Ryan Breymaier: Navigating the Shorthanded Sport

Published on October 20th, 2015

Ryan Breymaier is the only American that navigates with skill the shorthanded sport in Europe. After a period chasing records on an American flagged, privately funded giant maxi multihull, Breymaier is enjoying a return to the IMOCA class, getting set on October 25 to take on the 5400 nm doublehanded Transat Jacques Vabre for his first time.

He will sail with young French skipper Nicolas Boidevezi on the 2007 Farr design Adoptunskipper.net.

Breymaier has a history with the boat, working on Roland Jourdain’s shore team and pushing the boat in the colours of Véolia Environnement off the dock in Saint Malo in 2010 as ‘Bilou’ headed out to win the solo Route du Rhum. Since then Breymaier has completed the Barcelona World Race in fifth place, en double, and won the New York Barcelona two up with Spain’s Pepe Ribes.

Preparations and training has been short and sweet. Boidevezi has a small budget and is fighting his way to the start of the Vendée Globe next year, seeking sponsor support to get there. He has five or six years of Mini 6.5 class experience but Breymaier is on board to fast track his IMOCA learning.

Here Breymaier provides an update:

Your budget is thin.
The project with Nico is a project without any money. And so that makes it simpler. If you don’t have money and you have problems then you do with what you have got. That’s the end of it. It is refreshing in a way. We have no money. There are Nico and myself, and Stan and Charles, and that is it. We have some small jobs to do.

Explain the plan?
The sailing we have done is pretty limited. Nico got the boat pretty late. There was quite a lot to do on the boat which we did in Concarneau. Then we did a long qualifier of four days, around 900 miles, we sailed in all kinds of conditions. We started reaching in stronger breeze from Concarneau down to La Rochelle, then we spinnakered out into the ocean and then close reaching to the Scilies, then upwind to Le Havre. And so we had a full range of conditions and enough time that we could get ourselves organised.

The boat was in the shape of every boat that is sold. From the outside it looks great but really there are lots of small things because maybe the maintenance has not happened because people are concentrating on new boats, for example. The sails are alright. They went around the world on the Barcelona World Race with Guillermo but they still look good. The main is nice, you can tell they have been sailing. The objective is not to go out to win the Transat Jacques Vabre, the objective is for me to help Nico go learn.

It is funny to find myself as a teacher. Even at this level he is a young man who I feel has a great future ahead of himself. He has a lot of potential and talent but not so much idea about sailing an IMOCA. He is a good sailor but there are so many tricks that come with experience over five or six years.

My career has always been varied, IMOCA, Class 40, big Multihulls, IMOCA, it changes, IRC boat. For me it is true that whenever you go sailing you learn something. Twenty more days on an IMOCA I will learn and for sure teaching Nico I will learn. There is no negative.

Can you be competitive?
The boat is very good for the generation it is. Alex Thomson finished third in the Vendée Globe with it, the new boats with the foils will be awfully hard to beat. On the short course when the boats can be pushed at 100 per cent, for the most part the Verdiers will be quicker. If we accomplished tenth I would consider that an over the moon success. Stranger things have happened.

Regarding the adoption of foils.
The new boats, without getting into the politics, are significantly quicker. Everyone knew they would be, once foils were put on them. But, like everyone knew they would be, they are significantly more expensive when foils were put on them. So unfortunately it is a bit of a class of Haves and Have Nots. It was not so bad before but it is now. That is a bit of a shame but it is a mechanical sport and these are prototypes and it is going to happen.

The new boats are quite far along in their development, having the moulds built for their second set of foils. That is quite a lot of money. That is the sail budget for Nico for the next few years. They are well along in development. At certain times reaching these boats will be 3.5 to 4 knots faster. Over a couple of days that is an insurmountable lead.

In terms of reliability everyone has been on the dock at least once, not always foil problems, but with the systems around the foils. But there have been some boom issues too. These kind of teething problems happen. But the good news is there does not seem to be any problems with the One Design masts or keels. That is a beautiful, very positive thing for the class.

It is going to be an interesting race, especially if there are some parts of it which will be light. These foiling boats are not special in light air. In the Vendée Globe there is not a whole lot of light airs but in the Transat Jacques Vabre as a percentage it is a bit higher. I will be interested to see how well PRB does, how well SMA does (ex Macif), and Yann Elies (Queguener/Leucemie Espoir) has an older boat but a very quick boat. I think all these guys can do well.

You had hoped to have secured support for your own Vendée Globe campaign.
My IMOCA career comes and goes. I have never been someone whose big dream is to do the Vendée Globe. If it came as an opportunity I would be delighted. But there are so many interesting sailing projects. I have been working with a private owner’s project out of the USA and I enjoyed that. I can tell you it is a lot better with a private owner who wants to spend some money than trying to find a sponsor over here. I try to do everything that I can. It is bit of throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.

I am happy with where I am with my career. This is my first time in my career that someone has called me up and asked me to go sailing with them. And now I have someone asking me to go sailing next on a different boat. I don’t think too much of a career. I just think of what would be cool to do next. In essence my career to date is setting me up for project management in the future. That to me is very interesting and something I do a bit of at the moment.

A lot of what Nico wants me for is technical advice, where to spend the money, what little he has and where to put it. It all works out in the end. I do have an extra mouth to feed now (with wife and new baby) but I am confident I will never go hungry. I am not someone who can only pull on the sheet and go fast. I can do everything around the project in terms of rigging. If it came to the point where there was no sailing, god forbid, then I am certainly going to be able to feed my family.

What kind of sailing do you most prefer?
It is great to have had so many different opportunities over the last five or six years on so many different cool boats. Class 40s, IMOCA, Ultimes, Record Breaking Volvo boats, everything you can imagine. The enjoyment is across the board.

Yes, you do get a bit spoiled with the multihulls and the thought of more than 20 days on a Class 40 to Itajaí is not that appealing. It would still be fun and there is huge competition, six or eight boats in that fleet can win, that is awfully nice. When record breaking, you don’t have a boat to race against and all of a sudden if you don’t take it very, very seriously you are just doing fast deliveries. The competition aspect is really nice for this Jacques Vabre, getting back into competition.

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Transat Jacques Vabre in brief
• A legendary race 22 years old and 2015 marks the 12th edition
• Two founding partners: the city of Le Havre and brand Jacques Vabre
• Four classes on the starting line: Class40, Multi50, IMOCA and Ultimate
• Starting October 25 in Le Havre (FRA) for the 5400nm course to Itajaí (BRA)

Report by event media.

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