AWAKENING THE SENSES
These are the last few days at the port of registry of Lorient for the members of Gitana Team, who take care of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild on a daily basis. It's time to load up the boat with enough food for 75 days at sea and all the necessary equipment, such as maintenance and repair tools, as well as spares. This Thursday 13 October, Sébastien Josse is casting off for Les Sables d'Olonne. All those competing in the Vendée Globe are expected into Port Olona for three weeks of sharing their projects with the public before the race start on 6 November. Furthermore, the anniversary exhibition celebrating 140 years of the Rothschild family's maritime saga, Gitana, Entering into the legend is currently having the final touches added to its installation in the official Vendée Globe village and will open its doors on Saturday at 10:00am. Leaving Lorient in his wake is inevitably a key moment for the skipper of Gitana Team. Indeed, the sailor is leaving his secondary headquarters, a place where everything has been thought out and prepared. He knows that it'll be over to him to reveal his hand soon. Conditions are forecast to be mild for the few hours of this delivery trip with an ETA in Les Sables d'Olonne's channel at around 16:00pm.
Following on from last week's sight, we're continuing to dive into life aboard for Sébastien Josse through his five senses. Today, we discuss touch.
WITH YOUR HANDS
This is the only part of your body in direct contact with the boat. Hands are precious and yet so fragile. “By dint of touching the lines, the salt and the humidity, the hands become hardened. It's a hostile environment and the skin is protecting itself,” explains Sébastien, who isn't a fan of gloves, which cause you to lose nimbleness and can get dangerously snagged, nor of cream, which ultimately delays what is a natural process. “A sailor's calloused hands are no myth! And upon the slightest crack, the slightest micro-cut, you grease them, you dress them or you use waterproof sprays to stop them going any deeper. A millimetre opening can end up really packing a punch for weeks on end.”
TOUCHING THE HELM
“We're done with that!” he says straight out. “The boats are now so full-on elsewhere that you're not going to suck up energy by helming. You replace the sensations at the helm with more theoretical things such as target numbers to hit, notably in terms of speed in relation to wind strength and angle. On the foiling boats, above all there's a heeling angle where things really start to pay dividends. It's linked to the supports you have between the foil, the keel and the hull below the waterline, so you try to find the best balance, not at the helm but with the trimming. The helm is something that ultimately you only use to go straight and you manage the speed with all the rest of the elements.”
The sailor who drives a boat by feeling where the wind's coming from is a thing of the past. “The cuddy cuts you off from the outside elements. You no longer feel the wind on your face, which is something you refer to a great deal when you're helming a classic boat. Here, you force yourself to develop other feelings, like balance. You try to familiarise yourself with the environment you set for yourself, which is a windless, moving box. You watch the wake, for example, which is more or less concentrated and then you know how to deduce speed from it. When you're really powering along and very heeled over, that creates a big, rather ugly wave, whilst when the boat is really foiling, the sea becomes flatter and the boat accelerates.”
HITTING YOUR LIMITS
Sébastien doesn't beat about the bush. “Aboard this boat, you spend your time shut away, with every resource accounted for. In survival mode, you protect yourself and save energy. When you begin moving about the boat on all fours... it's like returning to the animal state.” Indeed, fatigue is all pervasive, so when you're reaching your limits, do the senses send out warning signals? “Finding it hard to keep your eyes open is common. The muscles say nothing either. You have a task to do, so you always find the resources. However, the first sign of extreme fatigue is when you lose your balance. Once you've fallen over once, twice, that's when you have to take heed. You finish your manœuvre, you do the minimum so as not to damage your gear, you go and eat, you sleep and the rest can wait.”
Next week, discover #3 HEARING