the other guy
Sailing Anarchy tries not to play ‘favorites’ with the stories we run here on the world-famous Font Page, but of course there are a number of longtime anarchists that write great stories for us, and we make it easy to follow their exploits by running ’em. On the solo/shorthanded ocean racing scene, we love following Brad Van Liew’s big effort, get a big kick from the knowledgeable Ryan Finn and Chris Tutmark on their Mini efforts, and of course there’s Lia…luscious Lia. Unfortunately, lots of great folks with great voices slip through the cracks, and here’s an SA Innerview with one of them; Euro-based American Open 60 racer Ryan Breymaier. Check out his site here.
RB: Just another American guy trying to get along in the one thing he loves most; sailing. I come from Annapolis MD and I graduated St Mary’s College in 1997. I have been sailing professionally since 1999 and working in the IMOCA class for the last 3 years.
SA: How did you first get into the IMOCA scene?
RB: I sailed for seven seasons in the Med on a Swan 80 called Favonius, along with the racing I was doing in the States. I became the permanent rigger and bowman on the boat and sailed with them for the whole med series each year. A French guy who came to do mid-bow from time to time became a good friend of mine. In 2007 he was asked to be boat captain for Albert Bargues and a Servanne Escoffier who had money from the FNOB (organizers of the Barcelona World Race) to do the first BWR. My friend picked up the job just before they were supposed to do the Fastnet as qualifier. The boat was the ex Kingfisher, Ellen Macarthur’s boat. I went as a gun for hire to deal with the rigging.
SA: So that’s it? Start rigging an Open 60 and now you’re racing one?
RB: After the Fastnet, my friend the boat captain asked me to look after the rigging in the time before the start of the Barcelona World Race, in October 2007. I met the team in Barcelona and we worked our asses off to get the boat ready to go. She was old even then and there was plenty to do since it was a project on a tight budget. During that time, I also started working on Roland “Bilou” Jourdain’s Veolia, because they were managed by the same company. I got on really well with the teams rigger and at the start of 2008 he called me up and asked me back to help him out. I was committed to sailing with other boats at the time, but said OK, but only for short periods; max a month at a time. It worked out well and I still found time to go sort out the rigging for the new 90ft Swan DSK that summer. At the end of 2008 the other rigger left and Roland said he wanted me onboard full time as head rigger. It was really tempting; by then I loved the boat, but at the same time there was no way I wanted to become a full-time ‘préparateur’ – a much better term than ‘BN’ – and give up the sailing, which is the whole reason I do this job. I replied that I would come back on the agreement that each time the boat went racing, I would be on the sailing crew. I knew there was the European Pro Tour coming up, which was a tour around Europe, fully crewed. I was happy to hear Bilou agree immediately. So, in Feb 2009 I moved to Concarneau, France. During the whole of 2009 there was not one time the boat left the dock that I wasn’t aboard, except for the departure of the TJV in November. But even then, I was one of the crew who brought it back from Costa Rica. I did a little over 15000 miles last year just on that boat.
SA: Fast forward to your upcoming Barcelona World Race bid with Boris Herrmann. What’s the deal?
RB: Bilou chartered the old BT at the start of this year, so that he can go defend his 2006 Route du Rhum title in October with a newer boat. This meant his old boat was free. I can’t hide that I was thinking up all kinds of schemes and ideas so that I could take the boat myself, but in the end the deal finally came to be in a meeting with Bilou and the BWR race organizers in February. The organizers were keen for foreign entrants and they had sponsors interested in the race, but that didn’t have a boat or skippers. Bilou turned to me and said that he was happy to know I would be co-skipper because he knew his boat would get looked after. At that point Boris and I were introduced by the race organizers and have been sailing and hanging out together ever since. We get on great.
SA: Compare Open 60 sailing to the other boats you’re used to.
RB: Once you get them going, these boats are really easy to sail. They are capable of maintaining really high average speeds all the time. It’s striking; they don’t want to slow down, ever! It would be hard to find a better boat for racing offshore. The Volvo 70 is similar, but needs a team to get near full pace. With the 60, you just go faster and faster without a huge amount of physical effort. Technically they can be complicated to start with (8 ballast tanks, lifting rudders, daggerboards, wingmast, etc) but once you have the systems figured, it’s a walk in the park. Once the boat is underway it’s easy to deal with it all on your own. Other boats that I sailed on before really needed the whole crew all the time to keep them fast. But that is what these boats are designed for; in fact, with more than three or four people onboard it gets crowded and sitting on the rail is impossible, not to mention dangerous; it would be like sitting in front of the worlds biggest pressure washer. The whole philosophy is very different. All the choices are tailored around making things easier for one person and more efficient.
SA: Was it hard giving up the other projects?
RB: Yes, really hard. The other sailing projects were with friends and people that I enjoyed and looked forward to going sailing with. Plus I got to go sailing with the same people year in and year out. With Favonius we sailed for 6 seasons together until we won the Swan Maxi Cup, it was a hard slog but when we won we were really good. It wasn’t fun to leave a solid team like that. I hope they will forgive me 🙂 I was also sad to miss out on racing the Bermuda race this year, there were some sweet boats on the start line.
SA: Do you get to do any tuning or sharing of info with the other Open 60s in France? They’re everywhere, right?
RB: Around here they’re more common than seagulls! No, really, we get to see them at local races and at the start of major events. All the technical crews will be walking around just after dark to check out what the other teams have done over the winter/spring refit. At the same time, all the crews will all hang out in the same places and we’ll all talk and compare ideas. Same story like every regatta, everyone gets together and all we talk about is the boats. Personally, I love the subject so I don’t mind at all!
SA: How similar are the various boats?
RB: As each year comes along someone else has a incredible (at the time) new idea. You just have to look at what Alex Thomson has done to the old Pindar this year to see what I mean. There are tons more development ideas just waiting to be discovered; it’s a great class to work with if you’re a designer, and even better if you get to sail the boats. It has been said before, but if you look at all the major monohull developments of the modern era, they started with the IMOCAs. Every new boat that comes along has its new ideas or innovations, whether in the details or big concepts.
SA: What’s it like for an expat Yank living in France?
RB: I am used to it now but at the start it was hard going, not speaking the language, or very little, and being in the countryside. It is amazing to me that such technically advanced boats come out of such a rural area. My wife came out to live with me at the start of 2009 and it got easier; she lived in France for years before and was it was like a homecoming for her. She complains about the Brittany weather sometimes, but I don’t know what she’s talking about; it’s the perfect climate for offshore sailing!
SA: Do you see yourself living there for a long time?
RB: No. I am American, we have a great house in Annapolis MD and friends and family in the states that we both miss. I am here because I’ve got an awesome opportunity to do some incredible sailing that I would be crazy to give up but in the long term I’ll come home for sure.
SA: What do you miss the most about the States?
RB: I have a few things, I get nuts here when I want something for the boat and it takes a week to arrive, even though its coming from just 6 hours down the road, but that’s just the way it is here. So I suppose you could say I miss next-day mail! Other than that, I miss a decent burger on the 4th of July. I miss sailing on different kinds boats with different programs. And I miss my sailing buddies, the guys who sail and work as BN’s all around the country. Jan, Pat, BC, Moose, Nukes, Brent, Scotty…..
SA: How does your boat compare to others that are going to be in the race?
RB: Oh, she’s older than the others for sure but I’m very happy to be sailing on her. I have been nurturing this boat for the past 3 years and I have sailed her in all sorts of conditions. I have been the ‘Mr Fixit’ onboard for the last couple years and I am really really comfortable with sailing her anytime and anywhere. I know we’re not going to necessarily be the fastest boat in the fleet all the time, but I have faith in this boat, she’s solid and she’s good. And in a race around the world, it’s not always just the boat speed that puts you on top.
SA: Do you feel like you have a chance going against guys like Michel Desjoyeaux and Jean Pierre Dick?
RB: Mich Desj is a legend and I admire everything he does. He’s taking a huge risk by racing a brand new boat in both the Route du Rhum and then the BWR, but hey if anyone can, he can. Jean Pierre is a great guy. I have spent time with him racing over the past couple of years and I very much respect his calm methodic way of sailing. He calculates every move and he is going to be even more motivated since he won the last BWR. It’s going to be a tough job going up against these guys, but at the same time, why not. We’ve got nothing to lose and everything to learn.
SA: We’ve met Boris Hermann during his PGOR race stop in the states and were impressed with him, but does he have what it takes to handle an Open 60? And are you guys a good fit?
RB: As well as a 505 superstar, Boris is one of the best German shorthanded sailors. He was the youngest to participate in the Mini Transat in 2001 at age 19. He also did the Artemis Transat in 2004. Then he won the Portimao Global Ocean race on a Class 40 last year. So yep, he’s got the goods. As for fitting, I can make the boat go fast and he will tell me which direction to point it in! We’re really complimentary, he’s the electronics and performance man, I am all about keeping the boat in perfect mechanical condition and hauling ass. We’re going to learn a lot from each other during the race.
SA: What are your plans this summer?
RB: Our main objective is obviously to train and sail together as much as possible. The boat is in great condition and even though we have a yard period scheduled for later in the year, we don’t have any major work to do. We’re still waiting for our sponsor to be announced and for them to confirm any commitments we need to make to them before the start of the race in December, but this should happen within the next few weeks. In the meantime, we have signed up for the Artemis Challenge in the UK and we’re thinking about doing the Round Britain and Ireland Race in August. We really want to sail against other IMOCA’s; Bilou has been great and we have done some training sessions with him already but we’re on the lookout for more.
So yeah, this summer we’re just sailing, sailing and more sailing. Getting to know the boat, getting to know each other and getting ready to Send It!