7 years ago i spent some time in Indonesia during a university break. Volcanoes dot the islands landscape and i climbed a few whilst there. Ever since climbing Gunung Merapi i’ve used climbing volcanoes as an analogy linking it nicely with other activities. To put it simply; climbing the volcano was not much fun, sitting in the freezing cold at the top wasn’t fun and walking back down the slope turned out to not be that much fun either. Basically not a lot of fun – but i loved it.
This feeling doesn’t come around often, they save it for the big occasions. Running a marathon is another prime example (i still need sponsors for my next one….lots of sponsors! please consider clicking here to donate). The marathon requires months of training which i don’t really enjoy, followed by the race which again isn’t much fun – but is great.
This volcano analogy hit me hard yesterday and gave me plenty of thinking time to consider just how little fun i was having whilst trying to assure myself that, once all over, it would have been great. I finally delved into the world of ocean boat racing. Having been more of a tourist on my earlier races, i’d only actually been involved in the sailing on one occasion – basically 7 hours bobbing along with virtually no wind. This left me feeling a little anticipation at the prospect of a full day race where breakfast would turn into lunch which itself would turn into dinner before many dark hours later would turn into breakfast again. It was going to be an attempt for the sea to break me, just to see how much of a roller coaster i could take without being allowed to get off.
The race was in the Sea of Marmara going from Istanbul to a south Island and then back again. The first 7 hours were all downwind with the spinnaker doing much of the hard work. The strong breeze made it important to try and rest up during the southerly trip as coming upwind we could tell was going to be exciting. Reaching the island at 5pm on Saturday we were now ready to attack the upwind leg which was one of the craziest experiences i’ve ever felt. As we crested waves as big as houses the whole boat literally fell from the sky to an enormous bang and a drenching for us sat dangling over the sides. This continued well into the evening just making it more extreme as you couldn’t see the approaching waves. The swell died down at around midnight where salvation could be taken in your 1m squared area to try and close your eyes even for ten minutes.
We finally crossed the line after 19hours and 35 minutes of racing. At 5.35am the finish whistle sounded and i rushed for my camera below the deck. 5.38am brought us this images as the sun rose over Istanbul and a group of dolphins escorted the boat back to the mariner. Did i enjoy the first leg – not really. Did i enjoy the upward leg – honestly, no. Now i’m back home having showered, slept and eaten can i say i enjoyed it? Yeah i loved it…..it’s that volcano analogy.