Här kommer en kort sammanfattning från Petit Bateau Solo Racing Festival. Det är Graeme Sutherland som antecknat. Vi hade ju en kort video tidigare. Kan finnas lite matnyttigt för shorthandedseglare.
The day kicked off before lunch with a lecture by Dr Chris Idzikowski, director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre. Sleep, or lack of it, is a major factor for a solo sailor, and there’s a strong correlation between those who can cope with very little and race winners.
There were some useful pieces of advice: Try to match sleep to the natural ninety minute cycles, though this can be difficult for skippers who can’t get more than thirty minutes at a time; sleep can be “banked” before an event; 4 am is the most likely time for accidents to occur, due to the daily cycles; and there is evidence that creatine can aid alertness when someone is fatigued.
Less useful is that fourteen days of complete sleep deprivation will kill a rat. And the word snorgasm…
After the lunch break, the second track covered design and build. Charles Bertrand brought us up to date on the Fox Class 950 project. The first boat is in build, and is designed to the Class 950 rule, a smaller (32′) version of the Class 40. Paul Metcalf gave updates on the Express 40, an Owen Clarke designed production Class 40, which saw action in the Transat Jacques Vabre.
This session was rounded out by Guillaume Verdier and Simon Rogers discussing their Class 40 and Open 60 projects. There was an evident contrast between the approaches. Safran was designed around lightness and simplicity, whilst the Rogers designed Artemis looks to be a more powerful and complicated beast, with a large wingmast and a “no comment” response to a question about whether she’d have a trim tab fitted. It’ll be interesting to see how the approaches pan out in the Vendée later this year.
The amount of research and development that goes into the Open 60s is staggering: Verdier, along with his partners VPLP, stopped tracking time after they hit 5,000 hours on Safran, whilst Rogers logged 10,000 hours developing Artemis, including third scale tank tests.
Offshore sailing can be dangerous. This point was driven home by Ross Hobson, who capsized his trimaran Ideal Stelrad during the 2006 Route du Rhum. Graham Elliot gave a chilling account of what happened to the crew of Hooligan V when her keel failed in February of last year, and which led to the loss of Jamie Butcher.
Both stressed the importance of having safety kit available in an emergency, and the difficulties inherent in being rescued. Both talks were very moving, and I hope that I never end up in that sort of situation.
Their practical experience was put into context by Professor Michael Tipton, who carries out research into sea survival, which is used by the RNLI, RYA and events such as the Volvo Ocean Race and Velux 5 Oceans.
Professor Tipton provided compelling statistics that your survival chances are massively increased by wearing a properly fitting life jacket, and that crotch straps and spray hoods are essentials, and not optional extras.
The day was rounded off with Nicko Brennan, Nigel King and Sam Davies talking about their experiences racing.
Nicko Brennan placed fifth overall in last last year’s Mini Transat, after a two year, unsponsored campaign. He discussed tactics, but was overall modest, saying that somehow he managed to gain places. Come on Nick, the opposition can’t have been that bad!
Nigel King’s background is in crewed racing, but has undergone a conversion to the solo side of the sport. He decided on the Figaro, as he didn’t fancy getting involved in a boat building project, and it fitted into his budget.
His first race sounded like a hellish experience, and King vowed never to sail solo again, until he found he’d placed well, at which point he was hooked. Unfortunately an autopilot failure in bad weather forced him to retire from the Solitaire, but he’ll be back this year.
The lovely Sam Davies has been racing for years, and has sailed on everything from a Mini to a G-Class catamaran. After four years in the tough Figaro class, she landed the role of skipper for the Roxy team’s Open 60, the former PRB, and winner of the last two Vendée Globes.
Sam gave an insight into the life at the top end of the sport. Her schedule includes a lot of training, not only on the boat, but also in the gym and classroom, along with corporate events for her sponsor. (Though sailing around the South of France with a boatload of bikini clad girls doesn’t sound too taxing to me.)
However, due to the leap in performance of the newer designs, the old boats are no longer competitive. They now have an unofficial second division where they race amongst themselves. So far Sam is winning on this, and hopefully she’ll get something a bit more competitive with the bigger teams before too long.
Overall, it was an excellent day, and you really should attend next year. Even if it does clash with the Six Nations.
Thanks are due to Jerry Freeman for organising the event, the RSYC for providing the venue, and Paul Metcalf sponsoring the beer. (Do I have to buy one of your boats now?)