Securing a win in the Transat Jacques Vabre yesterday morning, Vincent Riou reviews the hellish pace of this drag race to Itajaï.
"The rhythm of racing double-handed is harder than that of a solo race. Physically it’s a lot more demanding. Single-handed sailing is more stressful, because you have to cope with everything on your own… when sailing double-handed, you can free yourself of all that, which means there’s always someone with a hand close to the sheets and looking foward, so that takes a fair amount of the stress out of it. However, given that you’re able to utilise a lot more of the boat’s potential, there comes a point where there’s a risk that you won’t know where to stop. It’s full-on, full-on, full-on and physically it’s really trying. I think we sailed the boat at 90, 95% of her true potential... which is high for a boat of this size with two people. Today, as the pressure subsides, I hurt everywhere. I really feel that it’s going to take me a few days to recover, even though I’ve prepared well on a physical level and that training really helped in this race. I’d have never been able to keep up a rhythm like this in a round the world though. The need to go fast means that you’re constantly having to trim the boats, which means there’s a lot of physical impact,... so it all comes down to us finding a subtle balance which translates as going fast gently. To achieve that, you have to trim constantly. When the boat is bolting along, you need to calm her down and when she comes to a standstill you have to get her powered up, change trajectory slightly, etc. The fact that we managed to break our rudder is indicative of the rhythm we’d imposed upon ourselves. We put too much pressure on it. We’re reaching a mode of operation, which means that we’re putting much more pressure on our machine than the boat designers did when they designed them. One thing for sure is that we need to quickly design more solid rudders otherwise we won’t be able to get the full potential out of our boats. I also regret not bringing with me the canvas extension to my cuddy as this crossing really was very wet! Had I known that the bulk of the race was going to involve a reach, we’d have brought it along because we were utterly drenched!