In pursuit of the perfect nap

From Ocean Navigator #139
July/August 2004
Ellen MacArthur, the English wunderkind who continues to shatter ocean sailing records, announced this spring that her ongoing work with Harvard sleep specialist Dr. Claudio Stampi has allowed her to refine her sleep schedule to near-perfect levels. The result: three hours of sleep for every 24-hour period, or roughly one-third the amount of sleep that mere mortals require.

This despite the fact that on her recent solo trip from New Zealand to North America via Cape Horn aboard her massive catamaran, MacArthur admitted that conditions aboard the vessel required unremitting vigilance.

“Life is very different onboard B&Q,” her catamaran. “There is very little time to relax. All the time in the back of your mind is the fact that one mistake and the consequences could be really bad,” she explained in her report to her website, “On the monohull, you can make some mistakes, the boat can get laid flat and you have a good chance of coming out okay. That margin doesn’t exist on the trimaran. That makes for a stressful time, 24/7. Physically, as expected, manoeuvres are tough. Re-hoisting the mainsail for example is a 35 minute full on, exhausting grind. This is a new level of physical challenge for me.”

Sleep specialists work closely with their subjects to refine their sleep habits to the point that each nap is perfectly designed – and custom tailored in duration and schedule – to draw the most sleep nourishment from each dozing session.

Now that Steve Fossett has set a new speed record for a circumnavigation in just over 58 days, one can expect that Ellen MacArthur, not one to let records cool in their trophy boxes, will be turning her sleep-deprived gaze in his direction and mount another round-the-world challenge. Meanwhile, however, let’s hope she has a good night’s rest.

By Ocean Navigator