Scott Shawyer, preparing mentally to take on the Atlantic

Scott Shawyer, preparing mentally to take on the Atlantic

In under two weeks, on May 29, Canadian skipper Scott Shawyer will set sail to compete in the New York Vendée, a gruelling solo transatlantic race from the US to France. To prepare for this solo transatlantic race, Scott has intensely focused on his preparations to ensure that he and his boat are in the best possible shape to race across the North Atlantic.

The New York Vendée Transat race is open to 60-foot monohulls from the IMOCA class of racing yachts. This is the second edition of the race, and the 3,200 nautical mile course connects New York to Les Sables-d’Olonne – the home of the legendary Vendée Globe race. 30 skippers will be on the start line, representing 14 different nationalities, with  Scott being the only Canadian.

Meticulous preparation 

In the lead-up to the race, the Canadian skipper has ramped up his training, alternating between time at sea and physical and mental preparations on land. To him, physical preparation is nothing without mastering the mental game.

Mental preparation is the key for a race like this“, affirms Scott. “You have to have absolute confidence in your abilities while still remaining humble in the face of the ocean’s power.”

Scott knows first-hand that his race will push his limits and that he needs to be ready to fend off fatigue and the possibility of seasickness that may become a feature once he has crossed the start line. “It’s a constant battle out there, but that’s what makes this journey so exhilarating“, he confides.

Mental training

Scott has carefully developed a mental training routine to be prepared to face this challenge. “Just like physical preparation, you have to work on your mind daily. When you are alone at sea, your mind can play tricks on you, and you need to try to control it.

So when I go to the race start, I can be prepared to then prepare for the actual race and have everything buttoned up at home. At that stage, preparing for the race is working through the boat and making sure that I’ve got all my questions answered about things that need to be done onboard. Also, I want to talk through various scenarios to make sure that I know what to do if they occur. I want to run through race strategy and then move into the weather as we get closer to the start date. In the last phase it’s really about heading out to the start line and modeling the differing start options that I might have.  I know my nerves will be high, adrenaline will be pumping and it’s just understanding and accepting that.    I need to view this race start – as an easy start, and then once I cross the line I can start to push. I am prepared for seasickness and making sure that I’ve got a good plan in case that happens. I’ve done enough seasickness management  this year that I feel like that’s going to be under control.”

Scott has added meditation, deep breathing and visualisation to his routine and these techniques help him to remain focused and balanced, even in the most intense situations. “These exercises and strategies help me keep my calm, even when a storm is raging or when I am frustrated by a lack of wind“, he confides.

However, Scott also knows the importance and unconditional support of his technical and shore team. “Their hard work,  trust in me, and encouragement will be crucial for getting me through the tough times at sea“, he emphasizes.

Racing for a purpose

Beyond his participation in the New York Vendée race, Scott carries a strong message: promoting a “Be Water Positive” approach to preserve the world’s water resources. He explains that his project aims  to “raise public awareness about the importance of understanding the impacts of water scarcity and encouraging sustainable practices to protect this precious resource.”

On Be Water Positive, I think it’s an important message to carry and a concept to understand. It’s about raising people’s awareness of water scarcity. And I’m looking forward to telling people more about it after the race and to carry that message through this race. It’s something that we take for granted being in Canada, surrounded by so much fresh water, but  I have realised that when I’m out there sailing, there’s no fresh water around, and that’s what a lot of the world feels like with their water situation. So I think it’s an important message and one that we’re trying to raise awareness for. I also rely 100% on my watermaker at sea to take the salt out of seawater and make it drinkable  – this is desalination in action.

Scott’s  IMOCA racing yacht proudly displays the livery of the Be Water Positive campaign, reminding everyone of the crucial issues related to the sustainable management of water.  The team formed an alliance with the International Desalination and Reuse Association alongside their team partner, H2O Innovation, to develop and spread the key messages about water positivity.