A major element of the Solo Round Britain singlehanded sailing challenge is to maintain as high a level of safety as possible and at all times mitigate against risks associated with such an adventure. The voyage will involve many long days and nights alone at sea and to offset the risk associated with sailing in open seas and growing fatigue I have been working with a number of specialist advisors.
A key issue of solo sailing is managing sleep requirements and balancing that with safety. I am working with the eminent Edinburgh based sleep consultant, Dr Chris Idzikowski. Chris who is Director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre has been involved in sleep research, sleep medicine and sleep management for many years. He recently ran a conference at the Royal Society of Medicine, London on sleep and sports performance which looked at how sleep can optimise elite sports performance. Risks of sleep deprivation were also covered, such as unintended sleep, increased risk-taking and the impact on attention. Chris has worked with people involved in extreme situations before and notes that the combination of sleep deprivation coupled with high risk can lead to attending to the wrong stimulus and therefore take the wrong action. He’s also worked with a single-handed sailor doing trans-ocean and round the world races. With me he’ll be using new equipment which measures key indicators such as brainwaves and sleep patterns and therefore help to identify the best times for sleep.
I will undertake a regime of grabbing short cat-naps of 15 minutes throughout the day and night. Short 15 minutes napping is ideal as by that time the body and mind have not lapsed into deep sleep that is hard to waken from.
With building fatigue and the very real danger of over sleeping I require a safe and fool-proof method of being woken. Further assistance in managing my sleeping environment is being provided by Ullapool based marine electronics firm Watt Marine that is supplying and fitting a Wattchmate alarm system. The system will be activated when I go for a sleep and after a preset period will sound an alarm. If after a further period I have not responded to de-activate the system a louder claxon alarm will sound. If in turn this does not illicit a response from me a distress message will be automatically broadcast on the emergency frequency to the coastguard and nearby shipping. The system collects data from the onboard GPS and relays the boats position speed and heading.