LIZZY FOREMAN: Sailing vs cycling
LIZZY FOREMAN: Sailing vs cycling
"In a way the physical and mental challenges presented by the Haute Route are similar to those encountered in offshore sailing."
As usual, the past few weeks at OC Sport have been jam-packed. I've been getting stuck in to the logistics of the Mini campaign and planning how we are to move the boat from France to Italy in early March in preparation for the first race, the Solo Roma Solo Race; a 190nm race from Fiumicino, Italy, around some islands and back again. Although the Academy has a suitable vehicle to tow the boat, it is out in France with the Figaro boys acting as their personal mini-bus, so this has meant desperately seeking out vans to borrow / hire / buy!
Since the move to France a company called TEEM have been replacing the electronics on the boat, so I've been researching all the extra bits required for an autopilot and posting them off to France, so that the system can be finished this week. Working in the background of the sailing campaign is a very good learning experience, I am in the very office from which Ellen MacArthur's campaigns were run! I can just picture Mark Turner being on the phone to Ellen when her emergency beacon went off in the Rhoute du Rhum, desperately trying to get in touch over the sat phone. Over the summer I was here working when Becky Scott was sailing in the Les Sables - Azores race, John Thorn and I were watching her on the tracker, seeing that she had turned around to head for home. On the Mini there are no communication systems to get in touch with the sailor like on the big monohulls, so it was quite nerve wracking not knowing immediately whether she was OK or not. Now that 438's autopilot has been replaced, I hope I won't be seeing a repeat on the tracker when Nikki heads off for her first race.
The replacement autopilot
Never wanting to miss out on the opportunity for an adventure, I’ve been having my own back here with a little Gull dinghy, all set up with a spinnaker, oars and anchor. Launching next to the Red Funnel ferry in the pouring rain, wearing a dry suit and wellies with a leak felt a bit eccentric, but was a lot of fun. I love being on the water by whatever means and to hear the slop-slop of the waves (the short chop on the Solent feels rather large in a boat with hardly any freeboard!) was really relaxing. I've been reading a great book, 'The unlikely voyage of Jack de Crow', all about how a school teacher sailed across the English Channel and basically kept going until he reached the black sea. Well, if you can do that in a Mirror, my little Gull could take me anywhere....I'll soon be setting off with a lunch box and thermos flask with a copy of Swallow and Amazons!
A cruising rally
Another side project of mine has been cycling, which for a long time has been seen as complimentary to the sport of sailing. Every winter and spring, the Skandia Team GBR sports science team organize cycling camps in Palma with the sole emphasis of putting in big weeks of training. This helps to build up the quads, hamstrings, calf and gluteal muscles used for sailing, increasing maximal oxygen uptake and therefore fitness. With miles on the road equating to miles on the race track, our own Mark Andrews was at one of these camps recently, with the fitness boost no doubt has helped his Figaro sailing!
In need of a challenge, I (stupidly?) signed up for the Haute Route Alps. Conceived by OC Sport in 2010, the Haute Route offers amateur cyclists a seven stage and seven day cyclosportive, starting in Geneva and finishing in Nice. I will have to pedal 454 miles (730km), staggering up (quite literally) 20,000 metres of climbs. The entry number is capped to 600 riders and so becomes the closest event I will ever take part in that has similarities to the Tour de France. Assuming that I finish of course, not everyone does!
The Haute Route
One reason I chose to do the event was because it undoubtedly tests human spirit to the limit; seven days in a row riders must cycle, coping with the physiological affect of riding at altitude, never-ending climbs and technical descents. In a way the physical and mental challenges presented by the event are similar to those encountered in offshore sailing (being, tired, fed up, too hot or too cold, having to concentrate all the time...), while the planning, preparation and need to seek support and funding are on par with campaigning a yacht (albeit on a smaller scale). Efficient recovery between each stage will be vitally important and again could be considered similar to recovering between stages such as in the Solitaire du Figaro. The race is so tough it is featured in the book, 'The World's toughest endurance challenges' by Richard Hoard and Paul Moore.
The Haute Route
With a burst of enthusiasm, I have recently been getting up at 6am, taking to pedaling away in the yard or back garden on a turbo trainer; hard, but hopefully efficient training. Wiring up to a heart rate monitor and bike computer means I can follow a specific work out, with the local seagulls and the red funnel offering some distraction.