Today I will feature an interview that I recently had with Paul Willcox while sitting on the stack at 0200 this morning in the rain. Paul a.k.a ‘Big Breeze’ has just joined the sailing team as an alternate for Andrew Lewis. This is his first leg, in his first Volvo Ocean Race and he seems to be pretty stoked on the experience so far.
BB (Big Breeze) = Paul Willcox
ND= Nick Dana
ND: Big Breeze, how has the race grabbed you so far? Is it what you had imagined?
BB: No. Not at all really, for some reason when I used to imagine doing the race it was more like a race promo. You know – blast reaching in 30 knots with so much water over the deck you struggle to stay upright and your eyes swollen shut. I know there is plenty of that to come, but I guess I neglected to think about the more tedious days and weeks of light air, no air, upwind drifting, downwind drifting, no wind drifting, you know the days that are more mentally challenging than physically.
ND: Yes. But you had done quite a bit of sailing so far on Volvo 70s. Both training with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing for the past year, as well as shore team with Team Russia in the previous race. Why is it different now?
BB: It’s different for a whole variety of reasons. Mainly though, I don’t have to use my imagination anymore! The days just come as they are, some are harder and some far easier than I would have probably expected. I guess when you’re on the shore team or doing short training segments there is real senses of urgency to perform at you’re absolute best. But once you get out here, you realise it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon and you have to pace yourself in all aspects of life on board. Perform at your best, but don’t burn yourself out.
ND: Getting the call up to do this leg must have been a little bit of a shock. In fact, you were back in South Africa already probably wondering what’s next outside the Volvo at the time you got the call. What was that like, and has it hit you yet that you’re actually doing the race?
BB: Not even close. I don’t think it will set in until some crazy day in the southern ocean when it really resonates with my original imagination of the race; at least as I knew it before I was sailing in it. As far as the call, yes it was a shock to say the least. Ian (Walker) had explained to me that there was always going to be a possibility that I would get the chance to step up. So for me it was all about keeping the opportunity alive, staying fit, strong, and willing to provide the team with whatever it needed to succeed. To be honest - I just kept knocking at the door and someone finally answered!
ND: How do you think this race will affect your career in sailing now?
BB: Well for sure it takes it to a new level. But with only a week into my first leg under my belt, it might be a bit brash to say what doors have opened for me. I know that you make great contacts, and the camaraderie that is among fellow Volvo sailors is very unique in the sport. So hopefully it means more work in the future, but I’m taking it one leg at time right now.
ND: What do you think King Neptune has planned for you?
BB: Something heinous - probably a real ugly haircut and some sort of elaborate dead flying fish outfit. I keep hearing the boys talking about a Lego man haircut, but I’m not sure what that means.
ND: I do. And I hope for your sake that is not what you get. Last question, where did you get the name Big Breeze?
BB: Not quite sure its exact origin. I remember telling an American mate of mine a story about sailing and using the words ‘big breeze’ to describe the conditions. He seemed to think it was hilarious and next thing I knew I was walking around the yard hearing ‘Big Breeze’ left and right from everyone on the team. Guess that’s what mates are for!