If the crew of an ocean racer sails on its stomach and a happy, well-fed crew is a skipper’s strongest asset, then the cook is as crucial as the navigator.
We asked some competitors in this year’s Newport-Bermuda race how to keep a crew well fed and ready to go. All had years of experience provisioning for offshore racing, leading to as many galley philosophies as there were boats.
On the maxi-racer Titan 15, galley boss Peter Heck boiled Ziploc bags of pastrami for hot sandwiches on the rail. On Sailor Bandido, a Chicago-based Quest 33, the crew stuck to a healthy regimen of almond butter sandwiches for lunch and freeze-dried dinners at night.
Rebecca Reger, the bowman on the J/130 Cilista, was feasting on midnight brownies, corned beef hash and shepherd’s pie before Day Three seasickness got the best of her. Saltines, boullion, and fruit roll-ups got her through the rest of the Gulf Stream.
While Reger maintained a steady regimen of roughly 1,500 calories daily, many came in the form of snacks—most notably the salty, sugary and nausea-relieving kind. Chips Ahoy, Saltine crackers and Pringles were popular on all boats, with the freeze-dried fodder coming out only for dinners.
There were no complaints, though. “We ate very well,” said Chris Palabrica, skipper of the 33-footer Sailor Bandido, whose provisions list included seven pounds of dried fruits and nuts as well as 40 oranges, 20 apples and 20 bananas.
Water was also on the minds of all skippers. The 635-mile race, sailed primarily on starboard tack, worked favorably for Titan XV, which only filled its starboard water tank to offset the anticipated westerly wind. This meant the crew of 20 had a ration of six bottles per day each. On Cilista, all water came from one of two tanks. Reger’s top tip: use packets of Crystal Light to improve the taste of the tank water.
Even if you aren’t planning on racing to Bermuda anytime soon, consider these helpful tips from offshore racers:
Know your crew’s appetites. While Reger allowed herself 1,500 calories per day, the grinders on Titan XV, weighing a minimum of 250lbs each, needed almost twice that. “Those guys,” said Heck, “two of them needed a loaf of bread daily.” He supplemented their meals with sides of macaroni and cheese, beef jerky, and other snacks.
Practice preparing meals before you leave the dock. To avoid surprises at mealtime, galley cooks should have as much training as any other member of the crew.
Find a way to please everyone. Chris Palabricaknew some crewmembers wouldn’t drink regular milk so he also packed rice and almond milk. Heck provisioned Titan XV with powdered milk, allowing crew to mix their own and thus eliminating the “skim vs. 2%” debate. And every cook knew his or her crew’s favorite cookies or chips.
Get creative. While freeze-dried dinners were common, no crew ate the same meal twice. Onboard the J/42 Amigo VI, David Bows surprised his teammates with pre-grilled hamburgers.
Plan for seasickness. Every boat packed Saltines, but ginger candies, oatmeal packets and fruit bars are also good options.
Don’t keep leftovers. If crew don’t eat their full meal, throw the remains overboard. They’ll be less likely to waste in the future.