Behind the Scenes: Sebastian Ripard needs no introduction in the sailing community. A seasoned sailor he and his wife Carla, very recently became parents for the second time, when they welcomed beautiful baby boy, Nico John into their family. Yet, his connection with the Rolex Middle Sea Race is too strong for him to miss the race.
Can you describe the evolution of your experience in the race from your first time competing to your most recent entry? How many RMSRs have you competed in?
My first RMSR was in 2002 on a J109 JAMMIN’. I was 16yrs old at the time and we ended up winning that race in Class and Overall, so it was quite a memorable one!
I suppose the evolution has been from starting off as a young inexperienced crew member to running my own campaigns. I’ve taken part in a few of the other classic 600 RORC offshore races; The Sydney Hobart, The Fastnet and the Caribbean 600. Amongst them all the RMSR has always had a special attractivness. The course is spectacular, the racing is always complicated and interesting considering there are so many corners and trasnsition zones and it’s on home waters!
How has the competition and the event itself changed over the years, in your perspective?
I suppose in some ways it has not changed at all. Yes, the race organization becomes more and more professional each year and the racing machines more and more sophisticated. However, once the gun goes, it’s just you, your boat, your crew, and the elements.
What challenges have you encountered in the various editions of the race, and how have you adapted your approach to overcome them?
There are lots of challenges, I like to focus on the ones that are within our control and those are namely the preparation of the boat and the crew. We’ve found it very helpful to campaign for the season rather than just the RMSR. That means keeping the boat and crew active throughout the season so that we know that by the RMSR we are on top of all the variables in our control and then just need to make the best of whatever the weather gods throw at us!
Are there any specific race years or moments that stand out as particularly memorable or significant in your career?
I suppose the most memorable was 2021 where we had a heavy run (30-40knts) in 6–9-meter swell from Stromboli to Capo San Vito. It was especially memorable because most of that leg was at night. So, we were screaming along on a little 30ftr doing 20-25knts, in 30-40knts of breeze surfing down 9-meter waves in the pitch black. Occasionally a lightning strike would illuminate, for a moment, the surroundings to reveal quite an ominous picture!
Calypso has been put for sale. Will this decision impact the way you race in October?
Not really, she’s a solid boat and likes to be pushed quite hard. Moreover she’s configured at a very high spec so we have lots of confidence in all the equipment onboard. Also, I should mention, we’ve put the boat up for sale because we’re looking to upgrade to a larger project!
What factors and considerations drove the decision to race double-handed, this year?
The obvious answer would be that it is easier to find crew, however I’ve always wanted to do this race double handed and this was a good opportunity. Also, Calypso is designed for double handed, so it’s a good boat to do it on.
How do you manage the mental and physical demands of competing in a multi-day offshore race multiple times?
Ah, well nutrition and hydration are key. More important though is managing your sleep and emotions. The most important thing is that you are clear-headed when the important decisions need to be made. So that’s where planning your sleep is crucial, especially when racing double-handed. Then, the other key element is focusing on the variables that are in your control, and that’s were managing your emotions, and even the crew’s, is critical.
How do you balance the thrill of competition with the camaraderie and sportsmanship that are often associated with offshore racing?
For me it’s about focusing on the thrill and battle rather than the result. Are we pushing as hard as we can? Are we fighting as hard as we can? Are we making the right decisions with the information available to us at the time? Those are the important questions, more so than what are the results.
What are your expectations from this year’s participation?
As always our objective would be to win Class, something more in our control than the overall ranking. As to expectations, well a lot of that will be done to the weather! The J99’s competitive edge is in her ability to perform across an array of conditions. Luckily the course generally throws a mixed bag of weather – but we’ll have to wait and find out!