The psychology of a solo sailor

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SEPT. 13 — Organizers of the Velux 5 Oceans Racekicking off next month say its skippers will undergo tests studying their psychological, physiological and emotional responses during the race.

Clipper Ventures, the race organizers, say the information gathered during the study will provide a better understanding of how skippers might improve and maintain performance at sea, and will illustrate differences between the competitors, according to a news release. The study will be conducted by the University of Portsmouth’s (England) Department of Sport and Exercise Science.

“The individual skippers participating vary in age, height, weight and nationality, and all will operate under unique conditions so the research will reveal a great deal about the impact of solo ocean racing across a very varied group of individuals,” Michael Tipton, a professor of human and applied physiology at the university, says in the release.

The study, according to the release, will focus on four areas:

? anthropometry — measuring the skippers’ height, weight, fat mass and limb and torso measurements

? physiology — measuring their fitness, strength, endurance, postural stability, flexibility and nutrition

? psychological — measuring alertness, boredom, mental demand and motivation

? medical — measuring general health, physical impacts and injuries

The race has taken place every four years since 1982 (1982, ’86 and ’90 as the BOC; 1994, ’98 and ’02 as Around Alone). Organizers say it is the “oldest, most established, continuously run, single-handed round the world yacht race.” This year skippers will sail 30,000 miles around the world, both starting in October and ending in April 2007 in Bilbao, Spain, and will make stops in Fremantle, Australia, and Norfolk, Va.

All 10 skippers have agreed to participate in the study. “The results … will offer a true insight into the physical and emotional demands of solo ocean sailing,” David Stubley, director of Clipper Ventures, says in the release. “It will also benefit competitors in the future, especially as the boats get faster and offshore sailing becomes ever more extreme.”

— Jason Fell