FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do I need to know anything about sailing?
No. We provide immersive training that is designed to impart all the safety and basic operations knowledge you will need to enjoy your event. If your skill level is higher then you will be easily able to access the higher levels of professional knowledge our Round-the-World race skippers and mates possess- you may also be asked to help take charge of other crew members and deckwork evolutions.
Does Spartan Ocean Racing arrange travel?
No. We can provide some pointers but we keep our focus on what we do best- sailing. If you are in anyway worried about how to organize travel to and from a vessel that may change it’s schedule at any moment whilst at sea; we suggest you book with The Marine Travel Company from the Uk, who have a lot of experience helping commercial seafarers book their flights with a specific kind of ‘seafarers’ ticket that allows unlimited changes right up to checking in. In this way you never have to be worried about missing your flight – we just call ahead from the satellite phone and The Marine Travel Company will make the necessary changes.
Do I have to bring my own life jacket?
No, we will provide you with a lifejacket. As we are a commercially coded charter vessel our lifejackets have to conform with some very strict guidelines; as part of that process the name of the vessel has to be indelibly marked on the jacket and the jacket must be tested and certified.
What to expect?
Initially when contemplating sailing in one of our events the focus is understandably on the boat, the weather and the skipper/mate. What ends up often being the highlight of the trip is the amazing experience of being part of crew, part of team participating in either a race or a regatta or an incredible ‘bucket-list’ voyage. In our experience it is the comradeship and simplicity of life on board that lures people back to the sea time and time again.
Can I sleep on the boat during my regatta?
If your event is a regatta with daily races you are welcome to stay on board the boat over night to lower your costs. If you do decide to sleep on board you will need to appreciate that these are stripped out race boats and the accommodations are ‘spartan’. Each boat has basic but comfortable bunks, a toilet, a sink, storage for your luggage. The boats do not -as yet- have air conditioning and so staying on board during the Caribbean regattas will present a challenge as the boats will not be moving and air flow will be limited. Many have embraced staying on the boat as ‘part of the experience’ but if you favour cool spacious accommodations with a mini fridge and room service you may prefer to book into a hotel.
If I choose to sleep on a boat, what kind of accommodation should I expect?
Once on board the boat you will be assigned a bunk and a storage area. This will give you a dry area to store your equipment and a comfy place to lay your head in smooth conditions. If the weather starts to get a little rougher or if we are racing and need to keep weight on the high side of the boat we will start ‘hot bunking’. On each vessel some of the bunks are up forward in the bows of the boat- in rough weather we deem these bunks to be hazardous to use and so those who have those bunks will start sharing a bunk in the middle of the boat with someone from the opposite watch group. This may seem a little difficult to accept at first but for those who have ever had to deal with a bunk in the front of a boat in a seaway you will appreciate that we have made provision to get you out of there! The other occasion when we will ‘hot bunk’ is when we are racing and we want to keep the boat as flat as possible- to assist with this we will fill the windward ballast tansk with water and have all those crewmembers who are off watch and sleeping sleep on the bunks on the windward side of the boat. The combined weight of 7 crew may top 500kg and can add up to a winning advantage on a long race.
What communication means are available on board?
We have a full array of satellite communications equipment on board each of our boats and we can use these to send and receive information at any time. If you wish to use the satellite phone to call loved ones you will need to pay for the airtime you use. This will be tallied in a log on board for our records and yours. Airtime for incoming and outgoing calls will be charged at $2 EUR per minute. Texts both incoming and outgoing will be charged at $1 EUR. We also have a text only service available through our onboard Delorme tracker unit. Reasonable unlimited use of this system can be made at any time with the prepayment of $25 EUR at the start of the journey. Texts are limited to 160 characters and will not be exclusively private as they are sent and received on a system in regular use by the skipper, mate and crew. At the time of writing- April 2016- we do not yet have the ability to send photos or video off the boat – we hope to upgrade to this option in the coming months which will be good news for those doing Trans Atlantic trips in the Autumn.
What are the responsibilities of the Quartermaster?
The Quartermaster looks after the inside of the boat on a cycling daily responsibility that passes from crew member to crew member during the voyage. The Quartermaster will prepare meals with the assistance of the crew, look after basic cleaning and organization inside the boat and will be excused from all deckwork. In exchange for this day of service to the other crew the Quartermaster does not need to stand watch and will have a full nights sleep after arranging the evening meal before handing over to the next in-coming quarter master the next morning.
What kind of watch system is usually used during an event?
Life aboard a sea going vessel is regulated first and foremost by the watch system. Although a number of watch systems are possible such as the Military 4 hr system, the Rolling Watch & the Swedish System.On Spartan Ocean Racing’s vessels we use a very simple 3 hr system which we have found is easily understood and adapted to. What this means for you as a new crew member joining any event that includes overnight sailing is that once we have left port and the vessel is starting to settle down into normal sea-going operations the skipper will divide the crew into two separate operational groups or ‘watches’. One group will then be ‘on watch’ and will man the deck, helm the boat, perform deck work as required and their ‘watch leader’ (either the skipper or the mate) will be responsible for safe navigation and safe lookout. Whilst the deck is looked after by the ‘on watch’ team and the other watch sleeps one crew member will act as ‘quartermaster’.
How can I take care of personal hygiene during an event?
If you are coming with us for a regatta it will probably work out that we are alongside a dock each night and all you have to do is take your toiletries and your towel with you along to the washrooms at the yacht club and voila you have the ingredients for a decent wash and brush up. If however, you are joining us for a multi-day trip where we will not be alongside or anchored each night certain consideration needs to be given to how to keep clean and have good hygiene during your trip. The answer of course is wet wipes. My goodness is there anything you can’t clean with a wet wipe? We will have on board the boat a large supply of wet wipes that you can make good use of at the end of each watch. It is our experience that even in the hottest conditions a regular wet wipe bath can keep skin clean, relatively sweet-smelling and free from rashes and other discomforts. Whilst freshwater is at a premium on an ocean-going race boat we will always have enough to provide a quick shower once in a while to top up the wet wipes. As a tip to the wise – not wearing polyester or polypropylene thermal wear when sleeping is a positive move if it can be achieved. Donning cotton garments – although not a good idea as part of layering system (because cotton can hold 9 times its weight in water) IS a good idea when sleeping to give the skin some relief from synthetic fibres that can cause rashes and irritation if worn 24/7. Wet Wipes are sailor’s best friend- a simple way of keeping your skin clean at sea and they can be disposed of legally into the ocean under the Marine Pollution Act once we are offshore.
What to wear in hot weather?
Sailing in hot weather can be fantastic- light airs, fluffy clouds, easy swells; but if you get it wrong in your packing hot weather can make you just as uncomfortable as cold weather. Whilst not strictly as technical to get right as cold weather preparation- here are some notes to make sure you get it right during your hot weather event. Cotton may be awful as a base or midlayer as it holds water and has too higher thermal conductivity but in hot weather it is by far the comfier option.
How to choose the right materials for hot weather?
The main problem we have seen over the years when it comes to hot weather is an incorrect choice of materials in the clothing some crew members bring with them. It seems like the smallest detail but it can add up to a very enjoyable or downright uncomfortable event. When we choose materials to take into cold weather as we discuss below we must ensure that base layers and mid layers do not include cotton, wool or other natural fibres. Cotton is often called the ‘the killer cloth’ because it can hold such huge amounts of water. It then wrecks a otherwise perfect layering arrangement trapping sweat and externally introduced water in the system. Where cotton excels however is as a comfortable, light weight fabric that feels good on the skin even in hot, sticky situations. It is possible in some new, highly technical situations like that at sea if you are not used to it, to put aside common sense that has come hard won in your own life. Technical base layers are a perfect example of this. You know what to wear in hot weather- you’ve done this before. So don’t over think it and turn up with only a range of polyproplene and polyester clothing that is going to be seriously itchy, uncomfortable and miserable after the first wearing. Just remember to take the cotton off if things get wet or cold.
What to wear in cold weather?
Sailing in windy or cold weather requires all crew to have a minimum amount of warm and waterproof clothing with them to ensure they can face the elements at their best without becoming uncomfortable and ruining their experience or worse than that subject to hypothermia.
Layers in clothing. What is it about?
The best way to combat the cold and deal with increases and decreases in body tempurature is by ‘layering’. Due to the nature of sailing we may be inactive for a long periods of time on watch then suddenly be asked to expend a lot of energy and whereupon we will heat up very quickly and start to sweat and overheat. Once we are inactive again our now wet clothes will not retain heat and we will start to cool uncontrollably- leading to a graet deal of discomfort and potentially hypothermia. In these conditions it is essential to dress using an intelligent layered system that allows you to quickly regulate and stabilize your body temperature, and remain warm and dry whatever the conditions.
Base layer – The key to warmth!
Base layers are made of ‘wicking’ materials- that is materials that are not able to hold water very easily. During work cycles any sweat or any water that has entered the clothing from outside is heated by the body and some volume of it becomes water vapour. As the base layer is unable to hold water easily the vapour is free to travel away from the body down the moisture gradient towards the outer layers of clothing. If the intermediate or mid layer is also made of a wicking fabric the water vapour will pass through it without condensing back into water and pass onto the outer layer where; if the garment is functioning correctly the water vapour will pass out into the environment leaving the wearer and all base layers warm and dry.
Intermediate ‘mid’ layer
Mid layers create a stable air pocket around the body which the body will then warm up very quickly. If the air pocket can be maintained and not lost to the outside environment the body will remain well insulated and comfortable. If however the mid layer becomes wet is too thin or cannot maintain its volume the body will not keep warm and the layering system will fail. By varying the thickness of the mid-layer the wearer can increase or decrease the ambient temperature he or she experiences. Fleece material comes in three thicknesses Polar 100,200 and 300 a fact you can use to your advantage to create mid layers of differing thicknesses to suit your situation. Varying mid layer materials and its thicknesses will give you the temperature control you need.
Outer ‘shell’ layer
Outer Layers need to be able to resist a harsh environment and work in conjunction with under layers to keep you warm and dry. The Outer or Shell layer is the most obvious part of the system. For Ocean racing your shell layer is going to consist of a jacket or smock that is probably a lot heavier than any other piece of clothing you wear unless you are from the high latitudes. When the fabric the outer shell is made from is heavy and somewhat stiff the result is that the garment is more likely to resist being flattened over the body by wind and water pressure removing the insulative warm air pocket the midlayers are designed to promote. Hence you will often see that offshore jackets differ from inshore jackets by this one important feature- their ‘face fabric’ is thicker. After that all other features are somewhat standard in modern clothing from reputable manufacturers, and will include brightly colored full hoods, water proof closures, retro-reflective strips, seals at the wrists, draw strings to reduce water ingress and loss of heat, breathable fabrics and hand warmer fleece pocket linings.
Tell Us What You Would Like To Know!
Sometimes despite our best attempts we still don’t manage to fully answer the questions you have. Below you can find a list of questions we have been posed. If you don’t find the answer you are looking for above or below send us your questions!