EN ROUTE TO CAPE TOWN – Regardless of your status in the sailing world, you pay the price when you cross the Equator for the first time in an ocean race. Even if you’re America’s Cup stars Peter Burling, Kyle Langford and Carlo Huisman.
Burling (NZL), the World Sailor of the Year, and Team Brunel mates Langford (AUS) and Huisman (NED) faced King Neptune on Monday when their sloop crossed the Equator in fourth place on the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.
As per tradition, the three were stripped to their skivvies and smeared with rotting food scraps. No one escapes King Neptune, not even guys who have won the America’s Cup, as Burling and Huisman did with Emirates Team New Zealand in June, and Langford did with Oracle Team USA in 2013.
“Pollywogs” across the fleet were indoctrinated to a maritime tradition that stretches back some 400 years and was first used by the British navy to build morale and to create bonds between crew during long voyages. Sailors who've not yet crossed from one hemisphere to another are called “pollywogs,” the scientific name for tadpoles, and are judged by King Neptune, the ancient Roman god of the seas for whatever crimes they might have committed during the voyage. They're then “punished” by the “Shellbacks," those aboard with crossings already under their belts.
Dongfeng Race Team was the first crew to cross the Equator, and four days' worth of rotting freeze-dried food went over the heads of rookies Jack Bouttell and onboard reporter Jeremie Lecaudey.
Across the fleet there were 21 sailors to initiate, while of the seven OBRs ("on board reporters") only Turn the Tide on Plastic's Sam Greenfield was safe from Neptune.
Even Turn the Tide on Plastic skipper Dee Caffari had to fend off desperate claims from her teammates that, despite having five laps of the planet to her name, she hadn't been properly inducted because her previous Equator crossings had been solo.
“You're going to really struggle to say that I haven't done any proper Equator crossings,” she told her mutinous crew, laughing. “It ain't gonna happen, and any revolt will be punished 10 times worse.”
America's Cup stars Kyle Lanford, Peter Burling and Carlo Huisman faced King Neptune after making their first crossing of the Equator during the Volvo Ocean Race.