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Vendee Globe: Sleep is an essential requirement

by Vendee Globe 24 Sep 2020 14:05 BST
Vendee Globe © Vendee Globe

In the very specific, rarefied world of solo ocean racing, sleep has a direct impact on safety and performance. In this first part, we begin with the subject of data with Thomas Ruyant.

Part 1 - data helping the sleeper

When Alex Thomson ran aground on the rocks in the 2018 Route du Rhum, while he was leading the race and only had to sail around the island of Guadeloupe to finish, alarm bells sounded, even though solo skippers had been well aware of the problem for many years. Yes, sleep is key to performance, but it also affects safety.

Thomas Ruyant knows all about this from his first experience of the Vendée Globe in 2016-2017 and the research done by Rémy Hurdiel, a Sports Science doctor at the University of the Opal Coast and his sponsor, Advens, which specialises in computer data protection. The skipper has offered his boat to help LinkedOut and the R&D teams to work on this question of sleep and to set up tools to collect and analyse data.

Working overtime from the second day

Rémy Hurdiel developed a tiredness management tool using his advanced technology in predicting physical and mental performance based on sleep and wake patterns. This research programme developed in collaboration with researchers from the United States aims to help large companies manage their timetables and workloads.

With the schedule that lies ahead for Thomas Ruyant with 70 days of working around the clock, he will indeed be working overtime from the middle of the second day of the race. A lot of work has been done by the three teams involved in this work and can be applied in various ways. The skipper will be wearing a connected belt to offer extra protection: "We have come up with some new solutions for the Vendée Globe bringing together data to show me at what point I am in the danger zone and need to get some rest. We have already acquired a lot of data since the last Vendée Globe to supply Rémy with info. The results are currently being processed; a connected belt will be recording data all the time during the race concerning my breathing and pulse rate, depending on what I am doing aboard the boat. Building up this data will offer research teams like Rémy accurate indicators for the future. It will be like a road book for sleep to provide me with live indicators. Planning how fit I am will enable me to make the most of my physical ability when there are critical moments, such as a wind shift or sail change, and allow me to avoid getting caught out at those points in time due to a lack of rest."

Tools to take care of the sailor

All of this work aims to contribute to the Big Sleep Data project. At the moment, there is no database available showing how sleep requirements are affected by the demands of solo offshore racing. Rémy Hurdiel is trying to get accurate information. Extreme sports (like offshore sailing and ultra-trail) amplify the effects of lacking rest. Alongside the connected belt, a detection system is being developed to identify a drop in alertness.

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