Behind The Scenes At The Volvo Ocean Race

November 19, 2014. The Start of Leg 2 from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi.



I’m in Lisbon and its 5.58am. I have been up since yesterday at 6.30am and myself and the team now have a very full day ahead as the boats we have been waiting for since the early hours are just coming into sight over the horizon.  I am working as Human Performance Director for DONGFENG RACE TEAM and it is not the first time on this edition of The Volvo Ocean Race that I have worked a full day in Chamonix at La Clinique du Sport, rushed to the airport, flown through the night and arrived just in time for the arrival of our guys. 


On arrival it is my job to screen the crew for injuries, take several physiological measures such as weight, skin fold thickness and overall girth of limbs.  We also perform a simple psychological well-being measure.  This screening, which is done at all arrivals and departures lets us see how the bodies of the crew are changing while on the sea and in the stop-overs.  Their body composition is all important and from the measurements we can understand how the ratio of fat and lean muscle mass changes during the race.  This is no ordinary race, in fact it is the longest sport event in the world. Imagine eight Tours de France back to back and you start to imagine the physical toll of sailing about 60,000 miles around the world over the course of nine months. There are nine legs in all, most of which last around three weeks which is the same as one Tour de France.


We budget 6,000 calories per person per day and even at that level we have seen weight losses of up to five kilos in three weeks, with lean muscle mass taking a hammering. 

The crew will be on land in about an hour and the rest of the recovery process will begin.  Deal with any acute injuries, take the measurements, let the guys get a quality meal with lots of fruit and fresh produce.  We then allow some time for phones and computers to be switched on and for chats and updates with loved ones then it’s off to the accommodation.  The immediate recovery program is different every time depending on the time of arrival, how stressful the last 24 hrs has been, how long the stop-over is and also how the physical measurements are looking.  Custom fitting recovery strategies for each crew member allows them to bounce back as best they can before leaving again. 

It’s hectic for everyone but this is what makes the event so special. The Volvo Ocean Race is the world’s premier offshore sailing race and one of the most coveted prizes in sport – these guys are the best of the best….


All photo credits: Dongfeng Race Team

Neil Maclean-Martin