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Arkéa Ultim Challenge - Brest day 15 - How to sleep well on a solo, Ultim race?

by Arkea Ultim Challenge - Brest 21 Jan 11:18 PST 21 January 2024

"To last the distance, long term you have to eat well and sleep well," reiterates ARKEA ULTIM CHALLENGE-Brest Charles Caudrelier. Last week we talked food, this week it is sleep which is the topic for discussion.

It is impossible to sleep eight hours straight every night. Sleeping well is a battle in itself. Like many other things it requires preparation both technically and psychologically. That can be specific equipment, alarms, working with freedivers. Sleep management has long since become a performance issue.

This information could also help all the insomniacs out there, those who get up in the night and cant get back to sleep, all those who struggle to get through a full night in one go. Solo sailors have no choice. When they left two Sundays ago, on January 7, they switched to a snatched naps of durations ranging from a few minutes to 90 minutes."

Armel Le Cléac'h explains. "What we try to do is to sleep as regularly as possible five, six, maybe seven times cumulatively over any 24 hours in increments of 30 to minutes to 1 hour 30".

The golden rule is don't wait, take every opportunity. "As soon as the conditions are good, you have to sleep".

"At the start, you are in great shape for maybe 48 hours but inevitably, as you expend your energy, you go into sleep deficit," explains Sébastien Josse, member of the Banque Populaire routing unit and co-skipper of Armel on the Transat Jacques Vabre. " Then you take your little nap, you wake up to check everything and if it's possible, you can go back to sleep." Like this it is possible to accumulate up to 6 to 8 hours of sleep.

Technically, most skippers have tested equipment in order to find the most suitable solutions.

Armel Le Cléac'h has a custom-made mattress installed in his living area. On Sodebo, we are told that Thomas Coville carried out "many tests to find the most suitable cushions". The eight times round-the-world skipper has "a giant body cushion, a neck cushion and another for the knees". Coville also uses a blindfold during his naps.

Apnea (the suspension of breathing) to "push your limits and reach a new milestone"

So there are the gains but also a psychological aspect linked to sleep. Since the start of this race, the sailors have generally confirmed they have slept well, even if they found it had to settle down during the first days and nights. But through the messages and conversations, everyone has confirmed they are in a good rhythm. But to get into deep, restful sleep it is important to reach a stat of release, of relaxation, to let go, to be as relaxed as possible. To achieve this, Thomas Coville worked with a freediver, Alice Modolo. And so did Charles Caudrelier who worked with Arnaud Jerald, holder of the freediving record (122 meters).

Jerald tells us: "Charles wanted to disconnect when he can from the boat, from the numbers and the stress, from all the information that he must be on top of. He wanted to have a choice. However, in freediving, it is only feeling. We start by working on breathing to lower the heart rate and begin to let go."

Above all, the experience of apnea (suspending breathing) helps you move on mentally. At the end of the joint work with Jerald, Caudrelier wanted to reach 30 meters: he had to work hard, even slowing down to 25 meters before getting to thelimit. "It's a way of pushing one's limits, of passing a milestone like a tipping point," assures the freediver. "By achieving this, he gains experience, opens another avenue."

Experience helps...

However, "in moments of stress we fall back to experience". Everything that sailors have previously learned about their sleep, days and nights managing themselves, fighting themselves in the Solitaire du Figaro, on transatlantics, everything helps "Each sailor has his own way of getting to sleep," says eight times La Solitaire racer Anthony Marchand (Actual Ultim 3) before the start. It's so important to know yourself well! "

But when the body is really stressed and over tired, when the cursor is deep in the red, this is just the time when they need to be extra vigilant. Because after several days of carrying out maneuvers or facing difficult conditions, such as during the front passage in the middle of the first week it is not uncommon to have a fall, or get injured because of the lack of energy. Or, to oversleep.

So, everyone takes precautions, including setting an alarm.

"It is very powerful, very strident," explains Sébastien Josse. "The problem is that sometimes you are so tired that you end up integrating it into your dream and end up waiting 5 to 10 minutes before responding to it."

Skippers know that a race can be lost because of waking up too late. Everyone still remembers Alex Thomson's misadventure on the Route du Rhum 2018: a few miles from the finish, he was not wakened by his electric pulse watch (whose battery had broken) and had hit a cliff.

But the body has a great capacity to adapt and the management of sleep on board is proof of this. "Of course, sometimes you wake up and need a few seconds to remember where you are, on board, racing, with such and such a sail configurations and such and such a speed," explains Sébastien Josse. " But most of the time, you wake up just before the alarm. That's what means you're not too burned out when you wake up... And that's the magic of the experience, of knowing yourself and your limits."

Coville confirms broken foil control system suffered last Wednesday

Thomas Coville, the solo skipper of Sodebo Ultim 3 admitted today to having suffered some technical damage last Wednesday. Although it is not a structural failure, Coville reports, "I am handicapped on one side but I have a solution to regain the functions of the foil. I am confident for the future."

In a press release issued today on the subject of his breaking into the Indian Ocean, Coville revealed that his starboard foil lowering system had broken. "The damage has not caused any damage to the structure of the trimaran but prevented the foil from being lowered," the press release said. "I am compromised on port tack".

Thomas Coville reported, "I had come back on the first two to catch the same front, I was happy with the boat's speeds, but it turned out to be more difficult following damage to the mechanical lowering system of the starboard foil. Together with the team, we managed to stabilize it. There is no structural damage or major problems on the boat, but at the moment I am handicapped on one side. With my technical team we have a solution to regain its functionality, I have a little work to do, but I am confident. I wasn't able to keep up with the pace of the leaders because I found myself at the back of the front when I wasn't far behind, but I'm happy to be where I am. Venturing here with a flying boat like Sodebo Ultim 3 was a dream and here we are - with the other sailors - doing something unique, it's the first time. Doing it today with my team is also a collective adventure. It's a motorsport, it's a commitment sport and it's a group sport and they're all behind me."

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