for National Geographic News
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The Volvo Ocean Race is a marathon event. For nine months, world-class racers battle each other around the globe over some 32,700 miles (52,600 kilometers).
Participants spend weeks at a time driving their boats to the limit 24 hours a day. They sacrifice sleep, privacy, fresh food, and other comforts to win each leg. But what happens when they reach the next port of call?
The race doesn't stopit just shifts gears. Weary sailors get a chance to rest and prepare for the next leg, while the shore crew swings into action.
After weeks of demanding action, and a spartan existence at sea, the first things these exhausted sailors crave are basic human needs.
"My priorities are a refreshing pint of beer, followed by some nice fresh food, and then a hot shower," said Amer Sports Too watch captain Katie Pettibone. Amer Sports One tactician Dee Smith looks forward to "a big, big food intake. Your body wants to grab anything it can get. During the race your body gets pretty depleted, so you're craving food."
After weeks of round-the-clock shifts, everyone's also short on sleep, so that's also a priority.
But, Pettibone noted, it's not always easy to catch up. "I definitely try to sleep in, but you can't because your body is still on the watch system," she lamented. "It takes a while to get off that."
Facing the Next Round
Stopovers are up to two and a half weeks long, so most crew members have a chance for some real rest and relaxation before their hard work begins anew.
"At each stop we get a certain number of days to just get away from the boat," said Pettibone. Her sister lives in Philadelphia, so on the current Baltimore/Annapolis stop, the whole family congregated in Philly for a visit.
Captains also get a short and much-needed vacation. "I try to just relax and be with my family if they're there," said Grant Dalton, skipper of Amer Sports One. "If not, sometimes there is a long enough break to fly home for a short time."
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