Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Living on the edge


As Gustav Morin, media member of the Ericcson 3, files reports and photographs he has to contend with huge waves and biting cold

By Shevlin Sebastian

“Sailing through the Southern Ocean was the most interesting experience so far,” says Gustav Morin, 24, media crew member of the Ericcson 3, which is taking part in the Volvo Ocean race.

The temperature varied from 5 to 10 degrees centigrade. Huge waves hit the crew with great force. “The boat was rocking from side to side,” he says. “We were under water all the time and had to do this for days together.”

All the men wore harnesses with hooks which were inserted at different sections of the boat. “This prevented us from getting blown away,” he says. “The power of the waves was awesome. The boat was moving at 30 knots and when the waves hit us, it was like getting punched by a rock.”

During one such moment, sailor Martin Krite went flying from the bow and hit his head on the mast. “He was dizzy for a few days even though he was wearing a helmet,” says Gustav.

In the midst of all this, the crew was able to keep up its competitive instincts. Suddenly, on the horizon, in the Southern Ocean, they saw the Telefonica Blue.

“They had a smaller sail and were not pushing hard,” he says. “We put up a big sail immediately because we wanted to catch up with them.”

The Ericcson 3 was going two knots faster than the Telefonica. And within an hour it passed the other boat at a distance of 100m.

“We waved enthusiastically although it must have been a tough moment for them to watch us go past,” says Gustav, with a broad smile.

But there were moments of frustration too. Earlier, near the Equator the boat encountered the Doldrums.

“This meant that there was no wind at all,” says Gustav. “We were in the fastest monohull boat in the world but were unable to move forward.” Eventually the wind started blowing after three days.

Gustav, as an embedded reporter, writes about the highs and lows, accompanied by video and photographs. His articles are published in publications all over the world including the ‘Dagens Nyheter’, one of the largest newspapers in Sweden.

In Kochi, Gustav was taken aback by the huge media contingent. “The interest was so intense,” he says. “I saw two photographers coming to fisticuffs as they tried to get a vantage point. We have not experienced anything like this before. It was fantastic.”

What was not fantastic was the chaotic traffic. “It was like being on a race-track,” says Gustav. “I saw signs which said, ‘Please follow the rules’, but nobody seems to be doing that.”

From the noisy traffic when Gustav stepped into a restaurant, he was surprised by the silence. “People were very relaxed and spoke softly,” he says. “I had to strain myself to understand what they were saying. It was such a big contrast to the world on the streets.”

As he talks a young woman comes up and says, “You are so handsome! Can I take a photograph with you?” A smiling Gustav says, “Yes,” while an acquaintance of the woman takes the pictures.

“Thanks to sailing I am able to meet so many different people from different cultures,” he says.

Asked about the attraction of sailing, he says, “Though we spend hours and weeks without land in sight and live an intense life, physically and mentally, a lot of the guys dream about yachting, about another race they want to take part or a boat they want to buy when they get home. This proves that sailing is not just something you do, it gets into your mind and stays in your spirit.”

(Copyright: The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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