A not so festive season for family men on board

Team Telefonica ©Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race
Team Telefonica ©Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race

If you're lucky enough to be spending the festive season surrounded by family and friends, spare a thought for the Volvo Ocean Race sailors, thousands of miles from their loved ones.

Team Telefónica skipper Iker Martínez is no stranger to Christmas at sea due to a hectic schedule of major sailing events but since sons Joan, one, and Iker, five months, arrived on the scene, it has been all the more difficult to be away at this time of year.

"It's more of the same as we were in Barcelona last year ahead of the regatta start and I think we were in India the one before that and maybe Australia the year before...so there you go," Martínez said.

"We've had quite a few Christmases away from home, and this year is yet another one.

"It's a bit sad because I would like to be at home with all of the family, but it's just the way it is and at least we are out here sailing, doing something that we love."

The same applies for Martínez's long-term sailing partner Xabi Fernández, who also has children at home in Spain.

"In our line of work we are almost always away at Christmas and I think that this is the fifth or sixth Christmas in a row that we are not at home for one reason or the other," Fernández said.

"Normally we are sailing in the Southern hemisphere where it is summer, so you could say we are pretty used to this, but you do feel a bit sad, mostly because of the kids as things are starting to get even more fun with them. Anyway, for now we've got to be away from home."

For some, however, Christmas at sea is just another day in the office, focused solely on racing.

"As far as I know no Christmas presents or Christmas puddings have gone on board so it will be business as usual," said CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Chris Nicholson.

"To be honest I'm focused on racing. Normally when you're at home at this time of year you feel quite a build up coming into Christmas. I'd have to say that hasn't occurred this year. It's been more of a build up coming into leg 2. It's business as usual for me."

Tony Mutter of PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG is similarly focused. "I've already said Merry Christmas to everyone," Mutter said. "There's not much we can do. I don't think we have any presents on board."

Groupama bowman Brad Marsh is used to Christmas away from family – but said it's the New Zealand summer with his mates he misses the most.

"It's an interesting one, because typically for me Christmas Day is spent sitting in Sydney waiting for the start of the Sydney to Hobart Race so yachting taking over my Christmas Day is not a new thing for me," Marsh said.

"But, to be at sea, away from your friends and family is hard, especially in New Zealand where it's a fantastic summer at the moment, the guys are all enjoying the beaches, boats and barbecues, and social gatherings. It's hard to read the emails and feel like you're missing out on that."

For PUMA skipper Ken Read, it's not about one particular day in the calendar, it's about the family you leave behind for the duration of each leg.

"I travel a lot in my life," Read said, "but I don't think I've ever not been home for Christmas. At the same time my family are completely supportive of what we do, we've all known the schedule for a long time. It's just a case of missing your family period. I haven't seen my daughter since September. She's coming to Abu Dhabi and that really is my focus."

Dockside goodbyes are made all the more poignant in the knowledge that Christmas will be spent away from family.

"I have a little daughter, she's two and a half, starting to get the whole Santa Claus thing, so I'm pretty sad to miss that," said Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing bowman Wade Morgan.

"I've asked the wife to video it for me. It's just part of the job, you just have to get on with it."

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