Patrick Viau (Fr) co-skipper of the SOH Imoca60′ for the transat in June 2016. Test and training – he joined on board as a voluntary team member of the Spirit of Hungary – read Patrick’s ship log in English on half way to Newport 17th-27th June. 10 days in 1
my first transat
onboard Spirit of Hungary with Nandor Fa
17th june 2016 We left Port Olona after some days of preparing and waiting for the last parts to come. The last to arrive was the second accumulator, which weights around 80kg… Once set the 3 of us could think about leaving for Newport, and also leaving the team that is Iren and Bandi…
The good bye was quite an event for me and my wife, daughter, and my parents.
They know it is a big event in my sailing life, and obviously that it is a difficult crossing on the North Atlantic West-about.
First 24h went very fine, quite windy and exciting. At some moments we had gusts up to 37 kt, having 2 reefs in the main, and J3… sailing at solid 15kt. I can discover how this superb modern IMOCA runs, sounds and steers nicely. The rig is especially “talkative” with the wind creating vibration. I imagine it would be both a great weather/performance indicator for Nandor, and a great source of tiredness because of the constant noise.
18th At the north of Cabo Ortegal, near Spain, we start missing wind, as the forecast said. As long as we have at least 6kt of wind, SOH does at least the speed of the wind. Searching for the right settings and daggerboard position.
During the night we got to decide between going south and downwinds, or north and upwinds. We decide to go north that shows a faster routing.
We are missing so much wind that we furled the jib and run the engine.
19th The wind came back, a little, so we are now sailing westabout between 3 and 7kt.
We have dolphins very often around the boat. We can hear them through the hull and cheer them by waiving the hand over the surface of the ocean, that is almost mirror-like…
21st Yesterday we had another day of upwind in choppy sea.
But now, since early afternoon we tacked for a long downwind tack leading to Acores… Mood has changed and we have much more relaxing sailing ambiance.
I want to talk about why I think Nandor is like an UFO over the IMOCA planet.
To give a context to Nandor’s program, there should be a short view of today’s standard IMOCA team.
First of all, IMOCA class is dominated in number of teams and by its origin by French sailors. Most of them are based in France, precisely Britanny where most of the companies and almost all the specialists have gathered. We could say that everything happens here.
Second, is linked to the French location. As I just said everything happens here, it means it is almost exclusively french speaking profesionnals and not most of them are able to manage a proefficient english.
Third, today in this level of competition, small teams are composed of at least 3 permanent persons, and big teams can be 10 or more. In most cases, they have access to a shipyard and can work in good efficient conditions.
Obviously, there is no problem to find competent people locally, no worries about getting supplies next day, not any special problem with understanding clearly each other, and they don’t get tired driving across Europe for any reason.
These 3 points said, and the obvious laid on the paper, we can imagine that today it could seem impossible to be in the same time the boat designer, the boat builder, the shore team manager, the sailing team manager, the finance and logistics manager… and the skipper.
But the truth is that Nandor does it all!
Him and his micro team (his wife, family, and a few guys) achieved the extra-ordinary in the very meaning of the word. Today no-one else in the world (to my knowledge) has done so much, at such a level, in the world successfully. Just look: based in Hungary, a place that doens’t have access to the sea nor the ocean, where there is a limited culture about ocean racing, and where you need to travel thousands of kilometers to meet the competitors and partners. Such a project gives Nandor not many choices but working quite alone, on his side.
He had many difficult decisions ahead, but also an authentic freedom do it his way
This is IT. Nandor is following his dream and nothing can stop him. He does it all for realising himself fully. And he does that since his youth, preparing for the global,ultimate personal event that is a Vendee Globe.
One of his biggest strenght is his perfect knowledge of his boat, being its designer and builder. He knows it all. Any problem will be diagnosed and hopefully fixed onboard. No other skipper can trust himself the same.
His great experience of oceanic racing also brings a massive foundation to the success of his race. He says himself that he doesn’t sail anymore like he was in is first circumnavigations. Now, the focus is to perform great in a clean and mastered round the world sailing. It is far more about personal achievment than anything else.
Today, his objective on this double Atlantic crossing is just about going back into the sailing after months of work and preparation, and dive into the feelings and happiness of being a sailor. It makes me feel that he is in the Truth.
Maybe the Vendee Globe is about the ultimate sailing competition, that is to be said, it is first a great human adventure. Let’s support Nandor’s and his team’s quest and wish him an extraordinary success.
22nd We had some little wind and quite some time to spend, so for now let’s talk about sailing SOH itself…
To start well, I will say I “know all” about what the media can deliver to us, sailing entouthiasts. All the TV, videos, all the drawings, reports and articles, I read or seen them since the first Vendee Globe Challenge of 1989.
And I am really not a beginner sailor in any way even if I never sailed a modern IMOCA like SOH.
But experiencing the real, across the Atlantic on such a machine, you must believe me, it is not a normal sailboat. Of course any sailor knows how to take the wind in the sails, what is to take a reef, what is to be wet and maybe cold or even what is to use the bucket for the most adventurous of us.
But what about the EXTREM of it, because it is really all about it.
The extremely hard: each and every manouvers takes the sweat out of you, thinking 3 times before you pull anything and enduring 24/7 life onboard.
When you almost bite your tongue because the boat hit down the wave, when you can’t stand on the deck because the the violent rudder response, when looking at the bow makes your face salty in a second, when easing the sheet rope on the winch sounds like your are tearing the structure apart. We have seen it all on movies. But experiencing it, again, it is about the extra-ordinary. I am now typing on the keyboard, sitting at the navigation pod, and it feels sometimes like if I would suddendly being dropped down on the floor 1 meter below, with a massive quake all around me. When it takes you a liter of sweat to hoist the main sail, that your heart wants to jump out of your chest after trimming a massive sail, when you fear for you life if you need to get up in the mast… And to be clear, SOH is quite surely the most comfortable IMOCA in 2016 as some others I visited are quite hardcore onboard…
The extremely great: sailing in high speed, the crazy feelings of driving an offroad truck at Formula 1 speeds surprisingly easily.
SOH is also a freaking fast machine that delivers the promises. It can fly over the sea, run on top of the waves and turn sea water into showers out of crazy speeds. A video will tell it much better than my words, get some eye candy in the medias .
All of today’s carbon oceanic racers are in a different league that our normal polyester boats. The lightless and stiffness of these is going with performance, but also with hardcore noises, vibrations and movements while sailing hard. My first days were easy, but it became so impressive when we headed upwind. All my references were pushed so far further than I imagined. It is not that sailing an IMOCA is overhuman, I mean it requires very special people to manage them. First the skills obviously are required, the experience of seaman-ship for facing the environment, and not the last, the technological mastery for coping with these ultra-sophisticated machines.
Every single component of SOH is specific and hand-made out of carbon fiber or titanium, in the same time super solid but also super fragile, as they are used to the limits. In general, it is delicate to feel the balance between being very carefull or pulling as much you feel like. Remember that the Vendee Globe lasts
about 90 days minimum, and as many occasions of tearing apart your machine and your dreams together. SOH is a very complex machine, with so many different essential parts that are absolutely neccessary for sailing single handed. It is quite plausible that a single default will ruin your hope to cross the finish line of this race. The stress is everyday, every hour, every second. The intensity of sailing an IMOCA is about that.
27th We are now in the second half of the crossing. We are fine with the A3 up and easy to handle. Nandor starts to worry about me and the food portions I need. No, don’t imagine we miss food, just that when I don’t sleep much, I eat twice
I start to feel more relax onboard, manouvering SOH. I got used to the sounds and movements even if
I need my noise protection gear to really sleep. In my sailboat, I love the sounds and even to listen to them as a sleeping song. But here even in calm conditions, it is loud.
Enjoying the south, the exocets (flying fish) flying away from us, the daily game we have about who will hold the speed record at the helm. Sometimes the autopilot wins as some fixed parameters allows SOH to go fast like a bullet following the wind.
I work every day in learning the systems, the settings, many procedures on the software and onboard navigation systems. For me it is the first occasion I have for a real use of the weather forecast, routing and all the great sailing support applications, and I love it.
written by Patrick Viau.
Introducing P. Viau in French and English – video Skipper Nandor Fa – Spirit of Hungary introduces Patrick Viau as new SOH team member