my path and how I see things today.

After my physical wounds healed and I had some time to process everything, I realized I had two choices: go back home or continue on with the story. I decided to continue, hopped onboard a 30ft catamaran with two other crew and crossed the Atlantic Ocean. I had never sailed or been offshore before. I got my ass kicked many times, I was sea sick, I was scared, I was humbled and I was mesmerized. Throughout that two-month journey, with many nights alone with my thoughts on watch and many miles after that, I was able to transition my thoughts and energy from “Why did that happen to me?” to “Wow, I’m so lucky and grateful to be alive.” I went from being angry, emotional, lost and sad to forgiving, thankful, faith-filled, passionate and resilient. It was through experiencing the fury, the calm, the beauty and the mystery of the ocean that changed my perspective, saved me and ultimately brought me home (mentally and physically). I am forever and always will be connected with her. I was able to pull my focus from what had happened and pour it into the challenges I was facing at sea.

Inhale. Exhale. I open my eyes. Tears roll down my cheek as if they are memories trying to sneak out. I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to be where I am, to be taking in this beautiful scenery and grateful to be alive. For some reason, in this simple moment, surrounded by the beautiful landscape, solitude and comfort of new friends, amidst new challenges, I finally accept it. I feel this overwhelming sense of peace. I finally accept my story and love for myself. I look out upon the mountains and the weight lifts and my restless spirit calms. I know I am where I belong. As my tears make their final descent into the purity of snow beneath me, my head is clear and my heart is full.

By the Light of the Foiling Moon – Part II


The best watches were typically sitting on 14-22 knots. Shannon would perch up at the helm with various gourmet snacks, euro-techno blaring, and hitting speeds at up to 25 knots. A two time winner of the America’s Cup, he has an almost incessant need to push.  We all had tremendous confidence in his ability to multi-task while foiling at 25 knots, even in the dark.

The most challenging night was beam-on seas and breeze with gusts into the 30’s. We sailed with two reefs in the main and a reefed solent. The G4 handled brilliantly, albeit a bit wet. When cells of breeze rolled through, we’d simply bear off 20-30 degrees and let her unleash into the high teens. It was a wet and somewhat rough evening.

By the end of the passage, we all felt calm and at home sitting on speeds in the high teens.  Eating, sleeping, walking around at this speed became normal.  We had two days where we clocked between 350 and 400 miles – in cruising mode.  “These are seriously big numbers,” Peter said to me.  “This really may be the ultimate coastal cruiser for the performance set, easily sailed by 1-2 people.”

Delievery of Gunboat G4 Timbalero from St. Maarten to Wanchese, NC

Delievery of Gunboat G4 Timbalero from St. Maarten to Wanchese, NC

“There’s an inherent thing about speed and adrenaline and when you add it into an uncontrollable environment like the ocean, says Shannon. “All that foiling does is make you want to go sailing! Life has gotten so fast paced that people want to go cruising at 5 knots, but to have the option to up the ante to 25 on the G4 is something special.”

Peter is, as usual, full of vision. “The goal has always been to develop a coastal cruiser/racer that people like us, who get their performance fix from multihulls, kiteboards, racing yachts, or other waterborne activities, can handle with our families,” he told me.  “We wanted Formula 40 speed with shorthanding ability, and during the development process, it became clear that foiling and flying would definitely be possible and an added benefit for our target audience. With hindsight, the foiling is absolutely brilliant.”

Peter said that the G4 can be pushed so much harder than any forty-foot performance cat, and the numbers bear it out: A F40 would top out at 23 knots, the original AC45 would top out at 27 knots, and beyond that, a pitchpole.  The G4 has already been over 31 knots, and has plenty more to offer in speed. In summary, the foils take the G4 concept to a another level.

Delievery of Gunboat G4 Timbalero from St. Maarten to Wanchese, NC

Delievery of Gunboat G4 Timbalero from St. Maarten to Wanchese, NC

Shannon thought the concept worked best in the sense that you have something that can smoke so many things on a performance level yet you can really cruise it.  “For me this is a weekend sailor, but it opens up your range for that weekend with the miles that it can eat up,” he said. “Like the original Gunboat, the G4 opens up a new door to how cruising can be perceived.”

“It’s not just about the boat, it’s about the concept of foiling in general, explains Shannon. “When people experience it, you don’t have to convince them of anything.”  As a guy with a big family and hundreds of young local island fans, he’s clearly excited about what it means for the future.  He preached to me: “Everything that’s happening in our sport will make it more accessible, kids will have more fun sailing than opti-training, and sailors who appreciate progression will rekindle their passion for sailing. People who have sailed their whole life will be blown away by it and people who have never sailed before will say ‘holy shit why has it taken so long?!’”

I’ve said “Holy Shit!” numerous times over the past couple of months – from going bow down into a wave while foiling on a GC32, nearly getting sliced in half by Moths while shooting under water, and helming a foiling cat offshore, and I hope I never have to stop saying it.  And with the wave of exciting developments in innovation and design – and in how those innovations are being shared with the young people who are the future of the sport by folks embracing and nurturing their passions – It’s hard not to be excited.



By the Light of the Foiling Moon – Part I

Delievery of Gunboat G4 Timbalero from St. Maarten to Wanchese, NC

Delievery of Gunboat G4 Timbalero from St. Maarten to Wanchese, NC

The moon is out, the wind is blowing through my hair, and I am embracing the moment with a healthy dose of anxiety while an ever-present voice in my head tells me ‘Relax – it’ll be fine’.

I am about to take the helm of the Gunboat G4 Timbalero for the first time, and my nerves are getting the best of me.  But on a perfect evening with maybe the perfect foiling catamaran watch mate – silky-voiced 2010 and 2013 America’s Cup winner Shannon Falcone – and it’s time for me to give it a go, and to give him a long-deserved break from the helm.  The gentle giant gave me the coaxing I needed for my anxiety to clear, and I settled in with the tiller, only for Shannon to smirk and say, “I believe you are the first women in the history of the world to helm a foiler offshore.” I let that sink in a bit.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever been ‘world first’ at anything, but I think I like it.

Most of us have a healthy dose of fear, anxiety, and emotions before leaving for an offshore passage. “That feeling pushes me to learn as much as I need to really know about the weather, the boat, and the passage preparations,” said Gunboat founder Peter Johnstone, our skipper for the trip.  “Leaving St Maarten and setting sail for North Carolina was an emotional moment; here we are sailing offshore on a direct, open-water route to North Carolina on a boat that many fear,” said Peter, and he was right.  A 1300 NM passage in what amounts to an open boat with virtually no creature comforts.  None of us could recollect any sort of similar passage in such a high-performance multihull.   “More than anything, I was very, very excited,” he said.

Delievery of Gunboat G4 Timbalero from St. Maarten to Wanchese, NC

Delievery of Gunboat G4 Timbalero from St. Maarten to Wanchese, NC

Peter’s word for this voyage was ‘glamping’, or glamourous camping, and we struggled to find the ‘glam’ part.  “Maybe if the stove or toilet worked,” said Shannon.  We were able to graze at will rather than dine, and we had to refresh our bucket etiquette.  With the pressure water system one of the casualties of the tip in St. Barts, there were no showers and washing was limited to the bottled water we brought aboard.  “The most challenging thing about this trip was doing it without wet wipes,” said Shannon.

We spent the first afternoon cautiously sailing the boat well throttled back, and getting everyone oriented aboard. As the day went on, we all felt much more at ease, and the speeds started to build as we gained confidence in her offshore open water capabilities. By sunset, the G4 was moving along mostly in skim mode, with occasional full flight on her foils.

Delievery of Gunboat G4 Timbalero from St. Maarten to Wanchese, NC

Delievery of Gunboat G4 Timbalero from St. Maarten to Wanchese, NC

West Coast to East Coast – A Flurry of Activity!

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A Quest Called Tribe – Gunboat 55 Toccata

I hear the buzz next to my head, my alarm waking me up to make sure I don’t miss sunrise.  I roll over to my side, peaking out the porthole – thankfully, it’s still dark.  I hit snooze, and this way-too-comfortable bed keeps rocking me back to sleep, rather than tossing me out of my bunk. More sleep…

Buzzzzzzz! It’s 20 minutes later, and I see light starting to tickle the water with reflections.  Now I’m excited to get up, and even more excited when I realize I don’t have to suit up in foul weather gear to go out on the deck to “use the head!”

I peel myself out of bed and walk up the steps to make a cup of coffee, and rather than hunkering down in a deep galley looking at a gimballed cooker, I feel like I’m walking into the cozy family room of a modern Manhattan apartment with the best 360 degree-view of the ocean in the city.  But it isn’t, of course – it’s a Gunboat, and we’re motoring along, waiting for the slightest zephyr of breeze to let us get the sails up.

The hectic day before was a bit of a blur, as pre-delivery days with a narrow weather window usually are.  I helped with the extensive job of finishing up provisioning and making sure everything was loaded on the boat as quickly as possible, and seeing the food that was being passed onboard, I realized it was going to be a far cry from my racing yacht days of one-pot meals and freeze-dried hell.

“There’s a serious flood of emotions right now,” said Carolyn Groobey, proud co-owners of Toccata.. “We’ve been anticipating this day for so many years, so my heart was pounding like I’d just won the prize I’ve been striving for.” At the same time, there was some heaviness. “This was a goodbye for a while to our families, dogs, and the Gunboat family for a while.”

Within hours of arriving in North Carolina I heard the phrase “Gunboat Family” and “Tribe” more then a handful of times, especially when listening to Chris Bailet recount the reaction after the loss of the boat he was delivering, Rainmaker. “We had no idea what was going on back on shore,” said Chris.  Apparently the coast guard was in touch with Lauren and that started the ball rolling, and the entire Gunboat staff was working angles for both getting us home and readying a salvage mission. “I was only able to get one call out to Peter. It was chopped up and cut out halfway through the conversation. But it was enough to let him know the situation, and enough to get people moving.”  Johnstone had calls on from Florida to Annapolis, people were ringing their cousins’ second uncle with a Commercial shrimp boat in Charlestown to get out there. By the time we landed, the Gunboat team was at Dare County Airport, open arms and hot pizza, with a meeting scheduled for a full review and salvage operation. “This level of camaraderie and support – it’s just not something you feel with any other boat company, said Chris.  “Ask any of the crew or owners on any Gunboat – it’s a family. Or as Peter so appropriately put it before, a TRIBE” [PJ’s first Gunboat – the boat that inspired the Gunboat line – is called Tribe -ed].

Having only met them the night before, I didn’t realize how strong the relationships were among the crew, though I learned the next day that PJ and the Groobeys had built a friendship over the preceding 3 years.  They recounted stories with laughter and nostalgia,  discussing the journey that led up to this monumental maiden voyage. “That unique Gunboat sense of community is important to us, and it’s one of the big reasons we bought the boat,” explained Carolyn.  “From the beginning, we felt like part of a big, awesome family, welcomed by the high-caliber folks that make up the tribe of Gunboat owners, employees, skippers, and crews.”

For this trip, the new owners were eager to get acquainted with their boat – meaning lots of helming.  And the diminutive Carolyn Groobey proved to be the rock star, hitting 21.8 knots for Tocatta‘s first ‘personal best’ speed.  “It was a real gift to have Peter do this passage with us. We were learning ‘the Gunboat way’ at the feet of the master,” she said.    Curious to know a little more about how these boats handle after only a few days onboard, I asked Chris Bailet what he thought was a standout feature of Gunboat. “All of PJ’s boats seem to have the perfect combination of speed and comfort, without tradeoffs.  I’ve been on a lot of Peter’s boats, and you can ramp it up and send it while feeling completely stable, and not have the wave slap sending your coffee machine into a charter guests face. The beam keeps it stable and all that freeboard makes you feel like you’re at the bridge. I love the boats and the family, especially the 55, that thing is like a guided missile.”

Chris and Carolyn had similar feelings about the comfort of the boat, as did I, especially when compared to my last big delivery – the turboed VOR 70 Maserati.  Comfort is not a word I’d use when describing any VO70, but that’s what it takes to get real speed out of a design like that.  Gunboat does it smarter, as Groobey summed up: “We are deliriously happy with the boat. It’s solid, strong, and very comfortable. The openness and 360 visibility in the boat makes it both a great sailing platform and living platform. We love the galley up configuration. As you are sailing along, various crew members are cooking, sailing, reading, and relaxing – it’s all about the family; the tribe – that’s what Gunboats do.”

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Volvo Ocean Race – RESILIENCE – Sports Illustrated

“Resilience is the virtue that enables people to move through hardship and become better. No one escapes pain, fear, and suffering. Yet from pain can come wisdom, from fear can come courage, from suffering can come strength- if we have the virtue of resilience.” – Eric Greitens Navy SEAL

Any young kid with a baseball and a bat grows up dreaming of one day playing in the World Series.  Young sailors grow up dreaming to one day conquer the Southern Ocean in the World Series of Sailing, The Volvo Ocean Race.

For sixty-six sailors, that dream is playing out in sailing’s biggest offshore race and one of the most coveted prizes in the sport. Nearly nine months, The Volvo Ocean Race is the longest sport event in the world. With 11 ports in 11 different countries – 38,739 nautical miles – starting in Europe and spread across Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Americas before finishing back in Europe – it is truly a global circumnavigation.

“I, like most sailors in the world, grew up dreaming of one day sailing around it, thereby conquering the infamous Southern Ocean,” said Mark Towill of Team Alvimedia. “More recently, I’ve spent the last five years and nearly a fifth of my life completely dedicated to achieving that dream.  Everything from the 4 a.m. sponsorship conference calls, the extra set in the gym when giving up seemed so enticing, the 15,000 miles of training before the race started.  It was all in preparation for Cape Horn.”

Six of the seven teams set out on this epic journey to conquer the Southern Ocean, the halfway point of the race, with the youngest crew, Team Alvimedica, capturing the honor of being the first to experience one of sailing’s rarest and toughest feats, rounding the treacherous Cape Horn at the bottom of South America. The leg has been exceptionally close as teams deal with freezing cold, big waves and danger from icebergs.

“Cape Horn is what you think of when you think of the Volvo Ocean Race,” comments American Skipper Charlie Enright of Team Alvimedica, “It’s proof that you’ve done the hard bit and put in the work. To round the horn in first was a nice little bonus.  We sailed hard to get there, but the reality is, they only award points for your position at the end of the leg, so in a lot of ways, even with only 400 miles left, this leg is just the beginning.”

Not all teams make it. Just a hundred miles from Cape Horn Dongfeng Race Team suffered a setback as the top of their mast fractured. The crew, tied in overall points with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, was forced to quit the leg. ”After four extraordinary legs for our team, we’ve taken our first major punch. A very big one.” They may have lost this round to ADOR but are still very much in the fight. “We’ve taken a big punch, but it’s not a knockout,” said Charles Caudrelier of Dongfeng Race Team. A delivery crew is currently nursing the boat to Itajaí, Brazil in a race against time to have the boat ready to set sail for the sixth leg to Newport, Rhode Island on April 19.

It is the second major breakage to hit the seven-strong fleet since the race began on Oct. 11 from Alicante, Spain. During the second leg in the Indian Ocean, Denmark’s Team Vestas Wind was badly damaged after it smashed into a reef. The crew escaped unhurt, the vessel is being rebuilt and the team hopes to rejoin the race in June for the final two legs.

Team SCA, the first all-female team in 10 years of the race, have shown tremendous resilience in its fight to the finish after overcoming several obstacles during Leg 5. A week after crashing to their side in a Chinese gybe and damaging a key sail, the all-women crew found themselves toppled again after colliding into an unidentified object in the south Atlantic.

“It’s been our toughest leg to date for challenges and obstacles to overcome; however, I think they are all really good lessons. We’ve definitely learned a lot from this leg and will be able to take that into the rest of the race where the legs get slightly shorter. There’s just as many points left in the race now to the finish,” said Stacey Jackson of Team SCA

Resilience is bred in the bones of every competitive sailor and tested every day on the race. Many sports only require a few hours of intense focus for a day. Focus is a key factor when it comes to being able to excel under pressure, says Robert Greenlaugh of Team Mapfre.“This is a 24-hour sport for 20-plus days. Very unlike other sports where you may look to get ‘in the zone’ for one or two hours. Managing your emotions is critical and keeping the right tempo. This comes from experience. We are playing a long game here. There are more high pressure periods where your mind set can change to a higher tempo. But, we don’t want to be on an emotional roller-coaster for 20 days.”

Greenlaugh says each leg builds resilience and strength in the team. “Leg 5 has been brutal both physically and mentally — the whole crew has had to dig deep for energy and the will to push on,” Greenlaugh said.

“It is very important not to let your head drop when things don’t go well, says Ian Walker Skipper of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. “This is when the strongest teams show their strength. The main thing is to make sure everyone does their own job, no matter how stressful things can become. I take our performance very personally and have to make sure I don’t show too much anxiety myself. This can permeate through the team. Sometimes I remind myself that this is only sport no matter how much it means to us, that we are very lucky to do what we do and this helps keep things in perspective.”

Walker and his Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew won the fifth leg from New Zealand to Brazil, bringing him one step closer to winning the race. “It’s not yet about winning, it’s about not losing.”

Sports Illustrated Gallery – Volvo Ocean Race


Barcelona World Race 2014/15 Start – A Family Affair

“Bye Oscar!”


“Bye, Oscar!”

“Bye, Dad!”

IT was one of the most touching scenes I’ve seen in my coverage of the sport; Alex Thomson and his 4-year old son Oscar, seeing who could shout the loudest as Hugo Boss team headed out to the race course for their third Barcelona World Race.  Boss is the only team to sail all three editions of the race, and that same young Oscar is a big reason they’re the odds-on favorite for this one: They’ve got unfinished business.

The long goodbye is an emotional and touching sight, and when combined with Boss’s BWR saga, it’s enough to give me goosebumps.  These sailors are waving goodbye to their family, friends and fans for the next 100-odd days, with all the dangers that entails.  So many nonsailors ask me ‘why would they do something so crazy?’ I’d never really thought about it, and it seemed like a great question to put to the racers.

We Are Water’s Bruno Garcia:“I really don’t know! I’ve never considered it a sport, it’s something more…”  Garcia thought about it for a minute, then gave me a modified version of Everest trailblazer’s answer about mountain climbing.  “Because the sea is there.”

Bruno will be sailing with his brother Willy around the world, and their ‘family affair’ highlights one of the nice things about this edition of the race; the accessibility of communications between the boats and their families, friends, and fans. “I have two kids. One daughter, 12 yrs. old and a 10-year old son,” said Bruno. ” Four years ago, it was not that difficult. Now they are older, they ask you about the dangers of the race, and ‘what will you do if you fall in the sea. You have to be quite clever to discuss with them what happens on the boat and what you will be doing. But I know they support me a lot and I can I count on them.”

Sailing together is not new for the Garcia brothers, they grew up cruising with their parents and have been racing together since the 90s, but the world Barcelona World race is new for them. “My brother is one of the best gifts I’ve ever had in my life. He is a very good friend, a great brother and is also a great sailor. I trust him both on the sea and in the mountains. With him I have done many miles, many peaks, many courses..and trust we have is phenomenal…Since the last edition with Jean Le Cam I have learned that this type of racing is not just for those who go and sail but it is also for people like the shore crew and those who follow us. And there are many out there and my brother and I hope to reach out to them and have the public enjoy and share our adventure.”

For some, like Nandor Fa’s Spirit of Hungary, the entire team is a family affair, with his wife and daughter working full time for the project. “When I decided to return for racing, the family was the first I asked ‘what do you think?’ And they told me they supported me completely.”  Nandor’s wife is his media manager, and 22 year old Lili – a baby the last time he went racing – is now an adult and part of the support team.  Nandor’s ‘third daughter’ is Spirit – the only home-built boat in the fleet. Lili says she is so busy that they have less time for worrying. “It is much better to be involved then watching from the outside, biting our nails!”  Lili has mixed emotions on his departure.  “I am going to miss him, but at the same time I am so happy for him because I know that this is his life, his passion and he’s been stuck in Hungary for so long working hard and supporting his family…he really deserves to be at sea again.”

Nandor is the oldest skipper in the fleet, and he’s sailing with the youngest – Conrad Coleman, and they are already well in back of the fleet.  For them and many of the teams on the much slower Open 60s, winning isn’t even a possibility; the journey, the challenge, the adventure – that’s the victory for them.

For others, like Alex Thomson and Pepe Ribes on Hugo Boss, winning is everything.

And for me, watching and shooting and reporting on this human drama is winning too.  A huge thanks to all the teams for the unfettered access they provided, and an even bigger thanks to Isabel and Daniel and everyone at the FNOB for their constant support this week.


VIDEO CLIP : Barcelona World Race 2014/15 Start from jen edney on Vimeo.

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Soul Sailors – Volvo Ocean Race 2014-2015 – Cape Town, South Africa

The boats are gone. The village is empty. My friends, my ‘family’ are at sea. It’s a strange feeling after so much excitement, movement and anticipation over the past few weeks. Everyone is going about their daily lives as usual around me, but today, I am in another world. I find myself thinking about what my friends are eating for the next 25+ days while I eat breakfast. About the bashing they must have received overnight while I slept in the comforts of my own bed, feeling a tad guilty. I am thinking about my 30 hours+ of flight time home, realizing that I have it easy.  Call me crazy but I am also thinking, “I wish I was out there with them.”

Back home, I open my eyes to see the bright orange and pink colors of a Nebraska sunrise, having stirred from yet another dream of open water and blue sky.  It’s a recurring dream these days and a stark contrast to my landlocked location.  The first thing I think about upon waking is my mates at sea and how they are getting along, but it is Thanksgiving morning and I have so much to be thankful for. This morning I am thankful for my ‘real’ family in the Midwest as well as my ‘sailing family.’

Changing Colors

I thought about a recent experience I had during this past trip to Cape Town, when I was sitting in a circle of more than a dozen friends from all over the world; a night when I realized how special this sport can be.  I was sitting across from a person who helped me with my first-ever sailing story seven years ago and who I credit for getting me into this mess that I’ve grown to live, love, and long for.  As we all swapped stories from years past – stories that were in some cases older than I am! – nostalgia set in, and we talked about the way this race has really become life for so many.  We talked about the Whitbread days, how the race has changed and grown, stories of sadness, joy, and drama.  Nights barely remembered and nights whose impact will be felt for decades…we all have those.

Throughout the next 9 months, I will constantly be “changing colors” to tell my own stories of the Volvo Ocean Race.  My loyalty and allegiance lies not with one team, but with the sailors…all of them. I’ve realized how special this opportunity is, and that is one that wouldn’t have existed in this way during the past few editions of the race. Everyone has talked about how ‘One Design’ has changed the dynamics of the race, making for the tightest racing in history and opening the door for more sailors to compete, but that’s not all that has changed.

The race has nearly always been won by the best-designed yacht and in recent years by the team with the biggest budget, forcing the sailors to work extra hard behind closed doors. And now, the doors are all open; and the new feeling in the Boatyard, the team bases, the Sailor’s Terrace, the hotels, parties, and media centers is one of camaraderie and togetherness.  It’s something that dominated many of the less professional days of the Whitbread, but it’s back – and the public, the sailors, and their families love it.  Of course they do – that camaraderie is one of the things we all love about the sport, isn’t it?

This was most recently illustrated as Team Alvimedica diverted from the race to stand by and assist in the rescue of fellow Team Vestas Wind after they ran hard aground.  Charlie Enright said, “The only thing that matters was that everyone was OK, they are our competitors and our friends but in addition to that we are each other’s support networks when we are sailing in remote corners of the world.”  And anyone who watched Will Oxley’s wonderful radio chatter and interviews knows that there was nothing that he wouldn’t do to help save his friends, perched on a reef in the middle of the ocean.

It is moments like these that highlight this precious aspect of the sport. Humbling moments that remind us to stop, take a breath, look around, and truly appreciate and respect where we are, and who we are with. As usual, Bouwe Bekking said it straight: “We are someway, somehow, one big family in this race.”



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SOUL SAILORS – Volvo Ocean Race 2014-2015 – Alicante, Spain

Soul Sailors… that is what I call them. A group of extraordinary individuals and athletes who do this race for one reason: It is what they were born to do and for many, it is something they have been dreaming of their whole lives.

As I arrived at the race village everyday leading up to the start, all I could think about was what my friends and colleagues would be doing for the next 20 days. I was thinking about their families, their kids, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. I walked around the village and looked into the sailors eyes where I could see anxiety building up, but also the readiness to get this race started. I was thinking about the adventure they were about to embark on, the lives that they were leaving behind, and most of all how I just wanted to see them all return safely to the other side.

I always wondered what the start of the race would feel like. The day of the departure I found myself excited yet a bit anxious. I spent the morning watching goodbyes up close, eyes not as dry as I thought they’d be. For the inshore loop and start of the race I was onboard the Team Vestas rib, blessed to experience the excitement of family and friends cheering on their team as they sailed over the start line. I then transferred to another boat to follow the fleet through the night and into the morning. To be out there with my many of my friends, to experience their first sunset, night and sunrise of the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race with them was truly extraordinary and an experience I will never forget. Fair winds, see you in Cape Town!

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Atlantic Cup 2014 – Dragon Ocean Racing

“I sail because I like the action. I like the action all the time and so double handed racing a 40 foot sail boat is all me. I like knowing that no matter what happens in this little 40 foot world I can take care of it, I can handle it and i’ve only got 40 feet to look after and one person, well two people, myself and my co-skipper. When you get on land you’ve got lots of people to answer to, to look after, to interact with… I like interacting with people on land but it makes me a lot more happy being out here on the water doing this, doing what I do.” – Rob Windsor – Dragon Ocean Racing