Volvo Ocean Race: Is this the 'Everest' of sailing?

Published 1150 GMT (1950 HKT) September 5, 2014
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If there was an "Everest of Sailing," this would be it.

At least, that's the nickname given to the Volvo Ocean Race, an epic nine-month journey across the globe in which hardened sailors battle everything from tropical cyclones to Antarctic storms.

With just under a month until the grueling competition kicks off, the teams came face-to-face for the Round Britain & Island Race -- seen as an early indicator of the prestigious Volvo crown.

In these remarkable images of the event, sailors pushed themselves to the limit over four days... and that's just a warm-up to the punishing race in October.
Corinna Halloran/RORC via Getty Images
"People often say to me 'you guys have to be so tough to do this race,'" said Chris Nicholson, Australian skipper for Team Vestas Wind, one of seven teams taking part in the Volvo Ocean Race.

"And I say 'well, if I was really so tough, it wouldn't seem so hard.' The race is a really difficult thing to do day-in, day-out. But that's the challenge."
Justin Chisholm/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing via Getty Images
The competition starts in Alicante, Spain, stopping in 11 ports and covering over 38,000 miles across the globe, before ending in Gothenberg, Sweden, almost nine months later.

Beginning in the picturesque Mediterranean, the Volvo Ocean Race follows the north to south trade wind route; facing everything from the frustratingly calm Doldrums at the equator, to the brutal waves of the Southern Ocean.
Amory Ross/Team Alvimedica via Getty Images
"If you were to sit down and look at the amount of factors that can go wrong, it can be anything from debris in the ocean, to shipping, electronic failures on board, fire, injury -- it's an endless list," said Nicholson, who also competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and 2004 Athens Olympics.

"I've always said, I don't think it's that difficult to sail around the world. But I think it's bloody difficult to race around the world against the best."
Francisco Vignale/Spanish Team via Getty Images
Launched in 1973, the Volvo Ocean Race is one of the toughest sporting competitions in the world, claiming three lives in the first year alone. Yann Riu/Dongfeng Race Team via Getty Images
This year, all-female Team SCA will also be battling it out on the high seas -- the first time in a decade that a women-only crew has taken part.

The team will have three more sailors than other boats -- bringing their total to 11.

"Even with our extra three people, physically it is really hard," said British crew member Sam Davies. "The guys are stronger than us and so we need all the horsepower we can get."
Corinna Halloran/Team SCA/getty Images
That doesn't mean the women's team isn't a force to be reckoned with.

"SCA is the big unknown in this race," said Team Spain skipper, Iker Martinez.

"They're going to be sailing with 50% more people on board. We've seen the women sailing in Lanzarote before, and in the beginning they had a few problems. But once they were offshore they were very, very good."
Courtesy Rick Tomlinson/RORC
If the recent Round Britain & Ireland Race is any indication, then the team to beat at the upcoming Volvo competition will be Abu Dhabi.

The crew won the competition in a record breaking time of four days, 13 hours.

"I was very confident before the race," said Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker. "I know we've got good people, and I know we've had very good training. But you never know for sure until you go racing."
Justin Chisholm/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing via Getty Images
This race also looks set to be the tightest, new rules meaning all teams will compete in the same boat designs.

"Last time around, we arrived in Alicante not knowing if we had a chance or not," said Team Abu Dhabi skipper, Ian Walker. "Now, with the same boat for everyone, you know that if you sail well, you will do well."
Courtesy Rick Tomlinson/RORC
They might all be competing in the same boat, but when faced with some of the most brutal conditions on the planet, will these sailors all have the same determination to see it through to the end? We'll soon find out. Courtesy Rick Tomlinson/RORC