“I feel like you have to start somewhere,” says Ryan Breymaier. For the 35 year-old Annapolis native, that somewhere is Barcelona, Spain, followed by 25,000 nautical miles around the globe through some of the planet’s most treacherous waters, with just one other soul aboard.
On December 31, 2010 Breymaier began the second edition of the Barcelona World Race (BWR), sailing with Boris Herrmann of Germany aboard the Open 60 Neutrogena.
Breymaier and Herrmann are facing 14 other boats, skippered by some of short-handed sailing’s biggest names, including Michel Desjoyeaux, two-time Vendee Globe winner, and Jean Le Cam, who already has three circumnavigations under his belt. But matching up against a list of sailing legends doesn’t phase the young duo.
“One of the great things about our sport is the fact that the legends, the up-and-comers and Joe Public all compete on the same racetrack,” Breymaier says. For his first race as a co-skipper, that racetrack includes the infamous “Roaring Forties” and rounds the three major capes: the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn. The event will take about 80 days in all, with no stops.
Though 2011 is Breymaier’s first year at the helm of an Open 60, his resume boasts many sailing accomplishments. He began sailing at age 18 at St. Mary’s College in Maryland, where he quickly discovered a wealth of natural talent and a passion for the sport. Though he graduated in 1997 with a degree in economics, Breymaier was sailing professionally by 1999. He broke into the sailing scene onshore, working as a rigger for Atlantic Spars and Rigging, and on the water as the bowman on a Corel 45. “My goal in sailing has always been to do as many different things as possible” says Breymaier.
Breymaier spent the better part of the next decade as a rigger, stockpiling thousands of hours improving boats. In 2006, he and his wife, Nicola, relocated to France, where Breymaier was better positioned to pursue his life-long dream of racing in the IMOCA Open 60 Class.
In 2007, he began working as shore team for Veolia Environment, Rouland Bilou Jourdain’s IMOCA Open 60. Jourdain was dismasted during the first edition of the Barcelona World Race, and Breymaier was put in charge of preparing the deck and rigging for Jourdain’s bid in the 2008 Vende Globe. He had no idea that just two years later he would be the one at Veolia’s helm, albeit under a different name, giving her a second chance to finish the BWR.
“When I was in Barcelona preparing this same boat for Bilou to go and work on the first BWR with Jean-Luc, I don’t think I dared dream I would be here today, but things just fell into place,” Breymaier says.
Though Breymaier and Herrmann are both relatively new to long-distance, short-handed sailing, they have sailed 10,000 miles together training on Neatrogena. With an able-bodied co-skipper, a boat tuned to perfection and a mind set on circumnavigation, Breymaier has the tools and the talent to cross the finish line in good standing, despite facing some of the sport’s most revered skippers.
Unlike single-handed events, having another crewmember on board allows time for precious sleep, so crews can push their boats even harder. During the race, co-skippers hope for four to six hours of sleep a day, but in poor weather all hands must be on deck wrestling with sails and executing maneuvers. To meet the rigorous demands of life on an Open 60, Breymaier consumes up to 7,000 calories each day, mostly in the form of freeze-dried meals, pasta, dried meats, mixed nuts and energy bars.
All skippers must also complete a mandatory course in emergency medicine that covers stitching, casts and basics in diagnostics in case problems arise. With land rarely in sight and the finish line far past the horizon, there is no room in the BWR for an unprepared racer.
The previous race winners, Jean-Pierre Dick and Damian Foxall sailing Paprec-Virbac 2, took 92 days, 9 hours, 49 minutes and 49 seconds to finish, logging an average speed of 11.13 knots.
The BWR takes sailors from Barcelona to Barcelona following a Great Circle route, the shortest possible distance you can trace on a map. In the Southern Ocean, the boats must maneuver through a series of pre-set gates to keep crews clear of floating ice and within reach of rescue.
Day by endless day, Ryan Breymaier is spending the first three months of 2011 with a rolling deck under his feet. Mile after grueling mile, Breymaier is inching closer to completing his first circumnavigation, closer to home, closer to his wife ashore.
“Every day it hits me more and more. I am not one to get worked up over things, but I think of the sheer scope of the voyage I am undertaking daily,” Breymaier admits. This New Year’s Eve marked the beginning of 2011 for everyone, but for Breymaier it marked the next adventurous chapter in his bright career.
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