In the mild January sun in Spain, Robert Stanjek doesn’t waste a thought on the wet and cold. “Everyone is always talking about the icy water and the cold wind, which will make life difficult for us on board,” says the co-skipper of the “Guyot Team Europe” as he sits below deck on board his yacht in the port of Alicante.
“But it will be at least as difficult for us to want to sleep in the almost 50 degrees that prevail down here when we sail through warm regions.” Quite apart from the roaring noise that a high-tech boat racing across the ocean makes and the acrid smell that settles in the cabin when five adults wear almost the same clothes for weeks and have little opportunity for personal hygiene.
“No showers, no toilet, no privacy”
Stanjek, who lives in Berlin, is one of four Germans who will start with their teams at the Ocean Race this Sunday. One of the toughest sailing regattas ever, which goes around the world in seven stages and over 32,000 nautical miles (almost 60,000 kilometers). Both for the 41-year-old father of two sons and for Stanjek’s teammate Phillip Kasüske and the man from Hamburg Boris Herrman and Susann Beucke from Kiel, it is the first Ocean Race ever.
Just a year and a half ago, the 31-year-old won the silver medal in the FX 49er together with Tina Lutz in Tokyo. Now she is standing on the jetty in Alicante, just a few meters from the “Holcim” yacht, with which she will be sailing around the world from the Cape Verde Islands via Cape Town, Itajai, Newport and The Hague, among others, from the second leg onwards. “I am very happy that I got the chance to sail such a demanding course with this team,” says Beucke, whose skipper is Frenchman Kevin Escoffier, who won the last Ocean Race with the “Dongfeng” team.
For Beucke, the race that is about to start should be the best preparation for the non-stop solo regatta Vendée Globe, which she wants to take part in in 2028 as the first German woman. “There is little comfort out there: no showers, no toilets, no privacy. Every little moment of pleasure – for example a piece of chocolate – will be insane. I’m looking forward to that alone,” says Beucke.
Robert Stanjek also took part in the Olympic Games in 2012 and then specialized in offshore sailing. With the start of the Ocean Race in Alicante, eight years of preparation, dreams and setbacks have come to an end for him. The past few months and weeks in particular have been tough again. “I’m quite a novice when it comes to circumnavigation. That’s why there was a lot of uncertainty for me right up to the end,” says Stanjek, who will be taking on responsibility on the “Guyot” crew’s yacht together with Frenchman Benjamin Dutreux. In the past few days he had slept little and often restlessly. He often got up at night and wrote down something that still had to be done. “As strange as it sounds: When the race starts, I can rest,” says Stanjek.
His “Guyot Team Europe” is the only one of the five IMOCA crews sailing with a boat that does not correspond to the very latest technical developments and was originally built for just one sailor on board. “Of course, our yacht is a bit older and heavier than that of our competitors, but we have modernized many things,” says Stanjek. And also: “Our boat has already proven itself under the most difficult conditions. We don’t have to test how hard we can push the boat first.”
Despite all the unknown that awaits him on the seven seas, Stanjek only wants to deal with the most necessary things, such as a serious accident or a crew member who has fallen overboard. “Of course, these are worst-case scenarios. But we have to be prepared for all eventualities, even in an absolute emergency, everyone has their job,” says Stanjek. “Beating a leak and having to get into the life raft with five men is something that I still don’t want to imagine,” says the co-skipper and prefers to talk about the third stage, which he – like many other ocean races – is looking forward to -Participants – most pleased. “In the Southern Ocean between New Zealand and South America, everything is one size bigger. The stage is longer, the waves are higher, the wind is getting stronger. It’s going to be crazy.”