Regardless of what a lot of sailors will tell you, it has been reported that up to 90% of sailors experience seasickness, whether it be mild or violent, at some time in their sailing career.
Seasickness can be compared with a mild to massive hangover (only worse) and for some, the only relief comes when the boat reaches its destination.
Unfortunately, I am one of those sailors and I had a rule on my boats that no-one was allowed to be sick until I was. Fortunately for all concerned, no one had to wait long.
When putting together an offshore team, finding crew members who don’t get debilitatingly sick is really important not only for your race performance but for the safety of the boat as well.
If you do suffer from “Mal de Mer” there are a few things that may help:
- Drink lots of water, staying well hydrated is one of the easiest ways to prevent seasickness.
- Don’t sail on an empty stomach, sailing on an empty stomach can increase your chances of feeling seasick.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks, colas, alcohol or fatty foods a few days before heading offshore.
- Get a good night’s sleep before the race, and start out feeling fresh and at your best.
- Keep calm, feeling anxious or fearful can increase your likelihood of experiencing seasickness. Take a relaxing walk or spend some time meditating before the race, make sure you start race day feeling at-ease.
Seasickness medication should be taken at least a couple of hours before heading to the boat and if you can, it makes sense starting the medication up to a day beforehand.
Don’t try a new seasickness medication while you are out on the water, many include a sedative and can make you drowsy or have other negative effects which are not ideal if you’re in the middle of a long offshore yacht race.
Try out a new medication while onshore or in a short race to check out any potential side effects before venturing too far out to sea. Chat with your doctor or pharmacist to get advice on the right medication for you, and how to use it.
Spending too much time below decks with your head in a bag searching for gear is not a good place to be if you’re feeling sick. An easy way to minimise this is to make sure you’re well organised before leaving the dock.
While at sea, make sure you’re well-hydrated and fed, stay warm and where possible, change into warm dry gear and get in as many hours of solid sleep as you can when you are off watch.
If you do start to feel sick, one of the easiest ways to recover is to stand up and look at the horizon, looking at the horizon gives your brain important information to help its predictive system adapt to the boat’s movement, and standing up challenges it to do that faster.
Keeping busy helps as it keeps your mind off thinking about the movement and feelings of nausea and helming is a great antidote as well.
It goes without saying that if you are prone to seasickness, cooking, packing sails, or any other jobs that involve “enjoying” the smells of diesel and wet gear down below only contribute to making you feel worse.
Even if you do end up getting seasick, taking the right steps to manage it and adopting a “mind over matter” approach, means you’ll recover fast and any sickness will be a distant memory by the time you reach the finish line.