Sailing the High Seas (literally) in the Pro-Am Volvo Ocean Race

23 May

What’s that one dream, goal, wish, or aspiration in your life?  Think hard… What’s tops your bucket list?

How about traveling the world?

That’s exactly what six teams are trying to accomplish in one of the most riveting, physically demanding, thrilling, and dangerous races in the world – the Volvo Ocean Race – and I was fortunate enough to get a first-hand experience at what they’re living and breathing for nine months!

This one-of-a-kind competition stops at only 10 ports worldwide, and Miami was lucky enough to host the only North American stopover for a two-week duration. What’s even luckier is the fact that I won a Facebook contest held by the Greater Miami Conventions and Visitors Bureau which landed me a spot to sail with French team Groupama in the Pro-Am race on May 18, 2012.

This incredible experience is hard to describe in words so I’d like to use a couple analogies… This is like swimming laps with Michael Phelps, or shooting hoops with Lebron James, or singing karaoke with Rihanna.  These guys (yes, male-only teams) are facing extreme weather conditions, crossing the equator four times, and living on a boat for nearly 40,000 miles in the deep ocean waters. Only the great survive. And only the best are crowned champions.

I had the pleasure of competing on French team Groupama with about ten other male guests (I was the only female) in Pro-Am Race 3 against Abu Dhabi, Puma, Camper/Emirates NZ, Telefonica, and Sanya. The race course was set up just off the coast of South Beach, and the race lasted for about 30 minutes. Weaving around each other, and jibing back and forth, these gentle giants powered through the pristine Caribbean waters in hopes of  earning points for their team. Remember that scene in Titanic where Jack and Rose stand on the ledge of the bow with their arms in the air as if they’re flying – that’s what sailing with Groupama felt like.  But the actual sailing wasn’t the only “wow” factor. It was also getting to meet these superstar sailors and learning the ins and outs of operating a sail boat (remember – this is the equivalent of getting free throw pointers from Lebron James)! I was also fortunate enough to get a personal tour underneath the deck from media crew member Yann Riou. He showed me where they “sleep,” eat, produce videos, and even the mechanical parts of the boat. Mind blown (and lost). Only about six guys can sleep at one time in their tiny little cots. The loud rumblings are sure to put a permanent ringing in their ears. And they have zero privacy. If you’re looking for heroes or idols to look up to – these are your guys!

I won’t bore you with any additional attempts to try to get you to understand and feel what it was like racing with these superstars. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves… You can also view all my photos on Facebook. There’s also a short, candid interview with Yann at the bottom of this post – be sure to check it out! Questions? Comments? Leave ’em at the bottom 🙂

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4 Responses to “Sailing the High Seas (literally) in the Pro-Am Volvo Ocean Race”

  1. Pretty cool! I’m sending this out to a few of our team members. Glad that you had a great time.

    • Aubrey Swanson May 23, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

      Awesome! Thanks for spreading my good time, and for giving me the amazing opportunity!!!

  2. Jonathan Petrino (@jonathanpetrino) May 28, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    This is so cool Aubrey! What an awesome opportunity…just checked out some videos on the Groupama team website. Very cool.

    • Aubrey Swanson May 28, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

      Thanks, Jonathan! It really was an unbelievable experience. I’m very lucky to have received the opportunity – hope I was able to get them more publicity while they were still in Miami though… Not as many visitors to the race scene as one would expect/hope.

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