LIZZY FOREMAN: The Salty Cyclist
LIZZY FOREMAN: The Salty Cyclist
"The Haute Route offers sailors a land-based event on a par with an offshore yacht race."
For a long time cycling has been seen as complimentary to the sport of sailing, from club racing right through to Olympic standard. Every winter and spring, the Skandia Team GBR sports science team organise 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 racetrack, Finn sailor turned Artemis Offshore Academy solo Figaro sailor, Mark Andrews, regularly attends these cycling camps and the fitness boost has no doubt has helped in his inshore and offshore sailing!
Academy sailors Lizzy Foreman, Mark Andrews and Jack Bouttell during a round the island bike with OC Sport © Artemis Offshore Academy
Conceived by OC Sport in 2010, the Haute Route offers sailors a land-based event on a par with an offshore yacht race. The cyclosportive starts in Geneva and finishes in Nice with competitors pedaling roughly 454 miles (730km) over seven stages for seven days, all the while staggering up 20,000 meters of climbs. In the 2011 edition, a number of professional sailors entered the race, including Andrew Palfrey, Paul Larsen, Fraser Brown and the founder of OC Sport Mark Turner.
Team Cyclosailors - - Haute Route 2011 - © Manu Molle
It is not only Olympic athletes who turn to cycling for an endurance challenge. Offshore sailors can effectively replicate a long offshore race over several days of cycling, working to build on the levels of physical and mental endurance required to compete in offshore racing. The requirements of endurance cycling and offshore sailing parallel one another, with the need for consistent performance, effective management of your nutrition, hydration and sleep and good tactical decisions while racing being essential to both disciplines.
Andrew Palfrey (otherwise known as 'Dog') is an Australian coach for Artemis Racing. Palfrey won both the 1999 and 2010 Etchells World Championships and finished a respectable 10th at the 2005 Star Worlds, both of these classes require a lot of hiking to go fast; so maxing out the quads on the bike was something he was well used to. Palfrey also kept an informative and amusing blog during his participation in the Haute Route, which you can read here.
Andrew Palfrey, Artemis Racing coach and Mark Turner, OCSport Chairman - Haute Route 2011 - © Manu Molle
Fraser Brown cycled alongside Palfrey, and it was perhaps his fearless attitude that made him want to give it a go in the first place. A previous Extreme 40 mainsheet trimmer, Brown is used to screaming along at top speeds on these machines, the descents of the Alps must have induced the same feeling of euphoria he got from bombing along with a kite up. Another speed freak out on the racecourse was Paul Larsen who averaged a speed of just over 59 knots (with a peak of 63.5kts), over a 500 mile run at Walis Bay, Namibia. He set the latest world speed record on board Vestas SailRocket 2 after a decade of trying. Larsen’s determined attitude to get a job done no matter what undoubtedly helped him to tackle the endless climbs of the Haute Route.
Paul Larsen pushing hard in the Haute Route 2011 - © Manu Molle
A number of solo offshore sailors have also competed in the Haute Route. Hannah White has over the last 10 years made a mark for herself as one of the UK’s most talented and successful single-handed offshore sailors. In 2009 White achieved a podium position in one of the world’s toughest single-handed ocean races, the OSTAR (original single handed transatlantic race) and 2011 she gave the Haute Route time trial a good go, pedalling like fury over the 12km course. Her video of the day is here.
OC Sports Founder, Mark Turner, even gave the event ago himself and has too faced the challenges of solo offshore racing; competing in the 1997 Mini Transat race on his boat 'Carphone Warehouse'. Turner highlighted the importance of recovery between the stages of the event; ''your body is on a knife edge, get the effort or fuel wrong and it's all over'', a statement that could read true for any offshore race, from the Mini Transat to the Vendée Globe. You can see the effects of putting in maximum effort on the bike here.
The Haute Route is so tough that it is featured in the book, 'The World's toughest endurance challenges' by Richard Hoard and Paul Moore. It is then no wonder that it attracted the attention of Franck Cammas, winner of the 1997 Solitaire du Figaro at just 24 years old. Since then Cammas has titled at five Ocean Racing Multihull Association (ORMA) championships in Groupama 2 (his 18m tri-maran), holds the record for the fastest yacht in the Transat Jacques Vabre race and once broke the Jules Verne Trophy in 2010, holding on to it for nearly two years.
Franck Cammas during the 2012 Haute Route © Manu Molle
How were Cammas’ legs strong enough to cycle after all those miles at sea? Well, he had sneakily been getting some training in through attaching a bike to the back of his 100ft tri-maran! Originally designed to be crewed by 10 people, drastic modifications to the tri-maran were made so that Cammas could sail it to the max in the Route du Rhum, a solo transatlantic race from St. Malo, Brittany to Pointe-a-Pitre in Guadelope, the Eastern Caribbean. The presence of the bike meant that Cammas could use his legs to turn the winches once his arms became fatigued, it is known that even the strongest of crew members can only grind away at winches for eight seconds at 250 watts, whereas even a reasonably fit cyclist can perform the same power output for half an hour. The bike winch proved its worth when he and his 10 man crew set a new round the world record of 48 days, 7 hours 44 minutes and 52 seconds on Groupama 3. Interestingly, bikes were first used to trim sails in a 1967 America’s Cup race, and again in the 1970s! You can watch a video of the bike here.
Using these other sailors as inspiration for my entry into the Haute Route, I am training most mornings in the Artemis Offshore Academy shed on a turbo trainer until the weather warms up a bit and there is enough light to train outside before work.
So with just seven months to go until you will be on that start line, it’s time to get salty, but with sweat, not seawater. Unless of course, you have a bike attached to your boat!