Taylor Michie, a 13-year-old schoolboy, was so inspired by a visit to the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Baltimore-Annapolis for the 2005-06 event that he has written an absorbing tale centred on the race.
What started out as a short story project at St Mary's Elementary School in Annapolis has become a 108-page self-published book - Racing Winds.
We here at volvooceanrace.org were so impressed with Taylor and his story that we invited him up to Boston over the in-port weekend and asked him to be our 'reporter for a day'. Here's what he wrote.
Monday 11 May 2009 13:00 GMT
By Taylor Michie
Nothing could have prepared me for my first full day 'working' at the Volvo Ocean Race. As I had read the media newsletter the previous night, I knew that the King of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf, and Prince Faisal bin Alludah bin Mohammed, the minister of education from Saudi Arabia would be visiting the next day.
However, I didn't know that my day would begin with an interview with the Prince. We talked about how education in Saudi Arabia compared to the studies here in the US. Being an 8th grader myself, I asked about the education in Saudi Arabia.
The Prince had a good answer: "(The) essence of education is always the same," he said. "Learning is always the same. The curriculum is the same. At the end of the day, it's about us developing our minds."
The real fun, however, was still to come. From the interview, I made my way over to the stage area, where one representative from each of the racing organizations - PUMA, Telefonica, Delta Lloyd, Ericsson, and Green Dragon - fielded questions from the Scouts, of which there were 300 at the Volvo Ocean Race on Saturday.
All of the representatives stressed the fact that conditioning was an important part of the race: "You have to be physically fit," said one. "You've got to work on your legs," said another, and things of that nature.
Some other interesting facts I learned about were the Scouting organization's relationship with royalty such as the King of Sweden and Prince Faisil. The King is the honorary chairman of the World Scouting Organization, and Prince Faisal, on behalf of King Abdullah, presented a check for $3 million to the World Scouting Organization.
Now we move on to the action: the In-Port Race. Because I did an interview for VolvoOceanRace.tv, I was unable to make it to the main media boat, the Privateer, which left from Courthouse Dock. However, I did make it on one of the many press boats, which also happened to be the radio boat.
I also had the pleasure of being on the same boat as Riath Al-Samarrai, who served as our official timekeeper. Riath may not be in the Media Centre for some time, as he'll be seeing a chiropractor, due to our captain's need for speed. Riath looked like a bunny who was overdosed on sugar, bouncing up and down on the seat as we took some bigger-looking waves at full speed. I actually think we went faster than some of the Volvo boats go.
Anyway, he recovered enough to record the In-Port Race as starting at 1:41 pm, after a 40-minute delay due to wind considerations.
The once-sour weather seemed to be taking a turn for the better during the first race, and by the end, the sky had cleared considerably.
Not so clear, however, was the future of my PUMA team, who seemed to practically fall apart at the beginning of the first race, and later did actually fall apart in the second race. Telefonica Blue captured the first position in both the first and second In-Port Races.
Also taking the same role twice was the Green Dragon team, although this was not as pleasant a role as Telefonica's. Green Dragon finished last in both races.
In the first race, PUMA seemed to come back, only finishing fourth in the first race. Not the best that Kenny and his boys could do, but after a start in 7th place, it was remarkable.
By the beginning of the second race, things were taking a turn for the worst, in terms of the weather. In a matter of 15 minutes, what might have been a perfectly good day had turned into a dreary, foggy one. So dense was the fog, that we could not even see the hulls of the boats, which was a bit of a fundamental problem for us passengers on what is, essentially, the play-by-play boat.
In the second race, three boats were called back for false starts, the PUMA team's being one of them, and PUMA's excellent positioning was too good to be true. So good, in fact, that it was illegal. Both of Ericsson's boats were in the same position as PUMA. The only difference being that Ericsson was able to make up the time lost, and come in second (Ericsson 4) and third (Ericsson 3).
Another highlight, after I returned to the dock, was meeting Knut Frostad, the CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race. After thanking him for inviting me here (something I probably did in excess of 100 times), I gave him a copy of my book, and he presented me with a printout of Mark Chisnell's book about the 2008-2009 race, Spanish Castle to White Night. I am reading it now as I write this article ... How's that for multi-tasking?
Spirits were also rising after the race when I went to the very futuristic-looking PUMA City, to meet the crew members of the PUMA boat, and its skipper, Ken Read. I was presented with an autographed PUMA shirt, and promptly informed that my Nikes and Quiksilver socks were off-limits, by none other than the great man himself.
I guess that 20% off coupon will come in handy after all.