See why the Volvo Ocean Race is the most extreme sailing race on Earth

© Yann Riou/Volvo Ocean Race
Written by Yvonne Gordon
The world's toughest sailing race has just finished its seventh leg, in which it headed east from Auckland, New Zeland, to Itajaí in Brazil.
Seven teams, 65ft boats, 93 sailors: all battling it out over 45,000 nautical miles (83,340km), four oceans, six continents and eight months of extreme sailing: this is the Volvo Ocean Race.
Watch the best moments of Leg 6 in the video below:
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The 2017-18 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race is the longest course ever in the race’s history, since it started as the Whitbread Round the World in 1973. This time it goes through 12,500km of the Southern Ocean, more than any edition before.
Volvo Ocean Race, Leg 6 to Auckland, start day - the fleet.
The fleet
But the race is more than just numbers. This is the world’s longest and toughest sporting event. Sailors live in basic conditions for up to a month at a time, battling extreme weather and temperatures, cold water, huge waves and storms, and dealing with everything from marine life to hidden reefs, floating objects and even, as you'll see in the video above, over-enthusiastic spectator boats.
Volvo Ocean Race Leg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, day 16 on board Brunel.
Wave shower
They live on freeze-dried food, only get to shower when it rains and work on four-hour watches, with bursts of sleep in uncomfortable bunks which they share with other crew members. Sometimes they get sick or injured, or equipment is damaged.
Sailor shows wrinkled hands during the Volvo Ocean Race.
Bianca Cook's hands after 15 days at sea
Bouwe Bekking, Skipper, Team Brunel, Leg 7:
“On deck it's horrible, cold and miserable, the waves keep bashing into your face and body, face and fingers are numb even with full protection. We were just smiling, if this was a soccer team, then most likely hardly anybody would be on the field anymore. But we play a match for 19 days, no stopping and only complaining a tiny little bit. And yes, we do love our sport.”
Volvo Ocean Race Leg 6 to Auckland, day 04 on board Brunel.
Kyle Langford taking on the leech
At the end of each leg, the sailors spend a few days on shore, in 12 different cities, recovering, resting and eating, before they take to the sea and start again on the next leg. Some crew are first-timers to the race, some have stories of doing it before.
Volvo Ocean Race Leg 6 to Auckland, day 20 on board Sun hung Kai/Scallywag.
Annemieke Bes checking to see if they're getting close to the rocks
Martin Keruzore, OBR, Dongfeng Race Team, Leg 6:
“For some days now, the wind and the waves have calmed down, opening the door to all kinds of stories, anecdotes and legends aboard the red and white Volvo 65… The hours spent on watch are transformed into an outlet for our passion for sailing and our tales, and we listen and we laugh. We could spend hours here, sitting on a sail or at a winch, intoxicated by this culture…"
Volvo Ocean Race Leg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, day 08, sailors sleeping during the day in 40-degree temperatures.
Sleeping during the day is hard enough with near 40ºC temperatures
The doldrums bring calm periods of no wind and hot temperatures where the boats just float on the ocean surface. At the other extreme, when the waves are big, the Volvo 65s go at high speeds and the water feels like a firehose on deck. But when conditions are right, dolphins are surfing the bow wave or an albatross is flying behind the boat, and sunrises and sunsets are spectacular, there's no better place to be…
Volvo Ocean Race Brest to Lisbon on board Turn the Tide on Plastic.
Sailing with company
Dee Caffari, Skipper, Turn The Tide on Plastic, Leg 7:
“We started the day surfing huge waves on the edge of control in 50 knots of wind, to find ourselves just 1.8 miles from Cape Horn... The visibility was clear and we could see the snow-capped mountains behind, as well as the detail of the lighthouse that marks the point… The icing on the cake was the most beautiful sunset we've seen this leg as a watch change took place, allowing most of the crew to see it and round off what was a pretty special day.”
Volvo Ocean Race Leg 6 to Auckland, day 13 on board Turn the Tide on Plastic.
Turn the Tide on Plastic having fun with the sails
So wait, then why put yourself through the Hell of it all? For the love and glory of sailing around the world.