Vendée Globe  
93 days 22 hours 52 minutes

Three days – one drop in the sea – experiences of the photographer

On the 17th September 2015 skipper Nándor Fa and co-skipper Péter Perényi had sailed out of the FNOB’s port in Barcelona after five months of modification works. Nandor’s daughter Lili Fa sailed with them from Barcelona until Gibraltar as media crew to take photos and videos of the Spirit of Hungary 60 footer and its skippers being back in racing mode. (see pictures here below the article)

From Gibraltar, it’s a strictly double-handed journey for Nándor and Péter, who started their 2000 nautical miles qualification on the Atlantic ocean in the night of 21st September. After crossing the Strait of Gibraltar they continue by rounding the Azores Islands, and will head towards the Atlantic coast of France through the Bay of Biscay. Their destination is Port Olona, the host port of the renowned Vendée Globe single-handed around the world race in Les Sables d’Olonne, which is going to be their base before the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2015. The Transat Jacques Vabre double-handed trans-Atlantic race, which follows the historic coffee trading route, starts on 25th October from Le Havre and the goal is Itajai in Brazil.

After having successfully completed the Barcelona World Race 2014-15, thanks to the support of the FNOB organization (Fundació Navegació Oceànica Barcelona), Nándor Fa and his crew had been able to prepare the Spirit of Hungary within ideal industrial circumstances in the port of the FNOB in Barcelona. After the five-month long modification period they hoisted their sails for the first time now, so the journey from Barcelona to Gibraltar was a test before the qualification sailing on the Atlantic, which is a mandatory qualification for Nandor’s Hungarian co-skipper Péter Perényi.

Lili Fa:

“I was given the opportunity to sail with them from Barcelona to Gibraltar to take photos and videos of the 60 footer and its skippers being back in racing mode. Within these three days I could experience what it’s like to be living, sleeping and waking on a boat in the middle of the sea, not seeing any land, only the horizon and the endless sea. If I think of the fact that this was only the Mediterranean sea, with relatively nice weather conditions, it makes me look at the performances of ocean skippers very differently. There is a significant difference between conditions at sea and on the ocean, and another significant difference between the ocean and the southern oceans in terms of wind power and size of waves. This time we had approx. 30 knots of wind with 3-6 m waves, and 15-20 knots boat speed, which was already incredibly exciting for me who’s not a sailor. These waves are incredibly powerful as they push the boat from the back (I saw 6 knots difference between the boat’s speed that was generated by wind and the speed that was increased by a wave).

It is an amazing feeling as the boat blindly flies in the dark night with the same speed as during daylight. I can’t see anything else other than the stars, as I listen to the sounds of the sea and the wind. According to the instruments and by common sense, I can be sure that nothing comes in our way in the middle of the sea, but it’s very hard to ignore the absence of sight. Every sound is amplified inside the cabin: every punch of the waves, every round on a winch or the pedestal, the sound of the water running by… it’s not an easy task to sleep or to rest when every fourth wave bangs your back and then your bed keeps resonating for another several seconds.

Many times I woke up to Nándor and Péter doing maneuvers like gybing in the night in whistling 30 knots of wind. Gybing is a very complex task on a 60 footer racing boat like this and can take for about 10 minutes. I was given the goosebumps when I heard one of them run on the deck above me to the front and then back. I tried to do some night shots too, I hope the atmosphere will come through.

I had to realize, that until now I had no idea what Nándor, my father was doing. I was born into this, that he’s an ocean sailor and it always felt natural to me, I wasn’t wondering too much about it. I couldn’t see the real value of his performance until now. The human race was created to live on land, to whom the pure fact of an always moving, lifting and waving context can cause serious problems. From time to time we could hear stories even from the best ocean skippers in the world about how they were feeling physically sick for weeks until their body adapted to the intensely moving ocean in a certain weather situation.

These ocean skippers have to be able to concentrate, to make decisions, to navigate, to perform within a context like this. Those people who are capable of this, they have above-average skills and senses. They have a very high level of tolerance, durability and self-possession.

As I think of the experiences I earned during these three days and imagine what it would be like to sail within twice as big waves as what I’ve seen and in a wind of 40-50 knots, and not only as a passenger… my imagination might start to approach the reality that ocean skippers are facing for not three, but 100 days in the desert of oceans. It is astonishing.

Many thanks for this experience to the Spirit of Hungary team and Nándor !

The best winds and conditions for you for the rest of the qualification sailing to Les Sables d’Olonne !

Lili Fa

Photo report on sailing from Barcelona to Gibraltar /SOH60’©LiliFa_mixpress