It is with bags beneath his eyes and the bitter taste of too much coffee that Varuna’s Spanish navigator Guillermo Altadill expects to cross the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race finish line.
Varuna’s Spanish navigator Guillermo Altadill
The in-demand navigator says he won’t sleep so much as a wink over the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628-nautical mile racecourse.
'It’s a sprint, not a marathon,' the seasoned America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race competitor explained.
'You have to make decisions really quick. For a navigator there’s three days without sleeping, you don’t really rest at all.
'That’s the challenge of this kind of race compared to a trans-Atlantic or an around-the-world race; 628 nautical miles is a tougher distance because it’s not long enough for a sleep.'
Altadill is somewhat conditioned to the rigors of sleep deprivation that go hand-in-hand with sailing.
He’s competed as a professional sailor for almost a quarter of a century since catching the bug during the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race aboard Fortuna Extra Lights.
Apparently the secret is drinking coffee, having the occasional energy drink, and taking time to get fresh air on deck.
'I always thought the navigators came from a different world,’’ he quipped. 'They’re often eccentric, too intelligent and they lose contact with the real world on deck.
'That’s why I like to be involved with the crew. I’m half navigator and half crew.'
Having provided weather advice for the Varuna crew for the past two years, this will be Altadill’s first race on board the stark black-decked Ker 51, which should be competitive in the charge for the overall win.
While it’s a role he relishes, Altadill does admit it’s all getting harder and harder.
'The problem is you have so much information,’’ he said. 'You have to process this information every two or three hours, and by the time you finish you have more information to process.
'I remember the first race I did around the world in ’89; there was no GPS (global positioning system).
'Now there’s so much information it adds to the navigator a lot of stress. Before it was more relaxing, you had time to think. There’s so much information now and you have no time to process it.'
Varuna’s skipper Jens Kellinghusen is pretty happy to have a navigator of Altadill’s calibre aboard.
The German owner has been steadily sharpening his crew since Varuna was launched in April 2012.
In October last year it finished sixth overall in Class 2 of the Rolex Middle Sea Race and in February this year she scored sixth overall and fifth on IRC division in the RORC Caribbean 600.
She’s since completed the Transpac Race from Los Angeles to Hawaii, which is all part of Kellinghusen’s master-plan to compete in all the great ocean races around the globe.
But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all about results.
'It’s not about the podium for us,' Kellinghusen insists. 'This is a project that’s all about taking the boat around the world. Maybe the second time we’ll be more ambitious, but not this time.'
The start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia, the Australia Network throughout the Asia Pacific Region and webcast live to a global audience on Yahoo!7 from 12.30pm until 200pm on Boxing Day.
Rolex Sydney Hobart website