Navigation, sail changing, fitness, and food intake are identified as four core challenges of offshore racing by skipper Phil Sharp. In teams, Challengers partake in a task rotation around the race boat, completing timed challenges and experiencing both the technical and fatiguing tasks that offshore sailors face out at sea against the elements.
Sail choice is often stated a tricky task to make by skippers, and often relies on some quick thinking and mental arithmetic to stay one step ahead around a race course. The Class 40 has a maximum of eight different purpose sails when racing, and sail choice is key to ensuring the boat is performing at its best in each weather condition and for each leg of a race. Provided with charts, a plotter and dividers, teams work through a return course across the English Channel to identify both the wind angles and sail choice to achieve the fastest sail configuration for each leg.
Whilst the navigation introduces Challengers to making sail choices, teams are also set the demanding task of changing a sail as quickly as possible, where every second counts for minimising speed and distance lost during a race. Strength, speed and endurance are tested by dragging heavy sails out through the hatch and on to the foredeck, followed by attaching and hoisting a sail to the top of the mast. Both exhausting tasks on land, yet gruelling at sea with the boat crashing through waves.
Finally, the Challenges are tested on an essential feature that keeps skipper’s performance high and able to complete the previous tasks effectively. Preparing a high energy meal and hot drink in extreme conditions is very important for a sailor’s energy reserves, and for boosting moral on board. Teams are challenged with a breakfast task to make the best porridge and tea striking a porridge balance between sugar, milk powder, oats and hot water!