How Experience Changes Perspective

Published on January 29th, 2017

After nearly three months of competition, first-time Vendée Globe skipper Conrad Colman (USA/NZL) is now charging up the Brazilian coast in the Atlantic Ocean. In this report he reflects on how far he has come as a solo sailor…

When I started solo sailing in 2009, I capped the season with a participation in the Mini Transat, a sprint in two legs from France to Salvador in 21 foot versions of the IMOCA 60 I am now piloting.

Back then it was with some trepidation that I embarked on a solo transatlantic crossing and it took me months to prepare. But now, with these four thousand remaining miles to the finish in France, this distance rather feels like a jaunt across the pond after the rigours of the Southern Ocean.

How a little experience changes one’s perspective!

Speaking of experience, I am proud too to have crossed my outward track and thus completed the circumnavigation part of the race. Having crossed all lines of longitude from west to east I have now sailed around the world and crossed over the same point (06 ‘ 57 S, 032’ 20 W) that I last traversed on November20. That feels a lifetime ago… before the cold and the grey of the south with its seemingly never-ending struggles and associated triumphs.

Now with 350 miles to the equator, I am really feeling the tropical heat. With no A/C, cool drinks, gentle cooling breezes or any of the other comforts that allow us to dose our exposure in hot climates, I thrive at night when temperatures are more comfortable and the sun won’t scorch my fair skin.

With unlimited energy from my solar panels and hydro generator, I can make lots of water with my desalinator “water maker” but I need to drink until I can feel it in the back of my throat before I am sated.

One of my favorite books when I was younger was the “Kontiki Expedition” that recounted the tale of anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl who sailed across the Pacific on a balsa wood raft with some friends to prove an academic theory. As sunburned Swedes and Norwegians, they also suffered in the heat.

They found that adding some sea water into their drinking water slacked their thirst as they came to discover their bodies were lacking salt as much as water. I use sport drink tablets to replace my sodium but perhaps I should try a little “eau de poisson volant” instead!

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The eighth Vendée Globe, which began November 6 from Les Sables d’Olonn, France, is the only non-stop solo round the world race without assistance. Twenty-nine skippers representing four continents and ten nations set sail on IMOCA 60s in pursuit of the record time set by François Gabart in the 2012-13 race of 78 days, 2 hours and 16 minutes.

For the first time in the history of the event, seven skippers will set sail on IMOCA 60s fitted with foils: six new boats (Banque Populaire VIII, Edmond de Rothschild, Hugo Boss, No Way Back, Safran, and StMichel-Virbac) and one older generation boat (Maitre Coq). The foils allow the boat to reduce displacement for speed gains in certain conditions. It will be a test to see if the gains can topple the traditional daggerboard configuration during the long and demanding race.

Retirements (11):
November 12, Day 7 – Tanguy de Lamotte, Initiatives Coeur, masthead crane failure
November 19, Day 14 – Bertrand de Broc, MACSF, UFO collision
November 22, Day 17 – Vincent Riou, PRB, UFO collision
November 24, Day 19 – Morgan Lagravière, Safran, UFO collision
December 4, Day 29 – Kojiro Shiraishi, Spirit of Yukoh, dismasted
December 6, Day 31 – Kito de Pavant, Bastide Otio, UFO collision
December 7, Day 32 – Sébastien Josse, Edmond de Rothschild, foil damage
December 18, Day 43 – Thomas Ruyant, Le Souffle du Nord, UFO collision
December 24, Day 49 – Stéphane Le Diraison, Compagnie du Lit – Boulogne Billancourt, dismasted
December 24, Day 49 – Paul Meilhat, SMA, keel ram failure
January 1, Day 57 – Enda O’Coineen, Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland, dismasted


Source: Vendee Globe

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