A Maryland boy through and through, “St. Mary’s College graduate and pro sailor, 34-year-old Ryan Breymaier of Annapolis is the only American in the Barcelona World Race, a double-handed, non-stop, around-the-world race and the first of its kind. With crew Boris Hermann (Germany), Breimayer is sailing 25,000 miles in the IMOCA 60 Neutrogena. The race started on New Year’s Eve 2010 with the leading entries forecasted to finish at the end of March. Last week, he took some time to send a few words to SpinSheet from the Southern ocean.
SpinSheet: Where are you as you write? What’s happening around you?
43˚ S, 40˚ E. Sitting in the nav seat on Neutrogena, enjoying the warmth of the engine behing me as we charge the batteries. Outside, it is blowing 18 to 25 knots, beam reaching, with the boat averaging 16 with surfs to 20 or 22. It is partly cloudy, with nice sunny patches, but extremely cold. Probably 40 degrees with 25 degree wind chill.
Have you seen any interesting wildlife today?
We have been seeing albatrosses since the beginning of our Southern tour. They started off dark jueveniles (I think), quite small, and now we are seeing the real ones, with wingspans of 12 feet or so, very graceful fliers. They play in the wind shadow left in our wake. Sometimes, we have three or four at a time behind the boat. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to get a video, as they never get too close, and when they do, you realize they are moving too fast to catch with a handy cam zoomed in; not to mention the erratic motion of the filming platform!
You wrote a funny blog post on breimayersailing.com about having long inane discussions about minute things. What have you been talking about onboard today?
Nothing yet, it is early, and Boris has still been asleep until just a minute ago. Yesterday, we got an email; Boris’s old sponsor was Beluga Shipping who is in the middle of a major pirate problem in the Indian Ocean, so we were talking about that and how many guns you can get onto a cargo ship. From there, we were talking about labor savings onboard and efficiency and decided that in-boom furling and electric winches would be the way to go to reduce the annoyance of reefing. Boris just got up as I write, and it’s started already—our first dumb discussion today. We are charging, and in an attempt to warm the boat, we have the doors shut. Boris just said he had a hard time opening the door because the engine is sucking so much air that the pressure has gone down in the cabin, and what would happen if we got trapped like that? Would we have to drill a hole somewhere to relieve the pressure?
What did you eat for your last meal?
I had jambon (Spanish dried ham) and comté cheese on wassa for breakfast. We normally have muesli each morning, but I am getting a bit too regular if you know what I mean.
What do you do with your garbage?
We only keep the plastic and keep it as clean as possible. We put it in a trash bag, and then put that in the forward watertight compartment when it’s full. When we get to Barcelona, it is going to be my job to empty it. I would not pawn that off onto anyone else.
When was the last time you got seasick?
Never, not once in my life. I guess I am very lucky. I have seen how it can cripple even the best sailors.
What are you wearing right now?
Long johns, with a fleece on top, and my HPX pants around my ankles and boots on as I sit here in case I
have to get dressed to get outside in a hurry.
What are the most essential pieces of gear in your bag?
Chameau boots. They are actually waterproof, unlike any other brand I have tried. After that, Musto HPX pants and a dry top with latex seals. Like that, you can more or less stay dry. I have not had to break out the full-on one-piece dry suit yet.
Is there any piece of gear that has been more helpful than you would have thought?
Unfortunately, the 12-volt Makita right-angle drill that we use with a grinding disk for carbon repairs. Without that, we would have been in sorry shape at the moment.
Is there any gear you wish you had that you don’t?
A pair of super huge (to fit my size 13 feet), super thick 100-percent wool socks. My feet are always cold, and these are more or less impossible to find nowadays.
You’ve had many jobs on big boats—grinder, mastman, bowman, and crew boss. How have these positions influenced your competence as a skipper? Did you have a favorite?
I am and always will be a bowman at heart. If you start there and have worked your way back to skipper, I would say you have done all the jobs onboard and probably have a pretty good technical knowledge of the boat as well, considering the bowman is usually a rigger, grinders look after winches, trimmers do sail making,
What’s to love about the IMOCA Open 60?
It is the world’s fastest, nicest boat in flat water. In big waves, it is a little short for the height of the mast and tends to dig in a bit as it pitches. In our case, the boat looks after the crew really well, too, with a nice cabin top to stay dry behind/ under and a great bow up attitude in breeze downwind.
What’s the fastest speed you have recorded in this race thus far?
Twenty-seven knots driving and 24 with the pilot. Top speed ever with me onboard, 28 under pilot and 33 with me driving. Remember, 60 feet is really not that long, and speed comes from length; however, with a
95-foot mast, we have some serious sail area.
What do you think would surprise Chesapeake sailors about racing around the world?
How long it takes! We are a month into this and have only just managed to get past the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, a couple days ago. The light air has surprised me. I did a lot of weather studies before the race, but the amount of time in 10 knots or less has really caught me by surprise. I guess this would not bother anyone from the Chesapeake, though!
Some of us fantasize about racing double-handed non-stop around the world. What do you dream about? Getting home to my wife and having a “normal” life. The grass is always greener… Saying that, what
is a normal life? I am definitely looking forward to more new exciting sailing projects wherever they might be.
How does the kind of sailing you’re doing now compare to the racing you did at St. Mary’s College?
I never raced dinghies. I went straight onto the big boat team. I learned to sail on the old Card. I remember
a Governor’s Cup going down the Bay with the kite up in close to 40 knots, Mike Ironmonger at the helm for like eight hours, not one wipe out, boats all around breaking masts and capsizing. So, all in all, it has not changed; the body of water and the level of competition have just gotten much bigger.
What do you miss about the Chesapeake Bay? Are you ever coming home?
I miss everything about it. Blue crabs, brown water, jellyfish, playing in the mud in the tidal creeks, seeing eels spawning in the lower Bay, fall leaves, spring showers, winter snow and ice, and humidity. I am a Maryland boy through and through and will be home to raise my family one day. My house in Annapolis is waiting for me.
When you reach land, what will be the first non-sailing activity you do?
Eat! I love eating, and freeze-dried food is just fuel, not fun. I probably will drink a little, too. After that, I probably will get back onboard to deliver the boat back to Brittany from Barcelona. The journey started in Concarneau, and it wouldn’t feel right to me if it didn’t finish there too.
Anything else you would like to add?
To everyone on the Chesapeake: get some higher performance boats that would make light air pointto-point racing fun! Think about something like the latest Sundog that Paul Parks has. Or if you don’t want a multi, there are plenty of mini open style boats which go super well in light air. Forget about what it rates and have fun sailing! Also think about sailing with less crew. It is a different ballgame, and there is much more to do with only four hands. I will be back one day to come and play! Going to Oxford on the weekend or St. Mikes or down to Solomons for the Screwpile were my favorite times sailing at home, and I can just imagine how cool it would have been to go eight knots downwind in five knots of breeze…