On December 31, professional sailor Ryan Breymaier left Spain as the lone American in the Barcelona World Race, a double-handed, nonstop race around the world. (He's co-skippering a vessel with German Boris Herrmann.) The 35-year-old Maryland native is expected to finish sometime in March. Breymaier recently talked with Outside from the Southern Ocean via satellite phone about being the lone American in this year’s race, how sailing was better than lacrosse, and his daydreams of hamburgers. Click here to listen to the full interview, or download it from iTunes.
Where are you at the moment?
We’re more or less in the middle of nowhere to be honest, north of the Kerguelen Islands by about 250 miles, halfway between Africa and Australia and south of both of those places.
What place are you currently in?
At the moment we’re in seventh place. We have the sixth-place boat within 15 miles of us. There’s a pack of four boats that are 450 miles ahead of us and one boat about a thousand miles ahead of us.
How far are you through the race?
Maybe a little more than a third of the race is finished. The race is quite long. In real miles through the water, it’s something like 27,000 miles; we’ve probably done 10,000 of that now.
An around-the-world race is hardly a novice endeavor. How did you get into sailing?
I went to university at a place called St. Mary’s College of Maryland, which had a very nice sailing team. When I arrived there I wasn’t involved in sailing at all. I was a lacrosse player at the time. I saw an advertisement that said, “Come check out the sailing team. Beginners welcome.” I said, hell, that might be something fun to do on the weekends. So I walked on and went sailing a few times and was hooked. I never went back to lacrosse after that. After school I started sailing professionally straight away and never stopped.
It seems like in the United States, sailing a relatively small sport, but the people who are involved in it are extremely passionate. Why do you think that is?
Sailing is something that captures people’s hearts in the same way that any big sport does. Plus all the stories associated with sailing, the man against nature story. The idea of what we do is just so huge that everybody who gets into it becomes passionate about it very quickly. The idea of sailing a boat with two people on it 27,000 miles through areas where no one goes is pretty appealing to people who have the adventure spirit.
You’re the only American in this year’s Barcelona World Race. How have you been received over there?
The European community who’s involved in this type of ocean and who puts these races on are super happy to have other nationalities involved. In order to have a small sport like sailing grow, you need people from all over the world to be doing it. If Formula 1 was only people from England, or if rugby was only from South Africa, they would be very, very small sports. For me to be here as an American competing in this sport, they welcome it, they’re very happy for it, and they see it as a very positive growth mechanism and way of getting more exposure. They welcome us with open arms.
This race is supposed to take three months to complete. That sounds like an awfully long time to be confined with one other crew member. How do you manage that?
Boris and I have known each other since March and have been training together since then for this race. Don’t forget that this is not just an adventure. We’re both professional yachtsmen, and we’re here for two things: to have the adventure of sailing around the world with just two people on board and to have a competition. That alleviates a lot of the stress you might find with just two people in a small space all the time. It’s a combination of a personal relationship, which is sometimes difficult, and a professional relationship, which is good. Between those two things we’re definitely capable of sticking it out for the 90 days or so it’ll take to do the race.
You've been at sea now for 39 days. What kind of things do you daydream about?
Food! Totally about nice food and about drinking, because we don’t have either of those things on board. Even normal food like a hamburger you miss because all we do is add boiling water to packages of freeze-dried food. After a while it gets to be pretty boring. That and normal family life for me. I left my wife behind, and it’s hard being away this long.