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Route du Rhum: Managing the skipper on board is just as important as preparing the boat

by Arkema Sport 6 Oct 2022 16:08 BST
Team Arkema © Vincent Olivaud / Arkema Sport

One month exactly before the start of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe race, Quentin Vlamynck feels he has already jumped in at the deep end!

In addition to his training and the meticulous preparation of his boat, the young skipper is also working on managing life on board. How is he going to handle meals, sleep, personal hygiene? How do you live on an Ocean Fifty, a flighty 50-foot trimaran soaring at more than 20 knots and in need of constant attention?

Chat in Port-Médoc with a devilishly well-organized skipper...

Sleep: a few minutes to catch up, with one hand on the sheets.

Let's not beat around the bush: the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe is a 3,543 nautical mile (6,562 km) sprint between Saint-Malo in France and Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe, an incredibly demanding ride for the 138 skippers who will set off on 6 November. Maybe more so in the Ocean Fifty class, with the thought of capsizing haunting the minds of solo sailors.

For this new experience for the Arkema skipper, preparation is key and will undoubtedly be the ticket to success: "These boats require you to be constantly on the sheets. You can't take your eyes off the settings. In the end, that's the most stressful part. In this race, above all you try to manage the man on exactly the same level as the boat. You can't have one without the other, otherwise it can turn into disaster.

Clearly, training and learning to sleep can help you stay with the pack, if not win! I'm normally early to bed, so I need to get some sleep then. In Arcachon, with the help of a sleep doctor, we studied and defined the best periods for me to recover, knowing that, in any case, it's going to be a complicated and exhausting exercise!" Quentin says.

He recalls his own experience in his first Mini-Transat race: "I had hallucinations in my first Mini race. I had to be at the helm a lot, I was desperately short of sleep. It all started with auditory and then visual hallucinations. It's important for me to have experienced them as I now know how far I can and can't go. On our trimarans, it can be dangerous. It's a 10 to 12 day race and you need to know how to manage your sleep over time."

A stool near the winches, one hand on the sheets while trying to grab 20 minutes' sleep, and a totally outdoor life... Such is the life of this young man on Arkema. In fact, he says that he only goes inside the boat every three or four days to swap his bag of food.

Meals: far from 2 stars, but necessary to hold on!

Quentin Vlamynck is a tidy man. For his first Route du Rhum, there is no room for improvisation. So, on the menu: dehydrated or sterilized meals, and snacks if he feels seasick or the weather gets rough. "I'm taking 24-hour bags that I prepare in advance. I like everything to be in order, then I know what I'm eating. It's not always easy to eat properly at sea given the weather conditions. When I set off, I'll have a pasta and chicken salad, enough to eat properly at the start of the race.

I have planned two hot meals per day, freeze-dried and sterilized, so the textures are not the same. Seeds, chocolate bars, and cheese and cold meat too! The bag will be ready before I leave for Saint-Malo", Quentin explains.

So, not quite cordon bleu, but all things that he likes. Because a sailor who is well fed and physically fit can do wonders! And for water, it is going to be 4 liters per day...

Taking care of the man...

This departure in November with the risk of depression and cold weather in the Bay of Biscay does have something positive: "I'll be wearing everything at the start. As the race progresses, I'll be taking off layers", Quentin Vlamynck smiles. So, this Arkema trimaran will not be too cluttered compared to double-handed or crewed races, it will just have the necessary survival gear.

But what about personal hygiene? Quentin explains: "Toothbrush and toothpaste are essential! I try to brush my teeth in the morning. I must say that it feels good. In the evening, I wash my face to remove the sun cream. These are small things that give you quite a boost."

With 30 days to go before the start, the Arkema skipper is definitely cool-headed. He has been ticking off his checklist, and the very last training sessions with some of the other Ocean Fifty competitors between Le Verdon-sur-Mer and La Trinité-sur-Mer, in particular with Erwan Le Roux, are one last opportunity to rehearse. All that is left for Quentin to do now is to make the most of the coming days before his arrival in the town of Saint-Malo on 25 October!

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