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Agathe Armand/Volvo Ocean Race
This is not your regular session in the pool. It's windy, wavy, stormy and the life rafts are on hand. Welcome to day two of the Volvo Ocean Race safety course.

"It makes me think even more that it’s the last place on Earth I ever want to be. So keep your boat afloat!”

The lights are all turned off and the room is hit by a terrific thunderstorm. Groupama sailing team and PUMA Ocean Racing reach their life rafts and start rowing.

We are at the South Tyneside Maritime College, in South Shields in northern England, where the teams are required to completea a two-day offshore safety training course.

“Obviously we can't do the training out at sea,” explains Ocean Safety manager Alistair Hackett, “so we are using the College’s fantastic environmental swimming pool.

“We tried to make the whole thing as realistic as possible: big winds, big waves, thunder and lightning. We can simulate helicopter lifting. The pool is about 4.5 metres deep and the temperature is between 19 and 22 degrees, significantly colder than a conventional swimming pool. That’s still a lot warmer than the Southern Ocean but the sailors are in there for three hours and that’s really as cold as you want it to be.”

All teams spend an afternoon training in the water, wearing survival suits and life jackets. It's exhausting, but well worth the effort according to Groupama's Damian Foxall.

"It’s pretty much as realistic as you can get in a controlled environment," he said. "You get in the life raft and spend quite a lot of time in it. You start to feel a little bit sick and it’s quite claustrophobic and very warm. It’s a useful tool for us.

Ken Read, skipper of PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG Propulsion, agrees the training is essential.

“None of this is worth anything without safety and everybody getting home safe," he said. "So everybody is taking this very seriously. Hopefully we will never have to use any of the techniques we learn here, but for sure we will feel better prepared now because of that.

“This is my fourth safety course and by far the most real. It gives you the sense that you never want to be in a life raft. It’s so claustrophobic.

"The thing flipping over, how easy it would be to lose somebody, all the techniques of getting in and out... It makes me think even more that it’s the last place on earth I ever want to be. So keep your boat afloat!”

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Agathe Armand/Volvo Ocean Race

Groupama Sailing Team and PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG Propulsion are put through their paces in simulated storm conditions during Ocean Safety Training

Agathe Armand/Volvo Ocean Race

Groupama Sailing Team and PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG Propulsion are put through their paces in simulated storm conditions during Ocean Safety Training

Agathe Armand/Volvo Ocean Race

Groupama Sailing Team and PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG Propulsion are put through their paces in simulated storm conditions during Ocean Safety Training

Agathe Armand/Volvo Ocean Race

Groupama Sailing Team and PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG Propulsion training with flares during Ocean Safety Training