June 9, 2015

New greyhounds of the sea

THERE ONCE WAS A TIME when people regarded the large ocean liners as the greyhounds of the sea. They averaged about 20 knots, those greyhounds. About 480 nautical miles in a day. Who would have thought, in those days, that one man, alone in a sailboat, could cover 545 miles in 24 hours — an average speed of 22.7 knots? That’s precisely what Francois Gabart did in the last Vendée Globe race.

Gabart was sailing a 60-foot monohull called Macif.

I have long since stopped boggling at the accomplishments of long-distance sailboat racers. There seems to be no shortage of brave men and women willing to risk their lives in high-tech sailboats with hulls shaped like flat irons, and every four years they set sail from Sables d’Olonne in France in boats with canting keels and moveable ballast tanks, sizzling off the top of swells at speeds up to (and sometimes exceeding) 30 knots as they make perilous passages through the chilly wilderness of the Southern Ocean.

The next Vendée Globe is about 18 months away, and already the prospective contestants are signing up, launching new boats, and refurbishing some that have done the race more than once before.

Here, for the record, is what these contestants will have to do to win. Here are the statistics for Francois Gabart and Macif in the 2012/2013 running of the race:

Ø Longest distance covered in 24 hours: 10 December, 545 miles at an average speed of 22.7 knots
Ø Time spent leading the race: 44 days 20 hours
Ø Les Sables d’Olonne to Equator: 11 days 00 hours 20 min (Jean Le Cam’s 2004/2005 record: 10 days 11 hours 28 min)
Ø Equator to Good Hope: 12 days 03 hours 25 min (J P Dick’s record: 12 day 02 hours 40min)
Ø Good Hope to Cape Leeuwin: 11 days 06 hours 40 min (new record)
Ø Cape Leeuwin to Cape Horn: 17 days 18 hours 35min (new record)
Ø Cape Horn to Equator: 13 days 19 hours
Ø Equator to Les Sables d’Olonne: 12 days 01 hour 37 minutes.

In other words, around the world in about 78 days. It’s an extraordinary achievement, particularly to those of us who are content to plod alongat 5 knots. But Gabart and his fellow professional competitors  are extraordinary sailors. They are the Supermen and Superwomen of the sport — but backed by big money, of course. They are a breed apart from us amateurs who literally do mess around in boats. But I have to say I don’t envy them. There are easier ways to earn a living and probably more fulfilling ways of enjoying the gentle art of sailing.

Today’s Thought

Sooner or later . . . you are going to be looking at God saying, “We’re going to be lucky if we get out of here.” Your life is going to be in front of you and then you are going to realize that you’d rather be grocery shopping.

— Ed Barry, rock climber, Newsweek, 1 Oct 84


They tell me that Viagra is now available in tea bags. It doesn't enhance your sexual performance but it does stop your cookie going soft.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yet you managed to ignore the multihull RTW records -

singlehanded: 57d 13h 34, 06s by Francis Joyon in 2008, or
crewed: 45d 13h 42m 53s by Loick Peyron in 2012...

each on boats that were undoubtedly more of a handful on the journey.