Tuesday, 8 March 2011

BWR: Tell us sailors, what's your “dresscode” in the Great South?

Groupe Bel will reach Cape Horn on Tuesday

Sébastien Audigane gives the thumbs up on board Groupe Bel. Image copyright Groupe Bel.

by Julia Huvé

Kito de Pavant and Sébastien Audigane will round Cape Horn on board Groupe Bel tomorrow, after more than two months at sea in which they have gone from summer to winter braving all kinds of weather conditions, and we have decided to linger on a detail that isn't one. To sail fast on these boats when the elements rage, you need to wear the right clothing! Particularly when, as is currently the case, you are being tossed around " like a Ping-Pong ball in a washing machine", as described by the skipper.

Marinepool, partner to the Groupe Bel Team, has developed prototype clothing adapted to the extreme weather conditions of a round-the-world. In 5th position under mainsail with two reefs and ORC (the smallest headsail), in a 35 knot wind and a chaotic sea, our two sailors remain on deck, wrapped up from head to toe. Low pressure areas follow one after the other and resemble each other in the Pacific, and the La Vache qui Rit® (Laughing Cow) yacht, after overtaking Mirabaud on Saturday, is pursuing Neutrogena, in 4th place, 112 miles ahead. Kito is making the most of running at more than 20 knots in the direction of the legendary Cape Horn, which he will be rounding for the first time, and a second time for Seb.

A performance parameter

There is a lot of spray, they are planing along, and they are wet, but they are enjoying themselves! To weather the elements, our two sailors are equipped to perfection. Omnipresent in sailing circles, Marinepool have worked together with Kito and his crew to develop an “offshore” range, notably with a view to the Vendée Globe 2012/2013. The aim of the brand is to optimize products intended for amateur yachtsmen and professionals, since everyone gets cold and wet at sea! “Sailing gear is one of the many performance parameters. Frozen or soaked to the bone, it is impossible to make good headway, and this is where Marinepool's work is important. We have light, waterproof products that are pleasant to wear when maneuvering. The quality is undeniable” explains Kito during the midday radio contact with the manufacturer.

Detailed list of Kito and Seb's wardrobe

Since they entered the roaring forties, as listed by Seb, the sailors have been wearing: “a layer of underclothing from top to bottom, a very warm zip-front fleece suit, a standard fleece top, waterproof shorts to avoid getting your seat wet, foul weather trousers and jacket, and at night a small extra “puffa” jacket!” So you need between 4 to 5 layers to take on the South, “Groupe Bel and all the other IMOCAs are yachts on which you get wet a lot”, says Kito. “The waterproofing of the foul weather gear and the quality of the storm cuffs are essential. We have two types of foulies: good weather and Karcher!” When sleeping, there is one important rule: keep the sleeping bag dry. “Either you take off anything that's wet, or you sleep without it. There's no alternative”, says the skipper.

Keeping your feet dry is sacred

We all know that extremities are where you feel the cold the most! So you have to think about your feet, hands and head. At the moment, Kito is constantly wearing two layers of socks made of breathable fabric inside his boots: “I chose a leather and Gore-Tex model. Waterproofing is not guaranteed in the long term, unlike rubber, however, the odors you get from rubber boots soon become unbearable! It is also important to have faultless anti-skid soles on your boots.” As for Seb, he prefers to wear neoprene boots “with leggings”, he says, “to prevent my boots being filled with water on the fore deck for example.”

Hands very much in demand but still in need of protection

The hands! There's the rub. “I have plenty of ideas for Marinepool”, says the skipper of Groupe Bel. “We are alone during our watches and you need gloves you can wear to do anything and which are easy to take off so that you can press the keys on the keyboard of the autopilot!” The photo of Seb's hands in Wellington after 50 days at sea speak for themselves. The result is irrevocable; callouses, rough skin, etc. There is a reason for this. Although the sailor has a pair of “homemade” gloves, he hasn't worn them much! “We have blue gloves that are extremely thick, which we use for storm conditions, to which I have added latex cuffs. The problem is that you can't steer or ease out with them!”

For the head, each to his own; a hat for Seb and a balaclava for Kito. These are in all types of fabrics: fleece, Lycra, and neoprene. Everything goes when you need to keep your ears warm and your thoughts straight! “It must be good and tight! I have discovered the super Marinepool hood which provides good protection, and for the neck I pull on a neck warmer”, concludes Sébastien, the great expert in extreme sailing, particularly on multihulls.

Groupe Bel tearing downwind in the Southern Ocean. Image copyright Groupe Bel.

The advantages of the Marinepool prototypes

Getting dressed and undressed in these distant latitudes is a real challenge, which is why the products and their quality, as well as the many small details are so important. “Our jackets have a 3-layer membrane, taped seams, a waterproof zip fastener, lined safety hood with volume regulator in the collar, a lined collar with flap, neck and cuff storm flaps, an adjustable self-grip neoprene belt, lined pockets, hand warmers and many other subtleties that provide Kito and Seb with comfort and safety”, says Oli Repaja, Marketing Manager in France for Marinepool. Moreover, the German company has developed a new patented fabric, made by Schoeller-tech.com in Switzerland. Many parameters have been taken into consideration: the cold, waterproofing, salinity and breathability, all this in light products easy to maneuver in: the jacket weighs 1369 g and the bib and braces 860 g!


1 - Virbac-Paprec 3 / Jean-Pierre Dick & Loick Peyron, 5512 miles distance to finish
2 - Mapfre / Iker Martinez & Xabi Fernandez, 219 miles distance to leader
3 - Renault / Pachi Rivero & Antonio Piris, 1435 miles
4 - Neutrogena / Boris Herrmann & Ryan Breymaier, 1640 miles
5 - Groupe Bel / Kito de Pavant & Seb Audigane, 1752 miles
6 - Mirabaud / Dominique Wavre & Michèle Parret, 1878 miles
7 - Estrella Damm / Alex Pella & Pepe Ribes, 1934 miles
See the rest of the ranking on the race website.

Barcelona World Race in short

Two-handed non-stop round-the-world race on board IMOCA 60 foot monohulls.
Start at Barcelona on 31 December at 13:00
Second BWR event organized by the FNOB (Fundació per la Navegació Oceànica Barcelona)
Course: 25,000 miles (46,300 kilometers) passing between the two islands of New-Zealand
15 duos registered: 30 sailors, 8 nationalities, 3 women

Groupe Bel is one of the world leaders in brand name cheeses

Its portfolio of different products on an international scale, such as La Vache qui Rit® (The Laughing Cow), Kiri®, Mini Babybel®, Leerdammer®, and Boursin®, as well as about twenty local brand names, enabled it to make a turnover of approximately 2.2 billion Euros in 2009. Nearly 11,500 workers divided among thirty international subsidiaries, contribute to the success of the group. Its products are developed on 25 production sites and distributed in nearly 120 countries.

"Thumbs up for Kito" campaign !
Since June 2007, 7,500 thumbprints were collected from the Group's 11,5 00 workers worldwide, in 25 countries, and placed on the yacht's mast as a sign of support for the skipper. And it's not over yet, the count is rising.

Groupe Bel
Barcelona World Race