Fueled For Action
Fueled For Action
Niklas Zennström’s Rán is a model of exhaustive race preparation, which not only applies to the boat, but to the feeding of the crew. Boat captain Brendan Darrer explains how they run a tight ship. "Winner's Debrief" from our May 2012 issue.
The Judel/Vrolijk 72-footer Rán has established an enviable offshore record over the past few years, winning the 2012 RORC Caribbean 600 and back-to-back Rolex Fastnet Races. “There are many ways that any sailing team can improve their offshore experience, and ultimately their result, which don’t cost a fortune,” says Rán’s boat captain Brendan Darrer. “Rán an exceptionally developed raceboat, but we are very much concerned with weight and center of gravity, and everything is kept to an absolute minimum on board.”
Virtually everything the crew need for a race is provided, he adds. They supply small bags for crew to take personal items, but most of them bring very little on board. For example, a single tube of toothpaste is shared. “It may seem obsessive,” says Darrer, “but all these little things add up to saving weight and because of the regime, everything is well organized, with no clutter.”
Explain how Team Rán was fed and watered during the RORC Caribbean 600 and how the boat is set up for feeding 21 crew.
We use freeze-dried food for all main meals except breakfast, which consists of muesli, granola, and yogurt. We don’t take any fresh food because of the weight and the process of cooking a meal for a crew of 21 is made much easier with freeze-dried. We have a large cooking pot and two kettles, which hold exactly enough water to mix with the food. There is no measuring required because the freeze-dried is already put into “day bags.” In goes the freeze-dried, in go the two kettles full of hot water. It’s that simple. One good tip is that, once the meal is mixed, let it sit longer than the recommended time. This is very important because, if the food is not properly rehydrated, it can swell in the stomach and also draw fluid from your system, bringing on dehydration. If the packaging tells you to wait an hour and a half, then let it stand for at least two hours.
We use one of the best freeze-dried food suppliers on the market, Fuizion Freeze Dried Foods, which are made in the UK. The cost is about $6 per meal, so feeding your crew with freeze dried is not expensive. Pasta or noodles with sauce is cheaper, but it doesn’t contain the right balance of food groups and that can have a negative affect on the team’s performance.
As far as snacks go, Haribo gummies are popular with the crew. Everybody says sugary sweets are not the best food, as they have no nutritional value, but they fit in your pocket and they give the crew a good sugar hit to keep them going. We also supplement the freeze dried with nuts, a great source of protein, and also power gels. Some of the crewmembers require extra calories, especially the foredeck team and the grinders. There is usually a bit of the freeze dried left once all the crew have eaten, but nothing goes to waste with hungry guys around. A race in colder temperatures usually requires more food, a rough race less food, and so on.
For the Caribbean 600, we calculated that we needed four liters (approx. 1 gallon) of drinking water per person, per day, on top of water for cooking. We use a water maker and a small 30-liter (8-gallon) tank, which has its own tap in the galley. If we didn’t have a water maker, we figured we would need to take about 300 liters (80 gallons) of water for a three-day race, weighing 300 kilograms (660 pounds). By using a water maker, we only had about 50 liters (13 gallons) of water on board at any one time, adding up to a weight saving of 250 kilograms (551 pounds). A decent water maker is a big expense, but it’s possible to rent one for a specific race. Most water makers can deliver far more water than is actually required and by producing water when charging the batteries, power use is not an issue.
Members of the crew are provided with their own 1.5-liter water bottle. This is essentially to prevent the spread of viruses, etc., but also makes each crewmember aware of how much water they’re consuming; dehydration can severely affect performance. The water bottles are also numbered with fluorescent stickers, for nighttime use. Washing is done in seawater, either via a tap in the galley or off the back of the boat. Once the race is over, all of the cooking utensils and bowls are sterilized using tablets designed for baby bottles.
On Rán, coffee, tea and hot chocolate are a treat, and each of the crew’s preferences are put up on a chart in the galley, again all of the mugs are individually numbered with fluorescent stickers and we have a custom made cup holder next to the kettles. This is a very user-friendly way of making hot drinks for all the crew. This sort of rack can be made up for any boat or you can simply buy a canvas storage system from a home-supply store and hang it in place, once again numbering each pocket.
Keeping the crew well fed and hydrated enhances performance. If the cooking is simple, then when it’s rough, it is still possible to keep the feeding regime going. In a heavy-weather race, the crews usually don’t fancy eating so much, but if you put food in front of them, they will most likely eat it, which will keep their strength up.