5 Oceans race skippers undergo study into physiological, psychological and emotional responses 5/9/06

In a world first for endurance sailing, skippers of the Velux 5 Oceans yacht race will undergo a full scale study into the physiological, psychological and emotional responses demanded by the event, the most challenging single-handed race on the international calendar.

Clipper Ventures PLC, organisers of the race have announced a scientific research partnership with the University of Portsmouth’s Department of Sport and Exercise Science to evaluate the 10 skippers’ performances.

The 30,000 mile three-leg race begins in Bilao in October and will stop in Freemantle, Australia, and Norfolk, USA, before returning to Bilao approximately six months later.

For the first time in the history of sailing, a research investigation by a world class educational institute will deliver in-depth evaluation of a skipper’s performance across the entire fleet and reveal the key factors affecting it. The results will provide a better understanding of how skippers might improve and maintain performances at sea, illustrating differences between the competitors.

Professor Michael Tipton, Professor of Human & Applied Physiology at the University of Portsmouth commented: “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.”

All the participating skippers of the race have agreed to take part in the project, which will see them undergo detailed tests in each port of call (after arrivals and before departures), as well as tests at sea every three days. The study will focus on four key areas:

  • Anthropometry, measuring skipper height, weight, fat mass and limb and torso lengths and circumferences
  • Physiology, measuring fitness, strength, endurance, postural stability, flexibility and nutritional analysis
  • Psychological, measuring alertness, boredom, mental demand and motivation
  • Medical, measuring general health, cold injuries, salt sores and physical impacts

David Stubley, Director of Clipper Ventures, said: “The results of this study will offer a true insight into the physical and emotional demands of solo ocean sailing. It will also benefit competitors in the future, especially as the boats get faster and offshore sailing becomes ever more extreme.”

The data provided by skippers will be assessed and studied by a world renowned, multi-disciplinary team of researchers lead by Professor Mike Tipton (MSc, PhD). In addition to his university positions, Professor Tipton has been based at the Institute of Naval Medicine (INM) since 1983 and Consultant Head of the Environmental Medicine Unit of the INM since 1996. He has spent over 20 years researching and advising in the areas of thermoregulation in hot and cold and survival in the sea, publishing over 250 scientific papers, reports and book chapters in these areas, including his recent book “Essentials of Sea Survival”.

The University of Portsmouth team will draw on the expertise of Dr Avijit Datta (MD) as consultant physician, Dr Neil Weston (PhD) as expert psychologist, Alun Rees (MPhil) as exercise physiologist and nutritionist and Tara Reilly (MSc) as kinesiologist. The results from the project will be made available to any interested parties after the race.