The secrets and life hacks
We continued the conversation about offshore regattas with Valentin Zubkov, and the next question was: how to prepare for such races, and what recommendations can he give?
You win the race while you are still onshore — this is an axiom. Any race. First of all, this is planning, studying theory, preparing equipment, physical and moral training, nutrition, shifts, and sleep schedule. Even if the crew has the chance to get together just a few days before the race, you can still prepare in advance.
On any yacht, even the smallest one, there are more than thirty roles that the crew must perform. If there are only four people on the boat, there are still thirty roles. The only difference is that everyone has to do more. In small crews, the leader assumes the role of a navigator, a meteorologist, a tactician, a boat captain, a helmsman, and a manager. A sailor turns into a mechanic, a doctor, a psychologist, a cook, an electrician, a driver, and a photographer. Almost all members of the team should have the experience of a rigger.
Offshore races are divided into two stages: the first is to reach the finish line without loss, the second — to improve the result. Many sailors immediately want the result. A finish without losing the crew and equipment is the result in itself. That’s why they say «to finish first — first finish the race.»
In sailing, as in life, there are no small things; every detail is important. The yacht should sail fast and in the right direction, day and night. The navigator and the meteorologist are responsible for the course, and trimmers and helmsmen are accountable for speed. Each member of the team contributes according to his experience. The speed is inversely proportional to safety.
The less we load the yacht with sails, the safer we are. The lower the speed of the yacht, the lower the risk of breaking something. The main goal of the offshore race is to put a load on the yacht and crew smartly. This is very similar to a marathon; you need to calculate the strength of people and boats to the end.
There are several points that I want to focus on. Few people practice night training before an offshore race — I highly recommend it.
On the first night, instead of leading the yacht, the crew is distracted by fitting vests, dazzling each other with lights. They spend a lot of time to light the sails only for their trimmers correctly, and not for all the competitors, although all these issues can be solved by one-night training. And for this, two or three hours is enough; you don’t need to go out to the sea for the whole night.
The sport ends where the risk of life begins. You must conduct training alarms in standard cases: man overboard, evacuation to a liferaft, fire, a hole, loss of a mast. The first two points are best trained on the water. Such trainings increase self-discipline, responsible sailors put on a lifevest very fast. Forewarned is forearmed!
In my opinion, little attention is paid to proper nutrition, drinking water, and sleep during the race. A neglect of these critical points leads to a loss of crew efficiency. I recommend having 2-2.5 liters of water per person per day. It is better to sign all the drinking water by date to eliminate the possibility of over-expenditure.
Everyone is trying to make the boat as light as possible. A slightly heavier boat but well-equipped will have an advantage over the super-light one, on which hot meals, sleep, and the sufficiency of drinking water are not organized correctly.
Sublimates are great, but do not forget about vegetables and fruits. You need to organize ventilated and dry storage properly. You will not have the chance to cook complete meals. Try to prepare hot meals by using just boiling water. I would recommend eating hot food at least twice a day. Distribute the products by day: day 1, day 2, day 3. All this must be planned and purchased before the start of the race. Just before the start, you will only need to buy bread, fruits, and vegetables.
The shift schedule. A common mistake is saying, «I do not want to sleep yet; I will stay up.» There are many shift schedules, and each skipper, when distributing the shifts among the crew members, must take into account that not all people are the same. Under certain weather conditions, trimmers should be given more rest, while under others, helmsmen. The navigator often needs an individual schedule. You can change the shift schedule with a change of weather. The schedule should be printed and put in a place where everyone can see it to eliminate misunderstandings, doubts, and unnecessary arguments. Focus on the main task of the shifts — the speed of the yacht.
I recommend separating the dry and wet areas on the yacht so that the berths remain dry during rain or storm. Think in advance about clasps for fixing wet clothes. A sailor who has slept in a dry place will work his shift much more efficiently than the one who has slept in a damp place. You can solve the issue by using hermetic bags — after sleep, the bedding can be put there.
Modern lifevests have rigid elements, such as a balloon and AIS, and the vest should be adjusted so that when you breathe calmly, a fist can be inserted under the waist belt. The vest should lie on the shoulders, and not press on the neck. You have to look up at the sails a lot, and the neck should not be constrained; otherwise, you will get tired before the end of the shift.
Seasickness. Those who are frightened, tired, sleepy, hungry, and cold are most prone to seasickness. Don’t be like that! One month before going to the sea, do special gymnastics and exercise. The vestibular apparatus needs to be kept in good shape. You can find all these exercises on the Internet (breathing, hanging head down, carousel, reading on a swing, somersaults).
Solar radiation. Even if you warn people to protect themselves from the sun, they don’t want to do it. For some, this is a vacation, and they want to get a tan — but, in fact, they come home with sunburns. Close the skin completely during the day, from 12 to 15, and preferably from 11 to 16. Do not forget that the sun makes you tired. A sailor unprotected from the sun works less effectively. Morning and evening hours are enough to get an even tan.
I would recommend having someone as a psychologist during the race. This should be the most level-headed person on the yacht. There will be a weak link in any new, unfamiliar crew. The task of the psychologist is to maintain morale. Hug those who are sad, make warm those who are cold, feed those who are hungry.