It’s 2.30am and pitch black in the Southern Ocean. From above deck on Green Dragon comes a question for skipper Ian Walker who is boiling water below. “Ian, is the radar on?”
The query is from New Zealander Andrew McLean. It is followed by a statement from McLean that there are “some objects” in the water. What he meant to say, obviously, was “iceberg, 2 o'clock” – Titanic style.
The “objects” were a sharp reminder of the latitude the Irish-Chinese entry found itself in – 50 degrees south. Walker and the crew were in growler (breakaway iceberg) territory.
"The three icebergs that we saw in rapid succession (two to windward and one to leeward) were each between 100 metres across and the size of a football pitch as best we could tell in the dark about a half a mile away,” Walker noted.
"I was pleased to see that they shone reasonably brightly even at 2 o'clock in the morning in the ambient light. It was a nervous night from then on with every white breaking wave off the bow tricking you into believing there could be small lumps of ice ahead.
"I noticed this morning that a few more people are now wearing survival suits and we have made a point of closing all the water-tight doors. Whilst I would love to see an iceberg in the daylight I will be more than happy to not see any more ice this race,” he added in a video clip from the boat the following morning.
Jordi Calafat on Telefonica Blue has been equally absorbed by icebergs, according to his skipper Bouwe Bekking. “Jordi is now hoping for one thing, to see an iceberg, and asked if we couldn’t gybe over to the position where the Dragons were last night (see above).
"Cape Horn and seeing an iceberg will make this trip around the world for him complete, otherwise he reckons he has to do another one. Welcome to the club, already talking about a next race. Some way, somehow this race is like a magnet, you hate and you love it, but love is winning nine out of the 10 times.”
Which brings us nicely to the race’s tag line – Life At The Extreme. It was dreamed up by brand specialists who felt it encapsulated what the Volvo Ocean Race was all about. And, more crucially, what the men who do this race are all about.
But it is not until you receive an email from someone out there on the coal face that the tag line is given credibility. That email arrived last night from helmsman Chris Main on Green Dragon.
"I think Volvo has got it pretty spot on with life at the extreme,” he wrote. “Living in one of these ocean racing beasts while hurtling round the world's oceans, here is what I have found extreme so far this leg...
"Hopping into a bed or rack after your opposite watch person has got out, having spent the last hours sweating like you have been in a sauna is extreme.
"Four days of blast reaching is tough. Unable to look forward without a helmet and visor on for fear of your eyelids getting turned inside out is extreme.
"Trying to use the bathroom is extreme. For those keen to get some Volvo experience you could try using the loo in a caravan while being towed around a motorcross track at 100 kms.
"Being woken by the ceiling making contact with your head while you have been levitated out of your bunk every 10 minutes can be extreme.”
So there you have it.
Meanwhile, the southern-most extremities are becoming a lonely place for the likes of Green Dragon and Telefonica Blue – and the leaders ever distant. By the 16:00 GMT Position Report the mileage deficits to leader Ericsson 3, leading the northern faction to the second ice gate, were 549 and 802 nm respectively.
Ericsson 4 (+241) and PUMA (+276) were neck-and-neck by comparison.
"Sadly it has been another slow day for us on Telefonica Blue and things seem to be set to stay that way, as a ridge of high pressure is extending out in front of us, putting up a wall between us and the leaders,” wrote Simon Fisher.
"Even with all the optimism in the world, it is starting to get a little frustrating now watching the leader extending to over 700 miles ahead. Each day we hear 'only eight days to the Horn' but in almost a week this number hasn't come down at all! It is almost like we are running on a treadmill and not getting any closer.”
After 26 days of this leg, the talk on PUMA has turned to food intake and physical well-being.
"We are all commenting how skinny each other looks, and it is interesting how you can especially feel your legs getting weaker, being in such a confined space for days and weeks on end,” Ken Read observed.
"Hopefully we won't look like one of those NASA Apollo mission completions when the astronaut got out of the capsule and had to be helped just to walk. Don't think it will be that bad, but it is a fact of our lives nonetheless. Santi, our physio and workout guru, is going to have to do some quick magic in our short stopover in Rio.”
Media Crew Member, Rick Deppe, also weighed into the discussion on body shapes. It seems the crew of il mostro crew are fussy eaters. Well not any more.
"Every scrap of food onboard is being devoured," Deppe reported. “No sooner are the day snacks put out than crew members disappear up on deck never to be seen again. I've even witnessed people using a finger to get the last of the spaghetti sauce out of the bottom of the serving cooler.
"Of course it always seems to be the same people who get the short straw and I would have to say that on this trip its Sid (Gavignet) and Casey (Smith) who seem to be getting the worst of it. They are being real troopers though and are taking it in their stride, as Casey said to me today, "there's nothing that two minute noodles cant fix".
The restaurant on Telefonica Blue is doing a roaring trade in pasta with mince sauce – or ‘dog food’ as skipper Bouwe Bekking fondly refers to it.
"It is 26 days on the water and even though I eat the same warm meal twice a day, I still look forward to this dish,” he says. “To bring up the taste, I add some ingredients like olive oil, pepper, salt and ketchup.”
As for the rest of Bekking’s menu, it reads thus ... breakfast – a bowl of muesli, 10 scoops of vanilla protein power, three daily vitamin pills, two power bars, raw Spanish ham, three-year-old Parmesan cheese, a cup of tea, a bottle of plain water washed down with a bottle with protein powder.
Lunch is more “dog food” followed by a mug of coffee and cookies. Apart from the staples, he snacks on biltong (dried meat), dried fruit, a handful of nuts.
What the cookie bandits on PUMA would give for a choice like that.