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.
Sailing World


The J/V 72 Rán has the reputation of being one of the most efficient programs in the Mini Maxi scene. Tim Wright

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.


Besides the ISAF requirements and special regulations for an offshore race. What additional safety items does Rán take offshore and what tips do you have for safety at sea?
We take safety at sea seriously on Rán. After Rambler 100‘s capsize, each Rán crewmember was issued a personal EPIRB. We have been especially careful to register these devices properly. Each unit is registered to Rán and all of the contact details are identical. This means that if one of the EPIRBS is activated, the Coast Guard knows it was from us. Crewmembers change from race to race, so by giving out the correct identity of the boat, we avoid disinformation about who is actually in the water. Each unit has the same contact telephone number, which goes to one person ashore, so the facts of the situation remain correct.

We also supply everyone with a personal strobe light. I believe a strobe light is the easiest way to see a man overboard. I know the Rambler boys have been trying out a laser, which fires a beam up into the air, but that has no use during daytime. However, stopping someone going over the side in the first place is what we all strive for, so we use tethers extensively throughout the boat. It is definitely worth investing in the best harness for the job.

A lot of teams do collective safety briefings, but a lot of the time the guys aren’t actually listening. I take each crewmember and show them exactly where each piece of safety gear is. I would definitely advocate making one crewmember in charge of the safety gear and ensuring that everybody on board knows where everything is, every race, if necessary.


Also, correct stowage is just as essential as having the safety gear on board in the first place. On Rán, each crewmember has a numbered carabineer on a line next to the companionway. Off watch, the crew can hang wet weather gear here, along with their life jacket, EPIRB, strobe, knife, and flashlight. If the crewmembers down below need to get out or on deck in a hurry, they can do so with all of their safety gear.

You can’t put a price on safety equipment so you should buy the best gear available. In the past, some people viewed safety at sea with contempt, even thinking wearing a lifejacket was unmanly, but those days are long gone. Ultimately it is up to every individual to look after themselves.

How do you keep the interior dry?
For the RORC Caribbean 600 most of the spinnaker drops were down the main hatch, this avoids getting water down below. Water below ends up as weight to leeward and makes for more discomfort.

What’s your approach to having spares onboard?
Most of the control lines on board Rán are made from Spectra and Dyneema, so we take lengths of different gauge. These can also be used to lash just about anything, which has been broken. Duct tape is well worth having on board as well. If we have a ding with another boat at the start and puncture the hull, duct tape is easy to apply and can solve the problem temporarily. We also take a tube of sealant, which can come in handy. For sail repairs, sticky back and spray glue are well worth taking. My view is that, if the boat has been properly prepared, then a large number of spares are not necessary.

Applying self-amalgamating tape to sharp areas is a good policy. Many sails are damaged or even shredded by a split pin. Just feel around the rig the guardrail and rigging and tape it up, this will preserve you sails from damage.