As the 2014-15 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race action unfolded, veteran yachtsman Tony Mutter was in an unusual place - sat in his home in Auckland, New Zealand, watching on the race tracker.
It was the first time since the 1997-98 edition that Mutter, one of New Zealand's best sailors, had not been part of the Volvo Ocean Race… and he didn’t like it.
A veteran of five campaigns – Swedish Match in 1997-98, SEB in 2001-02, winning teams ABN AMRO ONE in 2005-06 and Ericsson 4 in 2008-09 and PUMA Ocean Racing in 2011-12 – Mutter found himself playing a key role in another big sailing project, Jim Clarke’s 100ft superyacht, Comanche.
It meant that he had to sit out the Volvo Ocean Race for the first time in two decades.
“It was weird not being part of the 2014-15 race,” the 48-year-old said. “For a large chunk of it I was at home, so I got to watch it all unfold and I became a Volvo Ocean Race groupie.
“I was glued to the tracker, and really enjoyed predicting when some boats were going to go well or some were going to go bad.
“It was frustrating to watch sometimes, and it made me think that maybe I should be out there helping them out, but other commitments meant I couldn't.”
In the years since the 2014-15 edition, Mutter has been part of numerous high profile sailing campaigns, and is often asked by skippers to assemble top-flight crews. The responsibility of putting together the world’s best sailors has led to a realisation of his own.
“The go-to guys are always Volvo Ocean Race sailors,” Mutter said. “I hold them in the highest of regards. You know they have amazing skills – they're just the best.”
He continued: “It made me realise just how good these guys are, and that I needed to re-hone my own skills by doing another Volvo Ocean Race. So here I am.”
Unable to resist the draw of the Volvo Ocean Race, Mutter signed up to Charlie Enright's Vestas 11th Hour Racing team alongside fellow Volvo Ocean Race veterans Damian Foxall, Phil Harmer and Simon Fisher
Not only does Mutter come with bags of elite experience, he also knows what it takes to win - having lifted the trophy in 2005-06 with ABN AMRO ONE and in 2008-09 with Ericsson 4.
And the 2017-18 edition has started well for the blue boat, with a Leg 1 win, and a podium place in Leg 2 setting them up as a surprise package of the race so far.
Mutter's vast offshore skill and knowledge will be put to the test when the seven-strong fleet heads into the Southern Ocean on Leg 3 next Sunday 10 December.
The leg is the first of three which feature double points – along with the stage from Auckland to Itajaí, and the Blue Ribbon transatlantic race from Newport to Cardiff.
There are nearly three times the Southern Ocean miles this edition than in the last race, but Mutter is unfazed.
“The two Southern Ocean legs are going to be cool,” he said. “It's nice to see the race getting back to the more traditional route.".
Some of the guys are probably going to freak out because they're going to see icebergs but that's part of the race, part of the adventure.
He adds: “The Volvo Ocean Race is completely different to the events we do - it's adventure-based, across multiple continents, and it goes to places on the planet that no-one else races to."
"I imagine one day I might lose my spirit of adventure – but not yet.”