Ocean Racer Series #6 - Rob Windsor

As we write this, there are less than 12 days until the start of the 2014 Atlantic Cup--the preeminent event in the United States for short-handed sailors, as we described in our last post profiling Chad Corning and his tips on how not to flunk Offshore 101.  Here, we focus on another Atlantic Cupper and local Long Island sailor, Rob Windsor, who will be racing with Mike Hennessy aboard Team Dragon.

Hailing from Centerport, New York, Rob started sailing at the ripe age of two, and has since developed a keen interest in short-handed Class 40 ocean racing.  Rob has sailed in all three iterations of the Atlantic Cup, twice aboard Team Dragon.  He's made six Atlantic crossings, including aboard Team Dragon, which finished only 30 minutes behind Concise2 to come in 2nd in the double-handed class in the 2011 NYYC Transatlantic Race.  In 2013, Rob finished the 5,450 nm course from Le Havre, France, to Itajai, Brazil, as part of the prestigious Transat Jacques Vabre, which attracts some of the world's best ocean racers including Franck Cammas and Jean-Pierre Dick.  Rob sailed with teammate Hannah Jenner aboard the Class 40 11th Hour Racingand persevered despite suffering a rig failure early in the race that sent them backwards to Brest for repairs.  

Rob's extensive mileage as a short-handed offshore sailor, and experience dealing with complications at sea, make him a valuable resource for our program.  When we reached out to Rob to give us his thoughts on offshore racing, including any rules that he lives by, he quickly pointed out that when it comes to sailing short-handed offshore, there are few rules--the top one on his list being not to fall off the boat.  This is one rule that I will need to explain to Jimmy--my alternate personality that manifests during my hypnagogic state of consciousness.  He's a mischievous fellow that likes to wreak havoc on my wife principally by speaking gibberish:  "Where are the documents for Elsa's deposition tomorrow in Arendelle!?" he might yell.  Although he is responsible for doing some pretty horrible things without my knowledge, like climbing into bed (under the top sheet!) without showering after an all-nighter at work, I'm fairly certain he won't cause us to fall off the boat.  That said, I'm clipping in while I sleep solo offshore in an effort to heed Rob's number one rule for short-handed offshore racing. 

Rob provides his other rules below.  Follow Rob here as he vies for the title in the 2014 Atlantic Cup aboard Team Dragon.  The first leg from Charleston, South Carolina, to New York, New York, starts on May 10, which is the same day we'll be racing against two other Mini 6.50s in the 59th Larchmont YC Edlu Race.  

Rob Windsor Profile

Team Dragon (Mike Hennessy, Rob Windsor) recap from the Atlantic Cup 2011.

  • Nationality - USA  

  • Occupation - North American Agent for Owen Clarke Yacht Design, yacht preparateur

  • Disciplines - short-handed ocean racing, Class 40

  • Teams - Dragon, 11th Hour Racing

  • Notable Results

    • 8th, 2013 Fastnet, 11th Hour Racing

    • 2nd, 2011 NYYC Transatlantic Race, Dragon

    • 2nd, 2011 Atlantic Cup, Dragon (first in leg from Charleston to New York)

Short-Handed Offshore Racing:  Rob's Rules

Stay on the boat!!!

I have very few rules when sailing offshore but at the top of the list is DONT FALL OFF. If you fall overboard during a race where you are by yourself, or double handed, there is a very good chance that you will die. I can't think of a scarier scenario than coming on deck for my watch and finding my co-skipper not there.  You have a harness for a reason--use it and clip in.

Don't take anything for granted.

It goes without saying, but preparation is key to success in anything--especially sailboat racing. Going over the boat from stem to stern and from keel to masthead is super important. I can tell you from experience that having a big failure is not fun. You need to check the boat over thoroughly--including parts and jobs done by others.  If you assume that all is well, it never is.

Work at not being a crappy sailor.

This goes along with my point on preparation but I thought I would give it its own line. You can't be great at anything without practice. You think those guys you see on TV playing professional sports making millions just show up?  Nope.  They have to work at it, same as everyone else.

Practice will get you in a position where you know what to do when the time comes. You will know what settings make your boat fast.  You will know the best way to get the spinnaker down in big breeze.  There is no end to the benefit of training.  Don't just go sailing on a beautiful day. Go out when it's windy or raining.  Go out when there is no wind. Having some time dealing with the not so nice will save you tons of time on the race course.

Covet thy auto pilot.

People get weird about the way they think about their auto pilot. I believe that you need to treat it like a person.  Let's face it, you can't steer the whole way if you are only one or two on the boat.  The pilot will do a lot of the driving.  If you were trimming the main for a person driving, they would tell you that they had too much or too little helm. The pilot can't talk but it does let you know what's going on by the way it drives. You need to pretend that there is a person sitting there with the tiller in their hand to get the most out of it.  If you are nice to the driver, you will do much better at the end.

Go to sleep.

You have to sleep.  Getting into a routine is hard for some people.  Most people are not used to getting 2 hours sleep and then going back to work for 2 hours.  However you set up your watch system on board, it is important that you get enough rest.  When you are tired, you make silly mistakes that can cost you a race.  Making a mistake while you are tired can also get people hurt which takes the fun out of it.  While you are on watch, you are responsible for keeping the boat moving as fast as possible as well as keeping the other person on board safe. It is a lot of responsibility.  Make sure that you get the rest you need to be responsible for your self, the boat, and your co-skipper.

Keep the wheels on the bus.

You need to keep the boat moving all the time.  Wiping out because you have too much sail up is not fast.  It's also real easy to break stuff.  If you spend some time not "taking things for granted" and working on "not being a crappy sailor," you'll see that decreasing sail area is faster than leaving the big stuff up in too much breeze.  Reefs go in and out pretty easily and fairly quickly as well. If you blow up your big kite because you left it up in a squall you will be very disappointed when you need it again.  Be smart, and reef early and often.

Don' get HANGRY.

You need energy to compete.  You need to have the right kinds of food aboard to keep your energy level up.  Some of the freeze dried foods are pretty good I think.  They make a lot of different varieties with lots of different ingredients.  You also need to have some happy food. Having a snack like chocolate or nuts that makes you feel good mentally will go a long way.  For me, coffee is the key.  I can't make it without at least one cup per shift. Whatever your happy food is, bring enough so you don't run out.

Love all, trust a few...

It is really important that you work as a team and have a co-skipper that you can trust.  Once you find that person, look after them.  There is no one else looking out for your well-being, so it's important.  So if your co-skipper is a coffee drinker, make them a cup before they come on watch.  It takes two minutes and may sound like a small thing, but it shows that you are looking out for them.

Have good spares.  Know how to fix stuff.

No matter how well you prepare, stuff will break.  You can't have a spare for everything so you need to make a good list and pick the things you can't live without.  All of that depends on the boat you are on so it will take some time. You need to know your boat's systems and how to fix each of them. The sailing bits are fairly straight forward. Winches, furling gear, etc. is standard stuff you should know.  Electronics is a big one that bites a lot of people.  Knowing where the wires are and what they do can be a huge help when things break down. The more time you spend fixing things means less time making the boat go fast.  Figure out what you're good at and figure learn about what you not good at.  Take the time to learn.  

Goonies never say die!

The race isn't over until you cross the finish line.  There will be some ups and downs.  If you let the downs keep you down, you're done.  Positive mental attitude is key.  It's hard to keep it up but that's how you win.  Quitters never win and winners never quit.  Lots of cliches in there but they are all true.

Never give up.

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!

Ocean Racer Series #5 - Chad Corning

Spring is in the air here in the northeast, which means that bottoms are being burnished and boats are being splashed, and also that the start of The Atlantic Cup is quickly approaching.  The Atlantic Cup presented by 11th Hour Racing has developed into the premier event in the United States for short-handed sailors, combining offshore, double-handed distance racing with in-shore, crewed 'round-the-buoy racing in powerful Class 40 ocean machines.

So we got in touch with local sailor Chad Corning, who will be racing in the upcoming Atlantic Cup aboard Pleiad Racing.  Chad has had a diverse sailing career, having amassed around 30,000 offshore racing miles, and having competed (and excelled) at the highest level of one-design racing.  He's raced in 10 Newport-Bermuda Races, three Pineapple Cups, three Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Races, and two Chicago-Macs to name a few.  He served as the build and program manager for the Ker 43 Ptarmigan. He's served as program manager for current World Champion in the highly competitive Melges 32 one-design class, Argo Racing.  Chad was part of the Argo race crew that won consecutive Melges 32 US National Championships in 2011 and 2012, and won the Viper 640 US National Championship in 2013.   

I worked with Chad as part of the 2013 NYYC Invitational Cup when I sailed aboard the Nautor Club Swan 42 Quintessence with Team Larchmont (2nd overall).  Chad's a great project manager, possesses a wealth of knowledge, and has gladly offered to serve as a resource for us as we build for the Bermuda 1-2.  

Despite being otherwise engaged right now at the 2014 Les Voiles de St. Barth, Professor Corning found time to give us his Offshore Racing 101 class (below).  The exam will be held on June 5, 2015 in the North Atlantic room.  

Chad Corning Profile

  • Nationality - USA  

  • Occupation - project manager, business owner, entrepreneur

  • Disciplines - crewed and short-handed ocean racing, 'round-the-buoy racing, Class 40, Melges 32, Viper 640

  • Teams - Pleiad RacingArgo Racing

  • Notable Results

    • 2013 Viper 640 North American Champion, Argo

    • 2012 Northern Ocean Racing Trophy Winner, Ptarmigan

    • 2011 & 2012 Melges 32 US National Champion, Argo

© Pleiad Racing

© Pleiad Racing

©   Manuka Sports Event Management, LLC

© Manuka Sports Event Management, LLC

Offshore Racing 101 presented by Chad Corning

Know your team.

The best teams know each other's strengths and weaknesses.  Every hairy, middle-of-thenight sail change becomes easier when you know and trust the guys backing you up.  Spending time together on and off the yacht is key before you tackle a longer race.


Easier said than done in fresh conditions but every hour of down time you get will pay dividends in the later stages of the race.  Try hard to get over the excitement of the first 12 hours and get into a routine quickly.  Never get into your bunk wet.  If you need to standby in your kit, do it on the floor (which obviously cannot be done in a Mini).

Push, but know when to say when.  

It's amazing what you can get used to.  In the 2012 Newport-Bermuda Race, we sailed in the red zone quite a bit.  It was a bit hairy at first but it soon became comfortable.  On a modern race boat, going fast reduces load on the boat and gives you greater control.  The caveat here is to know your limitations and back off if the team becomes sick or fatigued.

Eat and drink.  

If you feel thirsty offshore, you're already behind.  In rough conditions, your body is going to work hard just to balance itself, mush less do the physical work of helming, trimming and changing sails.  Plan on doubling your normal calorie load and consuming at least three liters of fluid every day.  Being hydrated and having a full tank will help ward off seasickness and fatigue. If you are running freeze dried food, make sure you add a tablespoon of olive oil to every serving – what goes in must come out.

Be one with your sails.  

Everyone on the yacht should have an intimate knowledge of the sail inventory and its crossovers.  The crossover chart is king offshore.  Make sure this is a very refined document before you head offshore.  


Be fluid in your strategic thinking – often the fastest point between two points is not a straight line.  Cf. #1 - Benoit Marie ("The shortest route wins 90% of the time.").  Modern race boats go so fast that getting a spinnaker or code sail on will trump sailing through adverse current.


Routing software is getting very good.  Keep your tactical software well fed with current GRIB data and lean on it heavily to figure out where you are going.  It's not foolproof, however, and you should always have a blended strategy that uses your intuition and experience along with the solution presented by the tactical software.


Know all of your safety kit inside and out.  Test your integrated harness/PFD twice a year.  Know where everything is a how to use it.  If it goes bad, you will have limited time to ditch.  So this is life and death.  Make sure you get to an ISAF or US Sailing safety at sea seminar.  If you are short-handed, make sure you and your teammate take an advanced wilderness first-aid course.

Become a jack of all trades. 

Become intimate with all the systems of the yacht.  Offshore sailing is all about identifying small problems and taking care of them.  Soak up the knowledge on your team and know enough to be dangerous especially when it comes to winches, running rigging and the yacht's steering systems.

Take care of yourself.  

Going offshore is no reason to live like an animal.  Technical clothing and good foulies are going to keep you comfortable.   Make sure you keep yourself clean with baby wipes and use Gold Bond or something similar to keep salt water sores and rail bum at bay.

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!

Ocean Racer Series #4 - Andy Berdon

With this issue of the Abilyn Racing Ocean Racer Series, we're keeping it local.  My good friend, Andy Berdon, has been been honing his sailing skills on the waters of the Long Island Sound and beyond for most of his life.  In 1980, he worked the yard for Howie McMichael at McMichael's in Mamaroneck, NY. He sailed on a number of C&C 40s, J 35s, and custom IOR- and IMS-built boats throughout the 80s and 90s.  And he's competed in more Edlus, Around Block Islands, and Vineyard Races than he can remember--and just about every American YC Spring and Fall Series between 1980 and 1996.  From Andy:

"Along the way, I raced with some standouts, including Kimo Worthington, Ben Hall, Tony Rey, Mitch Gibbons-Neff, Peter Becker, Tom McLaughlin, Andreas Josenhans, Adam Loory, and Butch Ulmer of UK Sails.  But I did the most miles, and the most learning, with Bob and Kathy Munro on their J-35 Blew By You and Bruce and Pat Clarke on their custom Cook One Ton Celebration. The highlight of my crewing career was the 1990 Maxi Worlds in St. Thomas with Bob and Butch on Congere, where we sailed against Dennis Conner, Paul Cayard, John Kolius, Buddy Melges and John Bertrand (the Aussie). It was quite a regatta."

Since 2007, Andy has skippered his J 109 Strider in both fully-crewed and double-handed events.  He also sails with Adam Loory aboard Adam's custom Martin/Goetz 40 Soulmates.  Andy currently serves as Commodore of Beach Point Yacht Club, and is a member of the Storm Trysail Club.  He is an active participant in the STC's annual Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta, which has become the world's largest college sailing regatta.

Most importantly, like all great sailors, Andy is more than happy to share his knowledge--both nautically-oriented and otherwise.  

Andy Berdon Profile

  • Nationality - USA
  • Occupation - Attorney
  • Disciplines - crewed and short-handed coastal and offshore racing
  • Notable Results
    • Overall winner, 2007 Larchmont YC Edlu
    • 2007 Arthur Wullschleger "Tuna" Trophy for best combined IRC results in the Edlu and Around Block Island Race
    • Completion of the heavy-air 2010 Vineyard Race and 2013 Around Block Island Race with DH co-skipper Eric Irwin
Andy Berdon Photo

J 109 Strider going to weather on the Long Island Sound

Andy's Top Ten Tips For Effective Offshore Racing, Whether Fully Crewed or Short-Handed

  1. Your race will only be as good as your pre-race preparation.  Route, tuning, sail selection, and psychological focus are important beyond measure.
  2. Stay as warm and dry as conditions allow.  Buy quality foulies and layering gear.  Pack one more layer than you expect to need.  
  3. Red Bull and cigarettes will not keep your core temperature up.  You must eat in order to avoid hypothermia.  
  4. Be considerate of your fellow crew.  Offer to bring the helmsman or crew on the rail something to eat or drink when you come on deck.  
  5. Never hang your wet foulies on top of the off-watch's dry gear.
  6. Once a tactical decision is made, no whining if it turns out to be wrong.  Want to be right all the time?  Single-hand your own boat.  
  7. Be respectful of the owner, regardless of his/her sailing experience or ability.  Have a problem with that?  See answer to no. 6.  
  8. Your dying at sea is not an acceptable outcome.  Be smart and safe while figuring out how to go fast.  
  9. Drive by feel, informed by the numbers, not vice versa.
  10. Learn how to navigate.

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!

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!

Ocean Racer Series #2 - Kimo Worthington

Next up in the Abilyn Racing Ocean Racer Series is a sailor who is notable most recently from his involvement in the world of crewed 'round the world racing--Kimo Worthington.  I had the pleasure of sailing with Kimo when he coached Team Larchmont in preparation for the 2013 New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup.  Thanks in part to Kimo's time with us on the water, Team Larchmont (helmed by Danny "DANger" Pletsch) came in second place behind only Team Canada (helmed by Olympic silver medalist Terry McLaughlin).  Blame Canada?

Kimo has been involved in competitive sailing for the past 40 years.  He has worked with six America's Cup teams, including America3 (America Cubed), which took the win in the 1992 America's Cup.  He won the 1997-98 Whitbread Around the World Race (now Volvo Ocean Race) along with Paul Cayard aboard EF Language.  And, he's served as General Manager of Puma Ocean Racing in its 2007-08 and 2011-12 VOR campaigns.  Outside of the America's Cup and VOR arenas, Kimo has participated in many premier yachting events such as the Admiral's Cup, Kenwood Cup, and various one-design world championships.

I was floored to be able to chat with Kimo during a particularly warm day this past winter about how we can set ourselves up for success offshore.  

Kimo Worthington Profile

  • Nationality - USA
  • Occupation - North America Sales Manager, North Sails Group
  • Disciplines - crewed offshore racing (Whitbread/VOR/Transpac), America's Cup
  • Notable Results
    • Winner, 1992 America's Cup, America3
    • Winner, 1997-98 Whitbread Around the World Race, EF Language
    • 2nd, 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race, Puma Ocean Racing
    • 3rd, 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race, Puma Ocean Racing Powered by Berg Propulsion

Kimo's Tips For Offshore Racing Success

Go offshore.

Jerry Kirby gave me a similar tip.  By the way, Jerry heads up a top-tier construction business, Kirby-Perkins Construction, in Newport, RI.  I called up Jerry on one particularly gloomy day at work and asked, "Hey Jerry, how do I become a VOR sailor?"  He said, "Josh, what do you do for a living?"  So I told him.  He said, "Josh, you gotta stop doing that, and go sailing."  Not quite so easy as I had identical twin girls on the way, who are now 4-years-old going on 25.  

Kimo's point is to go offshore for a few days (5-8, 10 is better), and sail every angle.  Figure out the correct sail combination for the conditions faced each day, which are likely to be different.  Go upwind, and then bear off 10 degrees.  Get your numbers and figure out where you are in reference to your polars.  Do a sweep so that you know what you need to do at all angles.  WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN.

Weigh everything.

Everything that comes aboard should be weighed.  Keep the boat light.  Figure out what you need, and what you don't.  

Electronics.  Use 'em or lose 'em.

Know the ins and outs of your electronics (and the wiring).  Know how to use your electronics to help you determine whether you're fast or slow.  Use your electronics to tell you when you're in unfavorable current, and also where to go to get OUT of the unfavorable current.  

Hit the gym.

Be in shape.  Being physically fit is always fast, and allows you to make better decisions and better judgment calls.


Self-explanatory, but sometimes overlooked.  

Set yourself up so that you don't waste time.

Two examples:  Figure out how to eat quickly.  Sleep in your foulies in rough sailing conditions.  By sleeping in your foulies, you're ready for anything that needs to happen, and you're also not wasting time (and sleep) changing in and out of gear.  

Practice in a dinghy.

My good friend Peter Beardsley will love that this is one of the tips Kimo gave me.  Peter is the current President of the Viper 640 Class Association, and a great proponent of the sport.  He constantly tells me that if I want to get better, I need to get into a dinghy.  Maybe I got rid of my Vanguard 15 too early.  ICs?  Ugh...

Kimo says that the best VOR drivers are the 49er sailors.  Practicing in a dinghy can only help you sail faster offshore.  

Become a rig tuning pro.

Know your rig tune, and how to optimize it.  Make sure your rig is lined up with your keel and rudders.  Know when to use more runner, less runner, fuller sails, flatter sails, more halyard tension, less halyard tension, etc.

Sometimes racing is not racing.

The smartest sailors know when to race and when to survive.  Know when to back off.  If you break, you're out.

Preparation is key.

Preparation cannot be overstated.  Before you even get to the dock, you need to have figured out where you need to go, how the weather will affect your course, and how to use your sails effectively to get to where you need to go.

Be prepared in case all goes to hell.  In other words, take the safety course.  Bring proper safety gear. 

Synthesizing Kimo's tip on preparation with Jerry's tip above, I need to stop doing whatever it is that I'm doing, and go prepare for the next race, which happens to be the 59th Annual Edlu Race, hosted by our home club.

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!

Abilyn Racing Introduces the Ocean Racer Series

As the Abilyn Racing program develops, our training will become multi-faceted to include both on- and off-the-water training.  But just as we cannot achieve our goals without the support of our Partners and others who are rooting for us, we will not be able to achieve our goals unless we learn from those within our sport with more offshore miles under their belt than we have. That is why we have reached out to some of our sport's top ocean sailors for guidance--sailors who are, for the most part, amazingly accessible, and more than willing to share their experiences.

But rather than keep the information and tips we receive to ourselves, our plan is to share what we've learned with our fellow sailors in hopes of inspiring others to take their ambitions to the next level.

So we are excited to introduce the first post in the Abilyn Racing Ocean Racer Series, a blog series reporting on the offshore sailing tips we have received from some of the world's most accomplished sailors.

Given that we race a Mini Transat boat, it seems only fitting that our first set of tips should come from a Mini sailor.  So we reached out to Benoit Marie, the winner of the 2013 Mini Transat.

Prior to training for (and winning) the 2013 Mini Transat, Benoit, by virtue of his engineering degree, worked on the construction of the JP54, the fast "cruiser" designed by the reknowned IMOCA 60 racer, Jean-Pierre Dick.

Benoit was kind enough to share of his "rules" for effective solo ocean racing, and let us know that this plans for the future include something "[b]etter than" the Vendee Globe (that's all we know).

Benoit Marie Profile

  • Nationality - French
  • Website - www.benoitmarie.com  
  • Disciplines - Mini 6.50 solo ocean racing
  • Notable Results
    • Winner, 2013 Mini Transat
    • 3rd, 2013 Pornichet Select 650
    • 5th, 2012 Sables Les Azores

Benoit Marie's "Rules" For Effective Solo Ocean Racing

  1. The shortest route wins 90% of the time.  Never forget that.
  2. When in doubt, stick to the direct route.
  3. Keep it simple and work on your average speed, not top speed.  It's useless to be the fastest over five hours if then you sleep for two days.  Go fast, but not too fast!!
  4. If you seriously WANT the race, you will get it.  By "WANT", I mean with all your passion and 100% of your mind and body devoted to your goal.
  5. Nothing is over 'til it's over.  Really, nothing!
  6. The reliability of your boat is of paramount importance.  If you break something and you need one hour to fix it, you might lose the race.  Then apply rule no. 5.
  7. But, you WILL break your boat; it is a normal part of the race.  NEVER wait to fix it.  And then apply rule no. 5.
  8. As soon as you think the boat can go fast without you, GO TO BED (but never more than 20 minutes, unless you are crossing an ocean).
  9. PREPARE YOUR RACE.  Do all the work before.  On the water you'll be tired, your brain will not work effectively, and you will consistently make decisions and judgements as would a 5-year-old if they were sailing your boat.  
  10. Maintain a steady moral.  Never be too happy or too low.  By maintaining an average moral, you will be way more efficient and clear-headed.


Follow Benoit Marie and his next adventure at www.benoitmarie.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!