How does a solo, non-stop ocean race work? There are many elements to consider, especially for a regatta that takes place in November, such as the Route du Rhum.
Please find below a short glossary, to follow the event as an expert.
It’s the route to be followed. There are two fixed points: the start and the finish; in between, each sailor chooses their own course, and much of the result comes from that choice. However, the shortest route (the one with fewer miles to go) is not always the best: the major element, in fact, is the intensity of the wind available to make the boat run fast.
It’s the weather condition that often guarantees the greater wind intensity. It might seem counterintuitive, but ocean navigators look for bad weather, precisely because it guarantees wind, and therefore they may choose the most complex courses to obtain the highest performance from their boat.
Either the boat does not have them, or they are “sealed”, that is, they cannot be used (under penalty of disqualification).
All ocean regattas provide for the obligation of solidarity with other competitors. If someone is in serious trouble, they must be helped. The sailor who is sent to rescue a companion will then be compensated within the ranking for the time spent in this operation.
How do solo sailors manage sleep? By training in special wake-sleep systems, which allow them to sleep a few hours – and in some cases only a few minutes – and rest, while the boat is in safe conditions and on autopilot.
Each navigator has their own habits: some live only on freeze-dried food to be heated, others have mastered the use of the pressure cooker to quickly prepare the foods available in the galley. Here the schools of thought are different. Surely, navigators must be ready to eat precooked foods: in very adverse weather conditions, in fact, they will not have the possibility to suspend navigation.
In the Route du Rhum, interpreting the weather and currents of the English Channel is the first, important tactical choice after departure, as is choosing the exit to the Atlantic.
The Azores islands are a natural “obstacle” for the racers, who have to choose whether to leave them to port or starboard. The course, in this case, depends on the weather conditions, since the Azores area often risks being characterised by little wind, and therefore turns out to be a very slow zone.
In Class40, the regulation provides for the use of specific types of instruments. Essentially, in addition to the radio contact systems, they are used to analyse the weather in advance and define the regatta tactics, to know one’s own route and that of the other ships in the area and to analyse the performance of one’s boat.
It’s the nice French town from which the regatta will start on November 6. For the city, welcoming boats and navigators is a huge event: the celebrations for the Route du Rhum will start as early as September 25!
Beyond Alberto Bona’s Class40, also other categories of boats will be competing in this event. Among the most followed, the Multi class – the large “limitless” ocean trimarans, which will be chasing the speed record – the 60-foot Imoca class and the Multi 55 catamarans.