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Публикации | Путешествия | Через океаны с Energy Diet. Атлантика

26 Января 2011 | Karin Solomon | Прочтений: 55564

Karin Solomon. Energy Diet Trimaran Visits Durban

Walk along the beachfront and your glance reaches involuntarily for the horizon. 

Over coffee at the life-saving club, the banter of your companions fades away as your soul speeds across the water to that hazy seam in the distance.

On weekends paddle-skis and canoes strain to conquer just one more swell for another glimpse at what lies in the distance and surfers balance for hours on their boards because even if they cannot be there themselves, they wonder at the beauty of the sunrise; they can watch.

Calling up the tower after aan off-shore day-sail contains a hint of defeat because once again you did not quite reach that receding line where ocean and sky collide. 

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On Friday 7 January a modest-looking craft pulled up on the Durban marina slipway.  Aboard were four trim and tanned individuals, as unexpectedly different as the vessel that had brought them in.  

The unusual boat settled down on the hard with an almost absurdly self-satisfied air, taken the condition that she was in.  She had the look of Cinderella with no hope of a fairy godmother; nevertheless her mien indicated there was more than one prince hoping for a chance to fit the shoe. 

What was going on here?  Local yaghties withdrew to the bar to guffaw and speculate about the new arrival.  "They must be crazy to go out on that thing!"  "She's going WHERE?!?!  They'll never make it out the channel, never mind get to Cape Town!"  "We didn't know that pirates worked so far south .... " 


Captain Anatoly and Eugene K

When will we learn that a cover does not reveal all there is to know about a book? 

Over the next few days and until she set sail again on Monday 17 January, those who bothered to take a closer look and get to know more about the Energy Diet trimaran and crew found their initial perceptions shifting and finally skulking away tail between the legs, not so much because those perceptions were unfounded but because they never applied in the first place.

Anyone with the ink still drying on their Deck Hand Certificate knows that it is a bad idea to go to sea on a broken and/or leaky boat.  The vessel in question not only had a decidedly sieve-like appearance but seemed to be held together with duck-tape, splints and bits of string. 


Deflated and awaiting repairs

And that was not the end of it:  she broke just about every sailing-school rule about what to demand of a seafaring boat:  No life raft, perhaps because the boat itself is not much more than that very thing.  The only light on board apart from the head-lamps carried by the crew is on the mast - no tricolour or other navigation lights.  A grand total of 50 liters of fuel is taken on board - just enough to keep the 8-horse-power Yammy's tummy grumbling for more.  No depth sounders, chart plotters, SSB radios - not even a  Jacuzzi:  this model comes only with two hand-held VHF radios, a hand-held GPS, one EPIRB and the drops that bless you from the sky.  Should the drops strengthen into a downpour, there is very little place to hide:  only a canvas cover slightly bigger than a two-man camping tent that already accommodates two sleeping bunks and all the equipment that must stay dry such as laptops, video camera and generator.  Outside of the tent, the cockpit offers only two square meters of living space that must house four crew, a galley-in-a-box, gas bottles, water, safety gear - everything, in fact, but the kitchen s... - perhaps, like saying "Macbeth" in a theatre, "sink" is a word too loaded to be bantered about. 

Despite the boat taking on the appearance of a bomb-site, especially with her pontoons deflated, the boat-yard saw constant activity around her, sitting on her trailer like a self-assured queen bee while the crew replaced broken fibre-class pipes with steel pipes, strengthened or replaced bars bent by the force of the waves, welded cracks and making her stronger in every conceivable way. 


Before and after pics of reinforcements  to the transom area

As the days went by, the crew spent time with members of the local sailing community and more about their amazing journey became known.  Unfortunately this was  hampered by the fact that only the diplomat of the crew responsible for communicating with local communities speaks fluent English.  It was frustrating to know that there was so much knowledge and experience that could not be shared more freely because of the language barrier.  Fortunately music is a universal language and after Wednesday night's sailing and at the Thursday night braai under the thatch Durban sailors were treated to delightful renditions of Russian songs! 

So day by day more information became available about the crew and their respective backgrounds and once again our initial impressions had to be adjusted.  This team was not just your average motley crew:  Amongst the four of them, Captain Anatoly, liaison officer Eugene (Jack 1), navigator Yuri and media specialist Eugene (Jack 2) share an immense amount of travel and sport tourism experience, academic qualifications, career and personal achievements, not to say charm!  What also made an impression was the cohesion of the team and their determination to succeed in their expedition of being the first crew to sail a craft of this type - an inflatable trimaran - for a significant distance across an ocean. 

According to Eugene K, the voyage so far is still only part of the preparation of the boat and her crew towards their ultimate aim:  to establish a Guinness World Record in sailing the Energy Diet craft from Walvis Bay in Namibia to Fortaleza in Brazil.  This, however, seems to be just one level of the expedition.   Another objective, fired by the spirit of adventure shared by the crew - is the and the drive to participate in extreme expeditions.  They want to not only chase, but reach and surpass physical, mental and spiritual horizons; come to a deeper understanding of man's role on planet earth and his relation to the ocean which is, according to Eugene K, the distributed heart of the planet: central to all and always moving.  The team has already achieved and endured much in the past few months.  The previous part of their journey saw them sailing to the Seychelles were they were refused permission to continue by boat and had to dismantle the craft, pack her into 40 bags and fly her to Mauritius, where they could once again assemble her and board for the next leg of their trip to Madagascar and from there to Durban. 

This highlights an interesting aspect of their experiences:  Hands up all sailors who have had to dissemble and reassemble their entire craft?  What makes the Energy Diet vessel even more interesting is that Anatoly, the captain of the expedition, is also the person who conceptualized and designed the craft.  Again, hands up all sailors who can lay claim to that achievement.

What emerges from this is that the Energy Diet crew is not sailors as much as they are adventurers and their mission is not to sail in comfort and luxury as much as to sail this specific craft with this specific team over a specified distance.  For Eugene K, this is inspired by the motto:  "If you set out to do something, either be the first to do it, or be the best." 

In their attempt they have already assembled skill and experience invaluable to the sailing community and have opened mental pathways on which others can continue, and formulate their own goals and achievements.

Sponsorship

It is not surprising that Energy Diet, a subsidiary of NL International, decided to sponsor this expedition.  Not only do the crew and their courageous spirit give credit to the brand in terms of their conduct and achievements but the product - a meal-replacement protein shake - is used extensively for nutrition by the crew in circumstances where the minimum food supplies can be carried due to space restrictions.


Commercial Break! ... Back to work ...


Details on the expedition's progress - referred to as "Across the Oceans with Energy Diet" - is regularly updated on the company's website http://www.energydiethd.com/ which also contains comments by visitors to the site and further details on the craft and crew.

Concerns for our friends from Siberia ran high when the following comments by Eugene K appeared on the website two days after their departure from Durban: 

Евгений Ковалевский: «Всю ночь дул очень сильный ветер, который сейчас не прекращается. Его скорость - до 40 узлов (около 20 метров в секунду - прим. ред.), огромные волны, некоторые из которых, как нам кажется, до 6-7 метров даже. Ночью шли с приличной скоростью: максимальная зафиксированная скорость - порядка 37-38 километров в час. В общем, все мощно и грозно, я бы сказал. Сейчас приближаемся к Ист-Лондону, но зайти не позволяют ветро-волновые условия. Движемся дальше, в сторону порта Элизабет. Уже рассвело и как-то полегче воспринимается, а так, повторюсь, все грозно очень. Не случайно этот участок называли самым сложным, самым опасным - так и есть. В принципе, пока все. Все члены экипажа в норме».

Perhaps worse than it sounds!  Run through Google Translate, this is how the comment read:

Eugene Kovalevsky: "The whole night was blowing very strong wind, which now does not stop. His speed - up to 40 knots (about 20 meters per second. - Ed.), Huge waves, some of which, we think, even up to 6-7 meters. During the night came with decent speed: The maximum fixed rate - about 37-38 miles per hour. In general, all powerful and menacing, I'd say. Now approaching the East London, but do not allow to go wind-wave conditions. Move further towards Port Elizabeth. The dawn broke, and somehow easier perceived, and, again, all very menacing. No coincidence that this area was called the most difficult, most dangerous - it is. In principle, until all. All crew members are the norm. "

The Energy Diet trimaran is, perhaps foremost, a boat that inspires one think.  Instead of strolling on deck with a cocktail and reflecting on issues back at the office, one looks at the craft and one wonders, first in amusement and then with excitement:  Can this be done?  If I had the chance, would I try?  If so, how would I change and perhaps improve on what I see here?  What could be done more effectively, how can safety be ehnanced?   And you start to notice the inventiveness that has gone into preparing the boat for sailing.  Almost every object serves more than one purpose:  A fishing road also serves as a flag-pole and water bottles double as fenders.  Only essential items are carried on board, which keeps the weight of the boat down to approximately 2 500 kgs when equipped and stocked; standing in her socks, the 11m x 8 m boat weighs only 1 300 kgs.   

All the pieces of information fall together in one's imagination - the heart quickens and another horizon appears in view:  the line, just out of reach, where dream and reality meet.

Challenges faced by the crew

"The psychological climate.  And everything being constantly covered in salt".  These, according to Eugene K., are some of the more difficult challenges facing the crew, with repairs to the boat regarded more as chores than challenges since it forms part of the daily routine.  Although the physical dimensions and accompanying limitations of the boat must impact on the team - the absence of ablutions come to mind - it is tolerated and apparently easier to deal with than the divergent interests and personalities within the team.  However, in observing interaction and dynamics amongst the crew it is clear that they know each other very well and both appreciate and respect each others' skill, space and personalities. With all members of the team being relatively new to ocean sailing, all are on a steep learning curve.  The crew rotate through 2.5 hour watches throughout the day, with a helper assisting the person at the tiller in rough conditions.  Apart from the equally distributed watch duties, each person's respective role in the team is well defined and is regarded as their responsibility and area of expertise.  

Apart from the more obvious dangers to life and limb such as being washed overboard in a storm, there are other, seemingly smaller dangers that may lead to long-term problems.  Due to salt crystals constantly covering one's skin when sailing so close to the water on an open craft, small cuts take long to heal and easily become infected.  One preventive measure used by the team is to occasionally wipe vodka over their skin to help prevent infections. 

Conclusion

By the time the inflatable trimaran sailed away from the slipway again on Monday 17 December, there was an air of organized efficiency on deck and everything was securely tied down and back in its place, ready to take on Africa's treacherous Wild Cost. 

Not only did she make it out of the channel but she did so in style, sailing along a bigger sister - so different from the bigger boat but unconditionally proud of what she is. 

There is no doubt that challenges lie ahead.  But sailing to meet those challenges will also bring her and her crew face to face with physical and spiritual horizons that few travelers will ever see. 


A special farewell

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