The teams participating in the Great Pacific Race took part in the Great Pacific Prologue race on Wednesday May 30th. This event is designed to test the crew’s ability to not only row but all the other skills they will need in their passage to Hawaii.
During this race the crews not only have to row around the course, they must also perform a number of tasks while at sea to demonstrate their ability to use all the equipment that they will need during their passage to Hawaii. These include changing a wheel on their rowing seats, making water with their desalination unit, using that water to re-hydrate a freeze dried meal and use their communication equipment. They also perform some safety assignments such as a Man Overboard drill and deploying the para-anchor. Each of these may sound simple enough, but performing these tasks on an ocean row boat, with two, three or four crew on board whilst trying to race as fast as possible and being slammed by ocean swell and strong winds can be pretty difficult. This training event offers a great training opportunity for the crews and serves as a final test of all equipment prior to the actual race start.
The forces of nature created the largest challenge for our crews today. The crews set out cutting deep into the center of Monterey Bay toward the first mark in the middle of the bay. The light onshore westerly wind in the morning was paired with large rolling ocean swell. As the crews headed out into the bay the winds continued to blow and even increased above those forecast making it more and more tough for the rowers to hold the westerly component in their heading. After battling for the entire day against the wind and swell, all crews had made little progress in the afternoon and took the decision to abandon the race and head back towards the calmer waters of Monterey.
As the wind and waves continued to increase all crews deployed their para-anchor in a real life test of their skills to prevent being washed onto the beach whilst the support vessels helped bring them safely back into the harbor. It was a long day for all with an 0700 shove off and it was gone 1am when team Ripple Effect arrived back into Monterey Marina. A long day on the water for most but for our crews, just another day in preparing for the World’s ultimate endurance challenge.
The prologue race turned out to be more of a challenge than many were expecting but this only serves to provide the rowers with excellent preparation ensuring they are completely ready ahead of the race start. The crews exhibited their usual eagerness to get stuck in which was occasionally misplaced or resulted in a catalogue of funny moments. Team Ripple Effect got slightly over enthusiastic and tried to bring in a crab pot after thinking that it was a part of their man overboard drill (which hadn’t yet begun). Crews were also requested to collect any trash they found during their row and the most creative item of rubbish recovered was a rather fresh loaf of bread found by Team Pacific Terrific. Finally one of our crews was a bit startled when they saw the support yacht approaching while using “the bucket” causing a bit of a tumble on board – but we won’t go into details there!
Sending back a video was another task set for the rowers and it’s great to see the crews embracing the camera. Watching some of the video content coming out of the boats gives us great confidence that the video capable satellite communicators we have put onboard each crew this year will provide us with outstanding footage to help tell the story of the race from another viewpoint entirely. Our favourite clip was that sent by Team Pacific Terrific as they test the water made by their desalinator for salinity in a rather…novel fashion.
The countdown continues to the start of the Great Pacific Race. Stay tuned.