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Living the Green Dragon life

28th August 2008

He masterminded it and now he is sailing on it. Former Afloat editor Enda O'Coineen reports from the deck of the Green Dragon as the 70–footer makes its way along the Portuguese coast tonight (Thursday, August 27th).

 "Man Overboard" was the sudden alert some 40 miles north and east of Cape Villiano on the north west coast of Spain. It took us all by surprise, and that was the idea. Organized chaos followed and some 12 minutes later, on the second pass, we had the life ring, less a lost bucket, back on board.

Still Skipper Ian was not happy and we had three more goes, to get the drill absolutely right, before reloading the spinnaker and heading on our merry way.

Daily life on board this latest generation ocean racer is not for the faint hearted. What seemed like a bolt hole in a black carbon cave, I first saw on designer drawings and then in a factory in China, is now our home as we crawl around. On deck there is the constant crashing and pounding of waves as we power along at 20 knots boatspeed plus.

This is normal. This is a working machine grinding, gnawing, groaning and driving forward at 24 seven.

The Green Dragon advancing, as I write, down the Coast of Portugal, is perhaps like an army tank or battalion on the front line. Behind it ashore, like any good army is the support, the shore team, the logistics and operations, the financing, the Generals and those who organize the parties...Soon we will be in Alicante on the count-down to the race start October 11th.

Like any army, we march on our stomachs. I quite like it for its simplicity. There is just a bag of nourishing stuff for breakfast, then different kind of the same for lunch and dinner. You just mix water in and thats it. Its a bit mushy but its planned and nourishing, no cooking, little cleaning and after popping a few vitamin pills and some liquid, thats it!

Our eating equipment is reduced to one spoon. All very simple as we sail back to basics. For those who like to brush their teeth, we get one toothbrush each and share a communal tube of colgate. Very communist.

Clothing is also relatively simple, each of the eleven on board have one bag which of course moves with us from side to side,(and everything else that moves) as we tack. Underneath are thermal underwear and longjohns commonly associated with grandfathers. They stay on all the time, except of course for essential moments and movements.

And though the longjohns stay, we do take off our oilskins to get into sleeping bags that are most often damp if not wet.

You see water and damp gets in everywhere as we drive the Dragon down the North Atlantic waves. Such is the pressure that water seems to find its way into everything. On deck we wear heavy duty oilskins, complete with safety harnesses which we clip ourselves onto the boat with - to save being carried away. Sure in extreme conditions a sailor without a harness, as a baby, can be like a parachutist without a parachute.

And still as I write this long, you can feel the Green Dragon lift over yet another wave, powered by the massive sails - our engine - below deck the constant clicks, groans, crashes and creaks are never ending. She is strong where it matters and the boys driving her are even stronger and as for those fellows Damian, Tom and the lads...they are part of the boat egged on by Skipper Ian, now asleep after several hours on deck.

But sure its magic, it is powerful and exhilarating and as we cruise along. Now the wind is getting lighter as we moves close to Gibraltar and towards. I suspect that it will be even better when we stop...

A full review of Green Dragon progress (including more sailing accounts) are published in September/October Afloat published on September 3rd. You can subscribe to Ireland's boating magazine online here Team

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