Ocean Racer Series #3 - Sidney Gavignet

In our previous post, we shared offshore racing tips from the one and only Kimo Worthington.  Next up on the list is Sidney Gavignet who worked for Kimo and Puma Ocean Racing in the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race.

Sidney is a multi-faceted offshore racer having achieved success in mono-hull and multi-hull disciplines--including crewed, doublehanded, and singlehanded events.  He is a veteran of four Volvo Ocean Races, winning aboard ABN Amro I in the 2005-06 VOR along with Mike "Moose" Sanderson, and coming in 2nd in the 2008-09 VOR with Puma Ocean Racing, skippered by Ken Read.  He smashed the single-handed Round Britain and Ireland record aboard Oman Air, a 105-foot trimaran; and has skippered multi-hulls for Oman Air in the Extreme 40 and MOD70 multi-hull classes.  Sidney has also raced in some of the world's most prestigious offshore events, including the Route du Rhum, Transat Jacques Vabre, and Barcelona World Race.  Sidney and Team EFG Bank (Monaco) were recently crowned champions in the EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour 2014, a distance-racing event similar to the Tour de France à la Voile.

The offshore racing tips that Sidney shared with us are based not only on thousands upon thousands of miles of ocean sailing, but also on the unique experience of having raced mono- and multi-hulls in both crewed and short-handed events.  

Sidney Gavignet Profile

  • Nationality - French
  • Website - www.sidneygavignet.com
  • Disciplines - offshore mono-hull and multi-hull racing, crewed ocean racing, short-handed & single-handed ocean racing
  • Notable Results
    • Winner, EFG Sailing Arabia - The Tour 2014, Team EFG Bank (Monaco)
    • Singlehanded record, 2010 Round Britain and Ireland, Oman Air
    • 10th, 2010 Transat Jacques Vabre (with Sam Davies)
    • 2nd, 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race, Puma Ocean Racing
    • Winner, 2005-06 Volvo Ocean Race, ABN Amro I
    • 2nd, 2001-02 Volvo Ocean Race, Assa Abloy


Sidney's Pro Tips For Short-Handed Offshore Racing

Walk, don't run, to your nearest exit.

When you're single-handing, Sidney wants to remind you to slow down--not just when you're moving around on deck, but also when performing any maneuver.  Take more time before acting.  Make sure you have every step in your sequence ready in your mind before performing a maneuver.  When you rush, you lose clarity.  The risk/reward ratio for trying to save time through "running" is much too great, especially when sailing solo.    

Your body must be a temple.

According to Sidney, food selection can be as important as sail selection.  Select your food.  Keep sugars to a minimum or out of your sailing diet altogether, as sugar causes you to crash.  And remember that digestion requires energy.  Eat enough to keep you physically and mentally capable of racing, but no more.  Eat efficiently.  

Snooze button.

Sidney advises to think about bringing a BIG alarm with you offshore to help you get some recovery.  According to Sidney, an alarm can not only help you wake up, but also can help you get to sleep in the first place if you're sailing a boat that generates a lot of stress, like the 105-foot trimaran, Oman Air.  

To keep from sailing off course, Sidney says to set up your nav software to rouse you upon changes to data like TWA, TWD, or TWS.  Sidney's comment goes hand in hand with Kimo's--when it comes to electronics, use 'em or lose 'em.  

Sleep is probably the one thing that truly scares me when I think about taking the 21-foot Abilyn into the open ocean.  At home, I sleep through alarms.  I sleep through the physical act of pressing the snooze button only to curse Siri when she doesn't wake me up as requested.  One night in college, I slept with my headphones on because my roommate banned me from playing Lightning Crashes by Live.  When my alarm went off to tell me to get to chemistry class, rather than waking up, apparently I unconsciously reached into my drawer, grabbed a pair of scissors, and just severed the headphones wire.

For the safety of my boat and my body, sleeping through alarms (or cutting sheets in my sleep) simply is not an option when I go offshore.  

Sail the race before you leave the dock.

Preparation is key in sailing, and even more so when it comes to short-handed sailing.  You MUST prepare your navigation before leaving the harbor.  Racing offshore should be like watching a movie that you have already seen.  

Master the art of triage.

Single-handed sailing is all about managing priorities.  You cannot do everything at once.  The key is to rank actions by importance.

Don't be great.  Be average!

Achieving success as a single-handed ocean racer is not about being the best helmsman, or being the best navigator, or the best whatever.  It's about being average in every compartment--electricity, mechanics, trimming, physical preparation, weather, navigating, etc.


Follow Sidney and his adventures at www.sidneygavignet.com.  

The Abilyn Racing Ocean Racer Series collects tips and experiences from some of the world's most accomplished ocean racers.  Our goal is to improve our own sailing, as well as to show other sailors--both in the United States and elsewhere--that if you have strong ambitions to race offshore, there is a network out there of knowledge and guidance.  Just ask!