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Humans vs sea: Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) Cup begins Oct 22

By Stuti Roy

Alicante (Spain), Oct 21 (PTI) Eight yachts will race each other, sailing across four oceans starting October 22 as they compete for the coveted Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) Cup.

The race, which has no financial prize, is one of the world's toughest as the men and women compete not just with each other but against nature itself.

Each team comprises up to 11 members that battle rough seas with minimal communication with rest of the world, travelling 45,000 nautical miles (83,000 kilometres on land).

The race -- considered among top events like the Olympics and America's Cup -- will be flagged off from the serene town of Alicante in Spain and finish in June next year.

Seven teams, over the next nine months, will steer through 12 ports including Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne and Hong Kong and finally cross the finish line at The Hague.

The teams include the likes of AkzoNobel, Brunel and  Dongfeng.

"The race started in 1973. A lot has changed since then with technology evolving, helping us ensure we can keep participants safe. However, it's still one of the toughest in the world, it's humans vs the sea," VOR Chief Digital Officer Jodi Neves said.

India's fourth largest software services firm HCL Technologies is the technology partner for the race.

The 'One Design' boat -- used by all teams -- is designed as a mobile production facility, complete with a dedicated media station below decks, fixed HD cameras and microphones, drones and slow-motion, night vision and 360-degree cameras.

These are all operated by the 'Onboard Reporter' and can be controlled from the race headquarters in Alicante.

"All boats are given access to the same amount of data -- weather and sea conditions. Technology and experience both play an important role in winning the race," he said.

While sailing is not as popular a sport in India as it is in some of the European nations, Kochi was among the chosen pit stops in the 2008-09 edition.

Neves said every day, each team will get a set amount of information from the central station.

Any communication they want to have can only be routed through this hub.

Interestingly, of the 77 sailors, 18 are women.

One of the teams -- Turn the tide on plastic -- is led by skipper, Dee Caffari.

"On the boat, everyone is the same. It requires the same amount of teamwork, energy and training, whether it's a man or a woman," said the British PT teacher-turned-sailor.

The crew follow three or four-hour cycles, known as watch systems of being on duty or off duty, depending on the number of crew on board.

The sailors burn 5,000-6,000 calories a day.

The diet consists mainly of freeze-dried, highly calorific meals plus regular snacks and vitamin boosts.

Over 2,000 sailors have competed in the race since it began.

Interestingly, the winner of the race is determined by a scoring system that takes into account performance at each leg.

So the team crossing the finishing line is not necessarily the winner.

One of the crowd favourites this year is team Mapfre.

Led by skipper Xabi Fernandez, the squad comprises Olympic gold medallists and America's Cup winners as well as offshore sailors.

Their goal is clear -- to win the VOR's trophy for the first time in Spain's history

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