Atlantic Crossing – The Expert Angle

As managers, we’re practised in minimising risk, finding solutions, responding to the unexpected and optimising operations. Suitably prepared then you’d think for our current challenge. Or are we…? René Schneider, our resident nautical expert and one of the one of the most inspirational people we know took time out of his busy day for a chat with Mrs ST about the reality of such a sailing passage.

ST: The crossing of seas and oceans has held a particular fascination for centuries and it’s still one of the great adventures and challenges. It’s a draw that’s hard for land-lubbers to imagine. You’ve crossed the Atlantic three times, how would you describe the experience?

RS: The impressions crossing the Atlantic are barely describable in words. The vastness, to be removed from the rush and stress, the bustle of everyday life. The play of light on the broad periphery, sunrises and sunsets, clouds or short violent thunderstorms, moods, emotions that remain deeply rooted in you. The moment of casting off is magnificent! Knowing it’s not only for 1 or 2 days before you enter into a port again. No, the sails are hoisted, the course marked out over the Atlantic Ocean. There’s no land in sight, 7000 metres of water under the keel and 3000 sea miles front of the bow. It’s an awesome feeling!

ST: How do you recommend preparing for a crossing?

RS: Prepare yourselves psychologically for a unique experience. You need to possess the motivation and be physically and mentally healthy. Be in unison with your co-sailors, the wind, waves and the boat. Prepare for the diversity of a day that covers 24 hours without stress and pressure to perform within the meaning of everyday life. Instead, all senses are challenged by the elements of wind, waves and the sound of speed through the water. The unique images that are perceived only on the open sea are life-changing.

ST: You’ve been following the weather and Quarterback’s track over the last few days in very heavy, adverse wind of up to 50 knots. Based on your experience, what are crew and boat going through and what are the consequences? 

RS: I think the last stage to Las Palmas is very racy. In my judgment, they have a hard sail close to wind. Over such a duration, it drains your strength and takes a toll on nerves. Mr SlowTourist is a fighter with sense, brains and brawn and he knows that “after the rain comes the sun”. Certainly the recovery stop in Las Palmas will be very valuable and it’s probably wiser to spend a day longer in port. It’s important that you really have the pull and desire to sail away. He’ll be looking forward to enjoying the downwind speed of the trimaran on the Atlantic Ocean.

ST: The strong W wind has prevented them from making much way as they bear SW. What do they need to do to stay on course to Las Palmas?

RS: Eventually they’ll have to adapt to the wind and drop off course. We saw this last night and it may lead to a delay in the ETA. According to the weather situation, the wind should come in more from the north again and they’ll be lined up for a better course and run southwards.

ST: One often reads about floating containers or potential collision with sleeping whales, what are the greatest dangers really for the second passage across the Atlantic to Martinique?

RS: There is always a residual risk and knowing you both, I’m convinced you’ve considered all aspects of this undertaking. However, the probability of collision with a container is very, very low, as the Atlantic passage is not on a Maritime route.
And certainly Lorenzo has one scenario drummed in deep on his mental hard disk  – always wear a life-jacket/harness and always clip on.

ST: You were also Lorenz’s sailing instructor and coach, have guided and accompanied him through his various qualifications. Any advice from the sailing instructor to his former pupil?

RS: Advice? Mr ST is one of the few people with whom I would cross the Antarctic. His incorruptible cheerfulness, broad knowledge, intellectually and technically, are the best conditions for your undertaking. And the very best: having YOU on his side! I am convinced you will master any situation.