Mark Covell describes the running repairs aboard the Russian team's Kosatka

How apt that the start of the Volvo Ocean Race should be so wet and disagreeable. It wasn’t cold; it just had enough wind and rain to give all spectators a small dose of unpleasantness, a thought provoking unpleasantness.

After the weeks of final preparation, the mood was charged and crew was naturally excited and aching to get racing. So keen to use this fantastic boat for the use it was intend for. The start good and speed up the first beat was encouraging. Confusion on the foredeck in setting the Qsail, a new and somewhat complex sail to set, saw us passed by Delta Lloyd and the Green Dragon. It wasn’t long until we had the mojo back and gunning along with the A4 staysail and full main catching the fleet nicely when the strop on the kite sheet parted and the cuban clothed A4 A-sail was flogging uncontrollably. A quick-witted Mikey (Joubert) with a right ankle still in strapping got a new sheet on and it under control and pulling again. Just as the crew was discussing strategy and assessing possible damage the kit had it’s own input in the discussion by butting in with a huge ripping sound of its own. They manhandled the unruly sail down and into the hatch.

As boat captain Nick Bubb had been doing the rounds, he found a heavy ingress of water coming in from the keel ram box. As one of the few things I can help is bailing I grabbed a bucket and got to it. Nick set up the bilge pumps and discovered the rubber shoes round the ramrods that cant the keel from side to side had split. With only hours into the race, surrounded in shredded sailcloth and water pouring in, I looked at Nick, picked up my camera and asked him what this meant for the team. He gave me an encouraging smile and said, “I guess my character is being tested earlier than I thought. I have a plan?..”

Fit? for a Princess – Blog Part 2

That night every watch took turns to bail and pump. Nicks plan was to cork the gap round the rod and seal with an old fender cover that was made of a felt like material. The plan was never going to be a long term one but it certainly stopped the flow at the slow speeds we were sailing in the light winds just off Gibraltar. The small team worked on two unrewarding designs until the wise old Dane Stig, suggested using a crew kit dry bag to replace the rubber gasket boot. Who had the newest, biggest, best bag for the job? Yes me! Hand over you bag Covell and save us all. I was emptying my precious dry kit out before you could say ” Put you finger in the dike Dutch boy.”

Welcome to DIY Volvo style. If you can beg steal and borrow any materials from one thing for another it’s all good. I would love to see the list of out of place kit used to fix stuff on the VOR, it would be worthy of Mr H Robinson invention award indeed.

With no reward yet for the last 24 hours, up to their armpits in rams and seals, Nick Bubb and his little Kiwi helper Beno, like two midnight Elves were now cutting, stitching and shaping my bag to fashion two new boots, fit for the best dressed hydraulic ram in town. You shall go to the ball Kosatka.

In the dark of the night the phosphorescence glittered but on this occasion inside the boat, swashing round my legs as we passed buckets up out of the hatch. Soon the work was done and the bailing could stop. At one point the water was coming in faster than we could bail with two buckets. I never worried as we were still in the Mediterranean and close to land but we were all anxious for the fix to work before we sailed out off shore. This team may not have the huge wealth of Volvo experience, but it works well in times of need and day-by-day pushing harder and learning fast all the time. Setbacks like this just make us stronger. The whole team’s attention is now on racing, “that’s what we are here for,” Andreas said looking forward now smiling and with a spark back in his eye.

Mark Covell – Team Russia