Dragon’s cafeteria plan

Published on November 19th, 2018

American Michael Hennessy is competing in the 2018 Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe on his Owen Clarke designed Class40 Dragon. There were 53 Class40s when the race got underway on November 4, but hard times has reduced the field to 37 skippers in the class.

Hennessy stands 12th in the solo transatlantic race, and after 15 days of sailing, he discusses a popular topic this week… food:

A question I get a lot is “what do you eat”? The short answer is as many calories as I can in the easiest possible way.

It’s hugely important because every action out here takes energy. Changing sails, steering, stacking gear, trimming sails, fixing things. Just standing around takes energy given how much the boat is constantly moving.

But the solution is actually a more complicated answer because there are a few challenges.

1) Equipment. I don’t have a stove, oven, pots or pans, or a refrigerator. Not enough room and too much weight. All I have is a single burner camping stove that is good for boiling water, a Jet Boil.

2) Weight. Everything is about weight out here. I suppose I could haul around cans of soup and jars of spam but those are heavy calories with heavy packaging and we don’t litter out here. If I bring it out there, I bring it back in.

3) Appetite. I lose my appetite out here. It’s not that things don’t taste good, it’s just that I’m not hungry. Ever.

For the latter issue, frankly the only answer is to make sure I have variety and that it tastes good. Then it is just a matter of forcing the food into me. For the former, I bring a lot of dried food, either freeze dried or dehydrated, and then add water. I carry both the food and the water, and can stack both for weight advantages.

Breakfast is usually either instant oatmeal or granola with powdered milk and water.

Lunch is often a Ramen noodle, with my favorite Mama Ramen. I add these packets of dehydrated vegetables from Packit Gourmet to add to the noodle mix and amp up the flavor and the calories.

Dinner is usually a package of freeze dried that turns into a meal when you add boiling water and let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes. The package is powder and small chopped up pieces of food to make it easier to reconstitute, and the result is something like a softly chunky mush.

There are lots of different brands and everyone has their favorites. I tend to carry meals from Packit Gourmet (chili, gumbo, chicken and dumplings, Tuscan beef stew) and Mountain House (chili mac, beef stew, lasagna).

When it is really rough with lots of boat motion, I try to avoid boiling water because there is risk of burning yourself when transferring it from camp stove to food bag. So for the first 10 or 11 days I ate a lot of meals from O Meals. These are fully cooked meals in pouches, and all you do is add a bit of water with a catalyst pack that when they get together produce heat that warms the food pouch. It’s heavier so I don’t use it for all meals, but it is safer.

Snacks include nut/fruit trail mix, dried beef, Clif Bars, chocolate, and I usually bring fresh fruit.

That’s it, Dragon’s cafeteria plan. What I crave when I get to shore is a steak, big salad with lots of tomatoes and ice cream.

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Background: The 11th edition and 40th anniversary staging of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo transatlantic race got underway on November 4. Held ever four years, this iconic 3,542-nautical mile course takes the record entry of 123 skippers in six divisions – Ultime, Multi 50, Imoca 60, Class 40, Rhum Multi, and Rhum Mono – from the start off the Brittany port of Saint Malo (France) to Guadeloupe.

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