To Volvo. This is a blog from my website < maritimebooks.co.za > Nicholas Dekker

                                                                                                         12th Nov 2011 

NEVER WAS SO MUCH OWED TO SO MANY BY SO FEW.

 

That great wordsmith, Churchill, often got it right and this time I would like to use his pronouncement as a mould for a less salutary expression: Never was so much rubbish shown to so many by so few. I should not have to explain that ‘by the few’ I mean the television operators but, you never know.

There used to be a great ‘Around the World Ocean Race, the first edition of which took place in 1973. The idea was plain, sail your yacht from Europe to Cape Town, then to a harbour in Australia or New Zealand, across the Pacific and left around Cape Horn with may be two stops in the Americas before returning to Europe. It was a great race, astonishing feats of seamanship took place and fine skippers and crews were forged by the hardships the oceans slung at them.

It’s all finished now, although if you believe the god Media and the two high Priests Tele and Publicity, you might not think so. It’s not because of lack of good sailors, nor of well-designed boats that this race is doomed. Publicity had its first go when companies with fat advertising funds began to sponsor adventurous skippers without money and it soon became impossible for a private boat owner to compete in this race with craft that were sponsored by public funded companies, the shareholders of which could not distinguish between a sailing dinghy and an oil tanker.

Never mind, better boats and sails were designed and better, cleverer and stronger crews evolved rapidly. Old boozers like me would‘ve had a hard time. The Around the World past the Three Capes route remained the same because to get around the world in a sailing vessel it’s the best way. Cape of Good Hope, that I prefer to call the Storm Cape because I know him well, the Aussi Cape Leeuwin and redoubtable Cape Horn were the markers for many centuries of the European highway for the tallest ships ever built and in every race these newer boats and tougher crews got past them in less time.

By this time the organisation of the race became sponsored by Volvo, whose business is to sell trucks, where ever, how ever and the high Priest Tele had to be approached to see if this race could not be seen by more people. Ships have the annoying property of becoming invisible once they leave port and so ocean races are not perceived by the tele screen adorers. The competing yachts are now equipped with in- and outside cameras and fancy satellite gear to blast a load of useless pictures to Priest Tele. I say useless because it is always almost impossible to take decent pictures on a sailing yacht because lack of space. Rather lousy pictures than none, now the boats are obliged to carry a kind of crew member whose sole function is to distribute this garbage and yap into a microphone to the Priest. I wonder if the real crew manage to make him do some honest work at times.

Not only are so-called in-port races organised for the Priest, the whole itinerary was changed for high Priest Publicity. No more Indian Ocean, from Cape Town the boats must set sail for Abu Dhabi in the Persian Gulf. Volvo can’t sell trucks to the few blokes on the islands of Kerguelen but amongst the oil-rich sheiks of Abu Dhabi, customers might be found. They even managed to find an Arab sponsor in that harbour and the sheik boss of this outfit said that Arab pearl divers proved it was a traditional Arab thing to sail around the world. Prophetic notions this sheik must have had because hardly over the starting line, divers were needed to get his broken Abu Dhabi mast back on board.

What tickles me most is the way the sponsors have decided to get their boats past the pirates of the Arabian Sea. You would have thought that the oil-sheiks would love to clobber these fellows but, apparently, not. Possibly they have shares in that enterprise. You know what Volvo, in its wisdom, has decided? A secret ship, in a secret location is taking the yachts on board soon after leaving Cape Town in order to transport that intrepid bunch safely to the sheik’s harbour. Prozaked sailors in cotton wool?

In my book ‘Ocean Advocate’ I describe detailed plans to catch or kill these pirate buggers and all the warships in the vicinity would have made it easier still. The Volvo welfare state bureaucrats of the craven spirit missed the greatest publicity stunt of the truck maker’s life!

Volvo’s media organisers created a motto: Life at the extreme… FUNK (my addition) and certainly not meant for the crews. All honour to the god Media!

From Arabia, I believe the sailors are to battle their way through calms to somewhere in China where Volvo has another deal involving a Chinese entrance who’s not doing too well either; as the Arab mast broke, the Chinese hull lost vital bits and so both boats are being shipped to Cape Town by cargo. The adventurers up to now are the Frenchies. There was little wind when the four remaining boats in the race came out of the Strait of Gibraltar, looking for the trade winds to take them to the equator. French Groupama, courageously decided to hug Africa and is ahead for the moment as the others stuck together and went west. I hope it comes off for the Frenchies, kenavo!

Such a great race, once! Now totally buggered up by the god Media.


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