Monday, November 20, 2006
With my continued interest to starting the SCSSA I was excited to meet Jean Renult a competitor of the 2003 Mini Transat. Jean had traveled from Canada and had arrived in Newport Beach in January of 2006 to purchase a J 41. Now taking the route of solo performance cruiser Jean looked forward to his new project of converting a J 41 into a solo performance cruiser. After about ten minutes of introducing Jean to the J 41 we started talking about short handed sailing. To hell, with trying to sell him the boat. I just wanted to know everything about the Mini Transat and what it takes to become a short-handed sailor. So, to make a long story short Jean agreed to let me interview him after we had completed our deal.
I came up with twenty questions that were of interest to me, so lets see how I do with my first interview?
Q. How did you become a short-handed sailor?
A. 1987 to 1989 I sailed a Coco, the earlier model for the transit, and my Laser. Most of my time was spent in the Laser and training for the Canadian Olympics trials. After my campaign in 1994 I purchased a J 41 and went solo cruising. This was done because I felt the more time at sea, solo sailing, the faster I would achieve my goal of competing in and completing a mini transet. I returned to France at the end of 2000 with a two-year work contract. I was reintroduced to the open 6.5 and went sailing on a breeze day and hit 22 knots while surfing down a good-sized wave. At this point I knew I must start my own campaign and purchased my boat.
Q. How long was your Mini Transat campaign?
A. I bought my boat in December and sailed every weekend. In April of that year I sailed full time on the boat up until August. In the winter I sailed on the weekends because of the cold. Winter nights the temperature would drop below 0 "very cold". I ended up sailing in a survival suit because of the cold night of -10. One year I was returning to " MARYER" and the ice in the parking lot made the guys think I was crazy returning from a 24 hour sail, but I felt this is what I had to-do anyway alot said alot.
Q How did you find your boat?
A. I knew alot about the boats and the Protos you had people who took a tremendous amount of time spent building their boat and lost time sailing or training for the event or you had the very wealthy or fully sponsored at great expense. My budget did not allow competing in the proto capability so I chose the Series. The series had a link to the Laser so I took this route. I met the Series Class president and he introduced me to four boats on Saturday and I made an offer on one that Monday a Pogo 1. A professional builder who had plans on doing the race and ran out of funds. I was very fortunate to have found this boat and she proved to be one of the fastest Pogo 1 on the water that year. She was very detailed and very very light. I hired the builder to fair the bottom of the boat for one week. The boat was fast, she was a good boat!
Q SLEEP , we had talked about sleep and what were your sleeping habits?
A. What I learned was, there are many factors to these boats. The sail, electric, navigating but what you have to pay closest attention to is the sailor. What I have learned is people don’t pay enough attention to themself. My sister in university learned how to manage stress or control sleeping so she showed me how to do auto hypnosis with dealing with stress. I also would keep a log or journal and would take notes on when I would get sleepy and after a month you would start to see a pattern, your sleeping door, and you would manage your time to these doors because in a 24-hour time you will always be tired at these times. I also went to Boston and worked with Claude Auras a specialist and very expensive. He coaches the world’s best solo sailors and he would wire me up and watch me for a week. On my return we review my cycles and he would advice me on how to get five hours of sleep on average a day or 24-hour cycle. So, manage your stress, sleep, no coffee, alcohol, watch your diet and purchase the best dry foods you can find, not the cheap dried food, so after a week you start to feel stronger. Try to stop drinking coffee and alcohol for two months and see how much stronger you get. Deal with the stress, it's blowing hard and your pounding into it and you're wondering how much money you are losing by be out here, you want to sail back to land and drop out, you have learned so much already. You have to deal with this stress by focusing on the heat of your body. Once you have that the confidence would come back. You have to learn how to fall asleep fast and stay within your doors.
Q. You said five hours of sleep a day. Did you take them all at once?
A. No, no, no there is two cycles. A 20-minute cycle where you would lay down for 10 minutes before your door and sleep for twenty minutes. Make a routine by wiping your face take off your jacket keep your cycle. This will be good for two hours of work. You need time to dream (rest your brain) and you need 90 minutes and for me to get this time I would have to lay down for two hours. You will find this cycle a lot better for you than how you sleep at home. "All your time at once".
Q Your sail changes. Did you make a change whenever the wind changed or did you give it the five minute rule and wait for the wind to settle down?
A. OH YEA! For me this was always my weak point. It always seemed I was carrying to much sail. Yes, I logged these changes and came up with a routine of every step on every change and know how long it would take. I went to three weeks of training in France the Figaro training with a coach and he would have me log every change and every step I would write down to create my routine. Every footstep, every tack, you would have to write it down. So, yes I kept my sail up to long I was always looking for the new speed record and I would go for 30 minutes and would wipe out and take one hour or two hours to clean up. So, you need to change gears down on time and go for the best average speed. On the first leg of the Transet I was spending too much time cleaning up after each crash. The second leg I did much better sailing to average speed. I found myself in second place for three weeks of the race. Keeping the boat in control, in the long term this is how you improve your position.
Q. In your navigating did you have a laptop or did you just use a GPS or?
A. No, no, no, laptop it's very very limited to only two gps. Paper charts short wave radio. So, I was coached to draw my weather maps with the lows and highs by listening to the radio. I never used the paper charts because I had five waypoints and I knew these waypoints by heart. At the start of each leg I would seek out help from a router/weather guy but that was only good for the first five days. You had a barometer and you would not sail lower 1015 mib. In 1999, the people in the front would be at the helm 16 hours a day in 2001, three years later, you would be on helm 1 hour a day. You would find yourself in front of the stupid short wave radio for most of the day trying to find the best route. Listening to the radio all the time with headphones on because it is hard to understand.
Q. Do you think the limited navigation equipment is good for the race, do you see them changing soon?
A. I hope they change soon, for safety reasons. Just to know were everyone is a Lat and Lon of all competitors. Would make the race better. I hope they will change, I hope.
Q. Did you ever have to go up the rig in the race and how did you do this.
A. I never had to go up the rig in the race. Although if the weather permitted your autopilot was so good you would lean the boat over by coming upon the wind. You would climb up the shroud and walk up the rig. If you have wind you need climbing gear and this is very hard. Most of the mini sailors would climb by hand.
Q. Autopilots, how many would you take. What types did you have and what was your choice.
A. You would always have two autopilots. I used the hydraulic NKE and a lighter Simrad for lighter winds. The Simrad DP30 would use a lot less power, 1/2 amp per hour; this would allow my solar panel unit to charge my batteries. The NKE gyro would take 4 amps per hour. I would have to use my genset three hours per day. I found myself using the smaller pilot more than the heavy one. Everyone’s pilot was attached to the tiller.
Q. Repairs, what type of tools did you bring? spare parts?
A. Yea, You repair everyday and more than one thing. I was using the vectron rope; everything can be replaced by a piece of rope. I was using my small adjustable wenches, and leather man. Buy the largest strongest leatherman you can find. I had five tools on board small hammer and a screwdriver. Voltmeter and you had to have cable cutter.
Q. What was your daily routine on checking the boat?
A. OH YEA, once a week you would drop your mainsail and change sails. Everyday you would go around the boat and check everything. Every hour I would check the electric system. Every morning, I would wipe down the solar panel, and every hour I would check that I was getting maximum strength from them. Every hour I would check the power system. Every race the people in the back of the fleet had electric problems. Very very important, no lights on the boat. Not always running your running lights. My mast light would take four amps an hour.
Q. Did you always have your harness on and were you always attached to the jack line?
A. I did not use a harness at the start of my training. At one of the races leading to the transat, my friends told me I had to wear it. So, I placed it on and never went without it from that point even when you go down below you would keep it on and close the hatch. Because the most dangerous part of the race is when you’re sleeping and have to come out on deck in a hurry you have to be ready to go. You also have to remember if you are asleep and the boat crashes you need to take your time and let the boat come back up, NO RUSH, take your time before coming on deck. One time I came on deck to fast and got hit in the head by the boom and saw stars. I thought God it’s lighting! When you get hit in the head like this you have to go through a check list and make sure your still conscious and you can’t go to sleep for six hours.
Q What was your electric system? I have heard about the solar panels, generator where did you keep the fuel for this generator.
A. Most important! Most important! 50 watt Solar panel that feeds the GPS and the small pilot and headlight. You weld a one inch exhaust system then attach it to a plastic pipe and keep the genset down below this is part of your moveable ballast and you have to watch the plastic pipe because it will burn out and your running the genset down below. Then convert to 12 V with a converter for 220 and I would charge three hours a day. When I did the long leg from Canneries to Brazil. I brought six gallons of fuel and only used three gallons of fuel and used my large auto most of the time. I used two batteries and never allowed the battery to drop down below 12.3 because it took to long to recharge. Buy the best batteries you can find. Watch the batteries every hour after charging you are around 12.7 to start with. VERY VERY IMPORANT don’t lose your electricity or your done.
Q How did you go through your gybe maneuver, talk me though it?
A. You can gybe very fast on a Mini. I would gybe the spinnaker first. I would go straight down wind gybed the spinnaker and hide it behind the main. Go up to the mast gybe the pole and come back into the cockpit and gybe the main. Very fast maneuver. I had two spinnaker poles one huge pole for the asyos and one for the symmetric. I had the autopilot take the helm through the gybe.
Q So moving the gear from one side to the other?
A. HUH! That is a whole other subject! You move the gear before the gybe because you want to save your energy. Everything had to be moved to the high side even the tooth brushes if you didn’t pay attention to the ballast you were lost.
Q. So how long would it take you to move the ballast?
A. HUH! I would say around five minutes the worst is when you have to fill salt water because we are not equipped to fill your old water tanks. You would have to use your sea anchor as your funnel and fill those six jerry cans under way. If I did it again I would attach a seacock down below so I can fill those jerry cans with a foot pump. The wind would go light and you would dump the water when the wind picked back up you had to fill the tanks again. To fill the six jerry cans by bucket was a half hour.
Q. Would you keep the jerry cans inside the boat?
A. Yes, we had a spot for them on each tack. You would have a small shelf for the best balance. You can’t place them outside because you might loose a can.
Q. It sounds like you used a number of coaches can you name a few of the better ones?
A. Very important! The Figaro training center is what it is all about. The French Olympic sailing center. The coach is always important and does not have to have been a solo sailor. Spend time dinghy racing. A weather coach is very very important. Michel Defanu Open 60 sailor works at the Figaro and is a teacher by trade. The Finistere Course was also very helpful
Q What was your best day of practice?
A. Boat speed practice like dinghy practice. Close course practice. What was tough for me was to practice my stress training. Keeping my training on schedule was very difficult. Spending $160,000 in one year and not working was very difficult and I had to keep my mind on my goal.
Thanks Jean! good sailing to you!