A Sailing World Record in the Balance
For modern day sailing records, balance is a key consideration. Whether it is balancing strategic decisions, finding an equilibrium speed that keeps the movement of the boat through the water high and the boat in one piece or even physically balancing on a platform that is moving in 3 dimensions.
Brian Thompson was aboard the trimaran Banque Populaire V which has just broken the ‘Jules Verne’ Record for the fastest sailboat around the planet. He spoke to Yacht Racing Business about how being flat out is not always the fastest way to the end.
"A record attempt like the Jules Verne is a balancing act. We couldn't race a sailboat around the planet as if it was a qualifying lap.
With a boat, the goal is also to finish with the boat in perfect shape. Perhaps it is like the Paris Dakar rally - you are not exactly sure what you are up against and you have to manage your speed to be confident to get over every obstacle."
On the most recent voyage, keeping the boat at the right speed is the difference between moving forwards and being stopped dead by large waves.
"When you are going downwind, you are going faster than the waves. You have to overtake them. If the waves are travelling at 17-20 knots, you are going to get into trouble trying to overtake them at 40 knots.
At 40 knots, you either go straight through the ramp or jump over it. You need to balance the speed to hit the ramp at the right speed. For us, 35 knots was about the right speed.
One time we got a little off-balance. We were doing 48 knots surfing down the face of a wave. When we got to the subsequent wave, we decelerated to 28 knots in two seconds. We stopped dead. Our bows plunged into the wave in front and the boat didn't have time to rise up.”
Keeping a footing on a platform moving in 3 dimensions is more like being a surfer than a sailor.
"The boat can move in almost any direction. Left, right, forwards, up and down and a combination of all of those. It's not like a big ferry where you can anticipate which way the boat will move or roll.”
It's great training for your core stability to try and stand still. You really want to be holding on to something."
David Fuller is a marketing professional living in London. He is the Editor of Yacht Racing Business – A global news source for the sport of sailing: http://www.yachtracing.biz.
Header Photo: Some rights reserved (CC by 3.0) by Nouhailler
Brian Thompson photo by B.Stichelbaut