Sir Robin Knox-Johnston answers your questions on his Route du Rhum race

20 November 2014

On Saturday, we invited the public to send their questions for British adventurer Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, currently racing in the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe.

The Clipper Race Chairman and Founder has answered the top five questions (chosen by him) from the computer on his Open 60 yacht, Grey Power.

1 How physically demanding is this particular Route du Rhum on your body and mind and what was your fitness preparation for this voyage? John Rich Via Facebook

It has been physically demanding. My boat bashes around a lot. I am not as agile as I once was but I am still pretty fit and can get round this boat pretty actively.

The main exercise comes with grinding on the winches as I don't have to walk far for anything.

I didn’t have a particular fitness regime before this race – I never do and don’t use a gym. The best way to train is to get out and practice sailing so I did that as much as I could in the run up.

I am used to the conditions and know that sleep deprivation is part of solo racing and can handle the endurance aspect as I have had a lot of practice at it so I don’t find that too hard mentally.

2 What regime are you using to rest/sleep and eat to keep fit and alert? Lynne Coulsen Via Facebook

I can’t have a rigid set regime on board because I am solo so there needs to be constant adjustments made to the sails and course, unlike when you are in a team in the Clipper Race and can have set watch patterns.

However I try to keep to a normal regime as far as I can, so meals are timed as near as possible as I would at home.

As I only have a hob for boiling water and no fridge or galley on board, I rely solely on freeze-dried meals such as Thai Green Chicken Curry and Spaghetti Bolognaise. Freeze dried-food is really very good these days.There is a certain amount of monotony, but they are pretty good. My favourite is a Beef Curry and Rice followed by Chilli Con Carne.

I have some provisions on board including my daughter and granddaughter’s excellent rum/brandy fruitcake, and I had some fruit at the start as well.

I like my coffee so try and drink that and tea regularly for energy.

I have actually found I have eaten far less than the 3,000 calories I provisioned for when victualing on this race.

I get no more than one hour’s sleep at a time. You have to get your sleep in lots of small chunks throughout the day, usually 30 to 60 minutes at a time depending on what the wind is doing.

I sleep in the navigation station and do a safety lookout check every hour, despite the presence of electronic alarms.

When I first left Saint Malo and we were in the channel I didn’t get any sleep for the first 36 hours as I was on constant lookout with all the shipping lanes. Plus the weather was hairy.

You then try and catch up on sleep as best you can.

3 Do you ever get the fear in a storm? Lone Rider ‏@arronskis Via Twitter

The person who says they are not afraid in a storm is either a liar or inhuman.

However I know my boat very well having raced on her in the Velux Five Oceans in 2006/7. I have total faith in her to keep me safe - she is solid and sturdy.

But you must never underestimate the power of Mother Nature – she will always throw up one last trick if you don’t have the most respect for her. You can never conquer her, but you can endure her.

4 What one bit of advice would you give to a novice sailor who wants to solo circumnavigate the world for the first time? lrlofton@lrlofton Via Twitter

My advice is to sail solo locally, then across an ocean before you consider it. And make sure you know your boat before you do try.

5 How do you manage the solitary aspect and what keeps you going? Paul Thomas Via email

I don't really mind being alone, it enables me to think without interruption. A lot of other people out there can't stand the silence or lack of human contact, so they're on the sat phone the whole time. When I get out there, I don’t like distractions.

What keeps me going? I like being at sea - it is where I feel most alive. Racing solo is still a real adventure for me.


Read Sir Robin's latest blog here.

You can track Sir Robin and Grey Power here on the official racetracker. It updates every hour.

The Clipper Race posts his blogs here.

For the latest #RDR2014 updates from Sir Robin, see the @ClipperRace twitter feed. You can also follow Sir Robin on Twitter here.

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