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Man on a Mission



Nick Bice is on a mission. Unlike the Volvo Ocean Race crews who work around the clock when at sea, Bice and his core boatyard crew of 17 have just six days to check and service the six boats that arrived in Auckland on Friday night.


And they’re doing it with an audience. Visitors to the Volvo Ocean Race Village at Viaduct Harbour can visit Pit Lane where the boats on their shore stands tower into the sky. And they can view the sail loft floor and the workshop containers with their unending bustle of activity.


The lofty masts are not on display. The spars and rigs have been wheeled off on trolleys along local streets in the middle of the night, headed to the nearby facility of Southern Spars for their 6,000-mile service.


Bice, a 37-year-old shipwright from Adelaide, South Australia, knows the job from both sides of the dock. He’s raced around the world twice, crewing on ABN Anro and Delta Lloyd before doing it all again twice as shore crew. So this is his fifth trip around the globe and he’s been preparing for it for two years.


The personable Aussie describes his team’s task at every stopover as the equivalent of the attention lavished on Formula 1 racers. It involves teardown and maintenance of all moving parts and special attention to issues flagged by the crews. The regular shore team is supplemented by up to 50 specialists from around the world supplied by the manufacturers and suppliers of all the boats’ gear.


Usually the self-sufficient team operates from a 60x20 metre tented structure but here in Auckland they’re housed inside the vast hall of the Viaduct Events Centre.


Sails are sewn and serviced on the portable floor while the dedicated container workshops for every eventuality are arranged on the periphery. A raised stand at one end is a dedicated public viewing platform.


If the level of complexity and obvious detailed organization is impressive, visitors should remember that they’re only seeing half of it. The Volvo Ocean Race operates with two sets of everything needed to service the boats with the gear and equipment leapfrogging ports around the world to guarantee on-time service.


Before the advent for this race of identical one-design boats with common components it was not unusual for crews and shore teams to work around the clock on repairs and modifications. No drama this time. Bice predicts workdays from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. The show must go on!