Eivind Melleby looks ahead to his first Volvo Ocean Race

I arrived in Alicante on Wednesday, three days before the start of the Volvo Ocean Race. I was brought in as a helmsman and to take the place of Martin Stromberg, who can’t sail the leg because he injured his hand during practice at the team’s base in Lanzarote.

My strength is helming, and skipper Anders Lewander is happy to have me with the team because he thinks that there’ll be a lot of offwind sailing on Leg 1 of the race, which is one of my strong suits.

It’s a funny feeling to be on the boat. I don’t have much experience with it, and the experience I have is like seven days. I feel I can handle the boat. It feels like I can make it go fast. It’s got a great feeling to it.

My background from Star sailing gives me a lot of experience for how it feels like when a boat is fast. I feel it’s possible to translate that into this boat, which I was quite surprised how good it feels when doing the delivery from Lanzarote.

Sailing is sailing. It’s the same thing, just a different gear. The same theory, I usually say, and that you can always translate that. If you have experience with the different kind of boats, you can always translate your past experience into the new boat, which makes it possible to perform in a new boat quite fast.

My offshore experience is limited. I am more or less an around the buoys guy, short course sailing. But I have done a Atlantic crossing and I also did a qualification for the 1997-98 Whitbread. We did a 10 day sail from Norway around Britain, 2,500 miles, with Kvaerner Innovation.

Offshore sailing is a different mindset. When you do around the buoys, it’s short gain, every tack needs to be perfect, your competition is always close. The biggest challenge with the offshore will be after a couple of days you probably won’t see your competition, and that makes you relax a little bit. So keeping everyone 100 percent all the time will be a challenge. I think we can gain a lot if we can do that.

I think it will be very critical to get out of Med in good shape. The rich will get richer. It will be very challenging for us because we’ll see that we’ll probably have a light spot through Gibraltar strait. If you can get a little bit there, you will stay ahead. The Doldrums will be challenging. We talked about that. After the doldrums it’s sort of a highway straight down, more or less, or at least that’s what they say, but you never know.

My last experience offshore was in 60s. They have water ballast and the boat is a lot smaller inside. I like these boats a lot better. You have a more space, but still they carry more gear, spares and stuff that needs to be stacked. They are rougher in their behavior, you get tossed around a bit more than the 60s. It can be a challenge to make food and stay in the galley without falling over and hurting yourself down below.

The power of these boasts is what’s exciting. There’s a lot of power and the boat is really light so it flies off immediately. It’s really tough. You need to concentrate 100 percent when helming because they’re so fragile when it comes to handling them. If you don’t handle them right, you’ll break it. If you do handle them right, they’ll fly off. So there’s a lot of gains to be made if you can push the boat right all the time. A knot, 2 knots, 3 knots ? 3 knots faster is a lot.

Eivind Melleby