>Why Sailing Feats Matter

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What Groupama 3 tells us about sailing, society and solutions

By Nicholas Hayes, Author of Saving Sailing.

Sailing almost never makes news, and in the shadow of the economy and the healthcare debate, the headline “Groupama Breaks Around World Mark” is no different. Indeed, the feat barely registered on Google Trends… so small it fell off the charts altogether against chatter about the latest PS3, Justin Bieber, and Wrestlemania. By that measure, Groupama 3’s win might deserve the unenviable designation as the greatest human accomplishment to have earned the least possible attention.

Think about it. Last week, a French sailboat scooted around the globe at an average of almost 25 knots propelled only by pure solar energy and the determination of a tiny team of athletes and technicians. Their stated goal was to complete the circumnavigation in under 50 days, only a 5 year old record, set by Orange II.

Instead of ranting about the media and its apparent disdain for amazing things like this, let’s use the opportunity to reflect on something far more important: the almost stupidly simple concept of getting good things done when you want to.

To start, it is important to note that the Jules Verne record reflects an objective that seemed impossible for most of human history; codified in Jules Verne’s fictitious 1873 novel in which Phileas Fogg dares to travel around the world in under 80 days on a bet, using all manner of coal-fired and wind-driven transport. Of course, a hundred-fifty years later, with petrol, airlines, credit cards and freeways, anyone can do it.

Ironically, Verne’s book reflects a time (for him, a recent memory) when only wind was available, so Fogg’s hybrid any-fuel approach seems to be cheating. One of Verne’s key observations is that technology provides leverage to bring goals into reach. But that’s just half the story.

Indeed, the far grander feat — sailing around the world without the benefit of coal, steam or engines in under 80 days — was first accomplished just 17 years ago, in 1993, by a catamaran called Commodore Explorer (named for defunct sponsor Commodore Computers), which managed to do it in 79 days. Since then, the record has been broken 6 more times, shaving 32 days (40% of time) off of Verne’s original steam-driven fictional record. More stunning: only a handful of teams have tried, led by a handful of men and women, and the same man, Bruno Peyron, led 3 of the record setting teams. So in 17 years, 5 tiny consortiums have have set and met statistically impossible goals 7 times.

Finally, consider that no other water-born machine can do what was done here, except, perhaps, for the nuclear warship, and in that case, the wealth and vital resources of nations and the complete science of nuclear power are committed. A safe metaphoric equivalent might be the tiny nation of Costa Rica safely landing a man on Mars next year, and then again 5 more times before anyone else does it, without using rocket fuel.

So a miniscule sailing story is huge in the context of lessons of the plausible and the possible in what feel today like impossible times.

Middle east peace remains a distant dream. American energy independence is bogged down impossibly in the lobby. A cure for cancer. A decent education for kids. A Cubs world-series. What else can’t we do?

Jules Verne trophy winners did and keep doing. How? Let’s be simple: by simplifying; enlisting the time-honored, oft-forgotten process of reduction and condensery. They did everything that they had to do, and nothing that they didn’t. By understanding the fundamental ingredients that would go into reaching an audacious and, dare I say, massively important and informative goal in the context of the human condition, I suggest that they zeroed in on two key needs: light and smart. Everything that most of us are usually not.

Indeed almost all human progress comes back to these two rare ingredients.

– Light simply means efficient, sustainable, powerful, safe and durable.
– Smart simply means aware, logical, and practical.
– Together, light and smart sum to fast, agile, confident and bold.

Taken one at a time: With each iteration, record attempters have used the lightest materials available. Lightness makes them fast in all conditions, and it makes them notably safer when the weather is harsh, because instead of stressing, lightness turns the added energy into speed. Lightness is what makes cars and trains and planes that consume less fuel or get much more from the fuel they use. Lightness is what makes it possible for a skier to ski faster, and a runner to run longer. Lightness is what makes rockets that can reach the moon or Mars. Lightness is what makes it possible for humans to see new horizons.

Most of all, lightness yields efficiency, which enables peak performance over long periods of time. To be able to travel long and uninterrupted, these teams and their machines must work in the most efficient possible manner at the very threshold of breaking. Light and lean systems, both mechanical and human, are designed to make the most of the energy that is carried, created and received — food, generated electricity, and wind. Everything and everyone, by design, performs at or near peak for the duration. So the teams know what peak is. They measure it and manage to it precisely. Calories and watts are densely packed and strictly limited. Finally, wind, the ample resource that propels, is deliberately concentrated for maximum usefulness.

Of all of the advancements contributing to these feats, perhaps the most important is the flow of information, which gives the advantage of knowledge and flexibility. It is no coincidence that before the Verne record was broken, only NASA had the wherewithal to deliver ample real-time and predictive information through computers and communications to teams in places where there are no others. Today, the same technologies that I am using to upload this file also transfer critical information to Jules Verne sailors — feedback, questions, ideas, scenarios — that make it possible to find the ideal route around the globe. Weather, routing and boat performance data come together to provide the best possible choices and enable the best possible decisions that the sailors can make. As information becomes more granular and comprehensive due to gains in computer power and bandwidth, greater advantage is delivered. More than anything, computers underlie continuous record-breaking since the Commodore Computer company first sponsored a winner. With computers, these are the smartest sailors in the world, and they get smarter with each attempt.

And we can look forward to more. An upcoming record attempt by Hydroptère promises a new level of lightness and smartness. Smaller versions of the wind-powered hydrofoil have already set world records for top speeds. This ultra-light and smart design completely depends on computer simulation to find a point of sail with the lowest friction and the highest transfer of solar power to motion. Theoretically, this team has the potential to break the 40 day mark, although if they do, probably few will hear about it.

No irony that most great human accomplishments often go back to two underlying factors: lightness and smartness: consider the use and improvement of tools, faster travel, safe flight, deep sea exploration, the renaissance, space travel, mass literacy…

Jules Verne winners offer us a glimpse into a tiny closed loop, a miniaturized planet, if you will, with both fixed and variable inputs (finite carried goods, ample information, human ingenuity and solar energy), that drive sustainable progress (fantastic but safe sailing speeds pointed in the right direction) towards an improbable goal. It’s a clear metaphor for human progress and the quest for quality of life.

Why does any sailing story matter? Because sailing is, at its core, among the most complete and accurate analogies that we have for the problems that we face, the solutions that are within our reach, and the thinking and effort that is required to put them into action.

Perhaps we can learn something here and use the same tools: lightness and smartness… to do what seems impossible. Comments?

Credit Lorine Niedecker with the word.

03/30/10

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>Back to ISIS

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Arrived to Port Lincoln from Robe. The owner has a family crisis and has decided to expedite transport of the boat by truck from here which will take two days. Ashame for us as we were really looking forward to the welcome in Esperance and Perth. So Linda and I are off to Bundaberg to see ISIS and sail the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef before I fly back to Hawaii and then on to France to race minis…

On another note, here’s the excerpt from the book coming out called – ‘The Courage Companion’ described in an earlier blog entry. Should be a great read…

Achieving Your Dreams: Youngest Person to Circumnavigate the Globe Solo Thinks Taking Risks is the Easy Part
 
 “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” –Seneca
 
Brian (“B.J.”) Caldwell, 34, began to dream of circumnavigating the globe while spending summer breaks from high school providing yacht deliveries, a job that contributed to his sailing over ten thousand miles while still in his teens. He formulated a plan to take off exactly 100 years after Joshua Slocum set off on the first successful solo sail around the world in 1895 and on June 1, 1995, B.J. departed on his own quest. Sixteen months and 27,000 miles later, he set a record as the youngest solo circumnavigator in history.
 
Twenty five years later, B.J. is relaxed as he describes why he was apprehensive before taking leave of shore. “I was just very anxious to finally get underway, as I’d been hoping to leave since age 15 and had already circumnavigated countless times in my mind,” he said. “In my case reaching the start was by far the biggest obstacle versus those encountered along the geographical lap around the planet.”

For the rest of us, the thought of being pummeled by extreme waves in an open ocean in a small boat might be the daunting part!

 B.J, who divides his time between France, racing aboard his Open 650 race boat; Hawaii, where he has a yacht delivery business; and Australia, where he plans to attempt to win the 630 nautical mile Sydney Hobart Race (widely considered one of the most difficult races in the world) a second time—describes how he dealt with fear during his solo voyage, and gives us all a lesson in living life with true power and courage.
 
This competitor says that the scariest part of his solo voyage is that “the success of the trip is, for the most part, is destined for success or failure before it physically begins during the big preliminary conceptual decisions such as routing, type of boat, budget etc.,” B.J. says, “Strategic decisions impact the results and once decided upon and the launch button is pressed, those decisions can’t be retracted.”He further states that “one of the biggest obstacles I faced was paying the costs of the trip. I was terrified that this goal might turn out to be only a pipe dream.”

B.J. was well-prepared for the physical risks of his trip. While still in high school, he sailed from Hawaii, intending to circle the planet in less than one year. He changed his plans, visiting Samoa and Fiji in favor of a fast passage, and arrived in Port Villa, Vanuatu, and (New Hebrides) 34 days later, having covered 3,400 miles. His next stop was Cocos Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean, and then 2,300 miles to Mauritius where the weather deteriorated until he was capsized by trade winds. The impact bent his solar panels and dumped a foot of water in the bilge, which ruined most of his provisions.

His next destination was Africa. Close to shore, the day before Thanksgiving, he barely avoided being run down by a tanker in the busy shipping route from the Arabian oil fields. Ten hours after he arrived, there were thirty foot seas along the 100-fathom line. B.J. describes the near-miss with the ship as being the most dangerous moment of the voyage. “Just the sickening chance that something besides Mother Nature would stop me was impossible to comprehend,” he said.

B.J. has an unusual response to fear. “The longer I’ve done this, the better accustomed I’ve come to understand what are productive levels of apprehension and at what point I believe it becomes detrimental.” He says, “Generally, the worse it gets, the more I laugh.  A little, or, better yet, a lot of humor can combat fear far better than anything else.  So I tell my crew in tough situations “You know it’s getting pretty bad if I’m laughing hysterically.”

His advice for those of us who daydream about pursuing our dreams? “It’s often been said, but needs to be drummed into our minds until we really believe the words and what they mean… Never give up, don’t take no for an answer and remember above all that persistence and hard work will ultimately enable the means to achieve your goal to materialize, usually just when you thought all hope was lost.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of persistence.”

He continues, “You should also do it for the right reasons. A record pursuit might open professional doors later but, first and foremost, you need to do it because you love your pursuit and would rather do nothing else.  If it’s reached the point where achieving your dream has become your reason for living or a kind of personal religion, you are ready to ‘not take no for an answer.’”

>South Australia

>The new feathering prop is fitted to the Farr 40 we’re delivering from Tasmania and the boat-speed is back up to 6-knots at 2300 rpm so we’re back to normal. Thus we’re on stand-bye to sail to Port Lincoln.

Meanwhile, if some thought my idea to stage a mini around the world race/time-trial was crazy: The Race 650 (www.Race650.com), then they should be inspired by Alessandro Di Benedetto: http://www.alessandrodibenedetto.net/ who’s sailing an open 650 nonstop around the world! He is well over three quarters done, with Cape Horn in his gun sights after leaving from where the Vendee Globe starts in Les Sables d’ Olonne, west France.

Not my bag of tea but stopping in exotic and warm ‘cultural pit-stops’ such as Tonga and Cocos Keeling in a stage race such as ‘The Race 650’: http://www.race650.com – sounds better to me! The question remains whether I would use my prototype #433 (above) or a series mini such as the Pogo 2…

>World Speed Record – 48-days!

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Franck Cammas and the studs aboard the 100ft trimaran ‘Groupama 3’ are about to break Bruno Peyron’s record set aboard the 110ft catmaran ‘Orange 2’ in 2005 when she circumnavigated nonstop in 50-days flat. Incidentally Bruno has just relaunched ‘The Race’ – his no-limits circumnavigation drag-race set for 2014: http://www.therace.org

After crewing aboard the delivery of both Bruno’s previous record catamarans – I hope to participate in ‘The Race’ in either the ’14 or future edition!

Meanwhile- the 140ft catamran ‘Banque Populaire 5’ that set the new trans-Atlantic speed record of 3-days, sailing a record 24-hour 900-nautical mile day in the process- is scheduled to attempt the fastest circumnavigation record for the Jules Verne Trophy now being obilterated by Groupama next winter!

…I’m currently in Robe, south-east of Adelaide in south Australia, getting ready for the yacht delivery run across the Great Australian Bight to Esperance abaord the Farr 40 we’ve been sailing from Tasmania. We’ll leave for Albany and Perth Thursday next week after we fit a new prop and top up our fuel and provisions before what I hope will be another yacht delivery from Hawaii before an attempt on a fourth Mini Fastnet Race!

Right: Brian Caldwell and Bruno Peyron in Tahiti aboard ‘Commodore Explorer’ in 1997

>ISIS Cyclone Season Update

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James Finan with me and Linda the night I finished the 2009 Sydney Hobart Race – New Year’s Eve!!!

Here’s an update from my mate James Finan who owns the Contessa 26 I sailed around the world and who is in Bundaberg where my current ‘base’ away from France is currently located – the Vega 27 “ISIS”, residing up the river next to the Bundy rum factory while we cavort around the Southern Ocean delivering boats across the Great Australian Bight.

I’m lucky to have a good friend in that neck of the woods – especially as this update was from a week ago and they are about to get hit again … not to mention Fiji and Tonga – it’s turning out to be one hell of a hurricane season in the South Pacific! Thanks James!!!

Hey Brian,

Just wanted to let you know shit’s been hitting the fan up here in Bundy…Don’t know if you’re on land right now or have seen/heard any news, but there’s been massive rain inland for the past couple weeks and the damn here up the river finally overflowed and sent a heap of water down on top of us down here at the marina…

We’ve got heaps of stories for you, but to cut to the chase, Isis is safe and sound tied up behind Mai Miti on the inside of the trawler wharf up against the mangroves at the marina…

I was on Isis at the tiller and Ray, the owner of the marina drove the workboat and towed Isis into the ~7kts of raging river water, but we got her tied up in the marina. I had to cut your mooring lines, sorry mate, they were bar tight and the straight down because of how high the water was all the moorings were probably about 6-8 ft underwater, there was no way to get them undone…

Not too sure what’s going to happen next as none of us have moorings anymore, not sure where we’re going to go…it’s chaos down here at the marina with piled up damaged and broken boats…Littlest Hobo got their outboard smashed off the stern, bent up their pushpit/pulpit, and holed their deck, when their mooring broke loose and smashed into boats in the marina…feel bad for them, trying to help with repairs right now…One dude fell between two boats trying to fend off and got his pelvis crushed…he got taken away in an ambulance and we haven’t heard what happened to him…

Don’t know if the marina’s tried to contact you, they’ve definitely had their hands full…

Give me a call when you can mate.

-James

>Hell’s Gates, Strahn – Tasmania

>”We’re nearly done with our second tour of Tasmania and will leave in two days for Port Fairy on the Australian mainland. Another great trip and here’s a taste of the narrow entrance to Strahn on the west coast of Tasmania where we are now written by Linda, enjoy!

Entering Hells Gates on a typical Strahan morning, grey skies and drizzle. Not a drop of breeze kissed my skin. Is it fair to call such a beautiful spot “Hells Gates”, does it evoke fear in mans heart or make you want to visit, purely for the namesake.
I for one fell into the later group. I like the name.

It evokes thoughts of castles buffered along the rocky shoreline protecting those who entered and departed through the narrow slot of water. Midnight sorties, arrows and cannon balls aloft as fires burn all night to keep the frost away from the soldiers. Which in turn helped with the name “hells gates”

“Who dares come knocking at my door and demand entrance to my sacred city? What say you, do you have to offer, sell or trade” If the answer was not well suited to the knight on watch that evening then your boat was ransacked and scuttled and left to sprawl herself across the reefs that lay near by.

Those lucky enough to be permitted entrance found a peaceful calm bay, surrounded by wooded forest and fresh streams to quench a tired sailors thirst. Alas not all could be quenched from water and Strahan was embarked upon to calm a sailor down. The promise of cold beer, warm food and women. Was all that kept many a cold and hungry sailor going.”

-Linda Pasquariello

>The Courage Companion

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I was recently contacted by author Nina Lesowitz about contributing to what should be a great book about surmounting life’s obstacle course. Below is a description by the author, her questions for me and my answers – buy it when it’s published, not only because I’ll be in it but it looks like a great operating manual for life!

“My co-author Mary Beth Sammons and I are currently writing a book titled – The Courage Companion, and we are interested in including a passage about your solo journey in our book so that your accomplishments may inspire others. I would just need to ask you a few questions at your convenience.

Mary Beth and I are the authors of the book Living Life as a Thank You which was released in November, 2009. The forward was written by Lee Woodruff, a family life contributor for ABC’s “Good Morning America” and wife of anchor Bob Woodruff. You can click on the Amazon.com link to reviews and endorsements for the book.

Our book is scheduled for publication in the Fall, 2010 by Viva Editions. Here is a preliminary description:

Looking for the motivation to face life’s challenges? Coming in Fall 2010 to bookstores, The Courage Companion: Living Life With True Power, touted to be the definitive guide to cultivating courage.

The authors have gone to the front-lines of adversity and fear to surface those brave hearts who have taken action before they are forced to, confronting and overcoming their fears in ways that inspire us all. From world class athletes, to spiritual teachers, to cancer patients, to ordinary people who in extraordinary ways have transformed their lives, these stories help lead us to our best lives. Enhanced with motivational quotes, expert advice, and exercises, this courage guidebook will help you turn apprehension into action to reap the many benefits of living your life with guts and gusto.”

-Best Wishes , Nina Lesowitz

1: What am I doing now?

I did the Sydney Hobart Race in December 2009 with Jon Sanders (my 3rd) finishing 4th in class and 14th on corrected time out of 100 boats. I will do the race again at the end of this year in an attempt to win a 2nd time (I won in the 1999 race).
I’m also hoping if budget permits to race my 4th Mini Fastnet race this summer while pursuing corporate sponsorship for continued Open 650 racing and another solo around the world record attempt in the next few years.

2: Can you please describe how you felt embarking on a solo journey?

I was quite emotionally numb actually – just very anxious to finally get underway as I’d been hoping to leave since age-15 and had already circumnavigated countless times in my mind what with the planning and anticipation of the many challenges to come. In most ways – the battle is won before-hand and particularly in my case the actual achievement of reaching the start was by far the biggest obstacle vs. those encountered along the geographical ‘lap’ of the planet.

3: How do you get past fear on rough seas?

Not to sound daft but it’s a known environment due to my vast prior conditioning at sea so I’m more afraid of telephones and siren songs ashore versus storms etc as ‘out there’ I simply do what I’m accustomed to doing which is obviously your best and nothing more. In my mind it is far simpler as bullshit simply doesn’t work at sea but it does rather nicely ashore – another reason why I’m afraid of telephones and things on land!

4: What was your scariest moment during your solo voyage?

As I said above – the trip itself is won for the most part before it physically begins during the big preliminary conceptual decisions such as routing, type of boat, budget etc. Strategic decisions impact the results thereafter and once decided upon in the beginning can’t be retracted once the launch button is pressed.
The actual scary part for me was in allocating the needed budget to go in the first place versus the idea remaining a pipe dream as it does most unfortunately for many.

5: To what do you attribute your ability to get past fear and accomplish these goals?

The longer I’ve done this – the better accustomed I’ve gotten to understanding what are productive levels of apprehension and at what point I believe it becomes detrimental. Generally, the worse it gets the more I laugh! A little or better yet – allot of humor can combat fear far better than anything else. So I tell crew in a tough situation – “You know it’s getting pretty bad if I’m laughing hysterically!

6: What advice do you have for others who may be contemplating a similar voyage?

It’s often been used but needs to be drummed into our mind until we really believe the words and what they mean. Never give up, don’t take no for an answer and remember above all persistence and hard work will ultimately enable the means to achieve your goal to materialize usually just when you thought all hope was lost. With yet further emphasis on the word – persistence.

Also do it for the right reasons – a record pursuit is fine it might open professional doors later but first and foremost you need to do it because you love your pursuit and would rather do nothing else. If it’s reached the point where achieving your dream has become your reason for living or a kind of personal religion – you are probably ready to ‘not take no for an answer!’

7: Where do you live now? Age, etc.

I’m 34-years old now and I divide the bulk of my time between racing in France aboard my Open 650 race boat, Hawaii when I have a yacht delivery and Australia near Christmas when I race the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

8: What are your next goals?

My immediate goals are to race the next Sydney Hobart with Jon Sanders and further down the yonder blue road to race the solo Transat 650 from France to Brazil aboard my boat in France, my around the world race / time-trial – ‘The Race 650’: http://www.race650.com, the nonstop solo around the world race – the Vendee Globe Challenge: http://www.vendee-globe.org/en, to crew in Frenchman Bruno Peyron’s ‘NO-LIMITS’ circumnavigation race for 100+ foot crewed multi-hulls aptly named – ‘The Race’: http://www.therace.org in 2014 or ’18. With perhaps another solo record tossed in for good measure! Ambitious yes, will it all happen – probably not but if you aim for the stars you might land on the moon!
To follow my future adventure you can find me on: http://www.liquidflight.net

9: Any overall thoughts/comments you want to add about your choices, lifestyle, etc?

Words are cheap, but I believe humanity should pursue their personal dreams to the ends of the world. Thus, once you’ve achieved your goal it illustrates the very essence of your identity – an expression of self-fulfillment and transformation to what you long intended to become, much like a painting from a Renaissance master. Read the book – The Long Way by Bernard Moitessier to better grasp the concept.

For me, the fabric of the world’s oceans are a canvas upon which I draw brush-strokes with the yacht’s wake, the boat and extension of my-self and my paintbrush … And I have yet to sail my ‘signature’ voyage.