Advice from Vendee Globe sailor Rich Wilson
by Rich Wilson
Isolation isn’t easy. So we turned to longtime SEA trustee and overseer Rich Wilson for advice. In 2017, Rich competed in his second Vendee Globe round the world solo race, spending more than 120 days alone, in a sea of uncertainty. These are his recommendations:
The Open 60 was a monster to sail and required ~6000 calories daily to maintain body weight. Not suggesting that here, but making exercise strictly daily, more challenging & lengthier than usual, will reduce stress, make you sleep better, and you’ll be fitter coming out of this.
2. Lots of communications.
Our tally of emails during the 107 days at sea came to 500+ to Lauren Zike, S-184, who managed our site ALIVE global school program, and ~300 to Geoff Brown our Boat Captain (technical head of the project). We also had fewer emails (but still many) to friends and family ashore. I was alone, but with the good comms, I never felt alone.
I had .MP4 files of 10 true sports movies on the ship’s computer, and I knew exactly where the inspirational quotes were, so I could go to them when needed. Music can also help your mental state. Need to set the 4,000 square foot gennaker at midnight? Get pumped with Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run at high volume before going on the foredeck. Scared in a frigid 60 knot gale in the Indian Ocean in the dark? Listen to Chants of the St. Benedictine Monks to sooth your agitation. Music can be used identically to modify your moods in your self-quarantine.
4. A day at a time.
A notable difference between VG2008-9 (121 days) and VG2016-17 (107 days) was the fear and uncertainty factor. For the first race, it seemed that the entire future was unknown, from right now until infinity, and that is a massive uncertainty to bear. For the second race, having successfully finished the first, I felt that if I just kept tending to the boat (make all the needed sail changes and repairs) and to myself (eat and drink constantly; sleep when possible) and did that for this 24 hours, and then the next, and the next, that eventually this will end (boat and skipper somewhere, hopefully France). The saying is a cliche - take it a day at a time - but true.