First Swede in Route du Rhum

CM Hammar is a proud sponsor of Mikael Ryking, who is the first ever Swede competing in the 40th edition of Route du Rhum.

Mikael Ryking in the new VITO lifejacket, equipped with Hammar Inflator.

“There has been a numerous occasion where my lifejacket has inadvertent activated on foredeck whilst big waves hitting you and that is what made me think of better alternatives and I believe I’ve found this with Hammar”, says Ryking.

Route du Rhum is a single-handed yacht race, which takes place every 4 years, with start on the 4th of November. The transatlantic course starts in Saint Malo, France to Pointe-á-Pitre, Guadalupe and is a 3,452 nautical miles long journey. With more than 120 sailors, men and women from 10 different countries and across 6 categories, they will compete in this year’s race and fight for the glory. The sailors will try to follow the coast of Iberian Peninsula and African coastline, until they experience West to South-Westerly breezes of southern Northern Atlantic.

What made you become a professional sailor full-time?
I’ve sailed my whole life, initially with my family on the weekends and holidays and then at the age of 7, I started sailing Optimist and from there on many sailing camps.

My professional background is within the telecom industry and mobile radio networks, I’ve worked for 22 different mobile operators in 20 countries. Hence my great interest in radio, wave propagation and technology.

Essentially, I had a period I my life where I no longer felt challenged, I didn’t have the same glow or focus. New challenges were required and my thoughts went towards extreme ocean racing. In the end, it was time to stop fighting the lack of energy and let the energy take me to where I wanted to be.

Photo by Tim Wright

Sailing is endless when it comes to be able to understand more and become a better sailor on all levels and also grow as a human being. Extreme ocean racing and sailing single-handed around the world, requires that you are good at most things. You have to be a good navigator, a good trimmer, a good helmsman and a good bowman. And of course, a good skipper. All this is what I love, to always be challenged to learn more, personal development, new ways of thinking and then in the end, actually complete the challenge.

Is there an awareness of sea safety amongst sailors?
The awareness is great – if you fall off the boat, that would be the end. You are always connected when you are outside cockpit and in bad weather. In case of an emergency, such as a fire onboard, falling overboard or an injury, it is vital that you have the correct safety equipment. Along with the lifejacket equipped with Hammar Inflator and a life raft with Hammar H20 (hydrostatic release unit), we also have a PLB and an AIS Man Overboard (MOB). So, if worst comes to worst, you will have a connection to the outside world.

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to use safety equipment?
I’ve been able to work out situations without having to use my safety equipment (touch wood!). However there has been moments, where some very serious situations have arisen and nearly ended up in disasters, but the fast actions have saved me on several occasions. All my Atlantic races have given me a greater understanding and knowledge of the required equipment for many yacht races.

Recently there has been an increasing awareness of the problems with plastic waste in the oceans. What is your experience of this problem and how can we make people aware of the issue?
Many of the countries around the Atlantic Ocean takes the plastic waste management seriously, so you don’t usually see a lot of waste there. Unfortunately, there is a totally different story in the Pacific- and the Indian Ocean. About 90% of all the garbage dumped in sea, comes from 10 rivers in Asia.

First step is to think about how you use plastics but most importantly, we need to have a professional and goal-oriented waste management all around the world. I think we have many Swedish companies that can contribute with both their knowledge and awareness, and also invest in this very important matter.

What’s the greatest challenge with Route Du Rhum?
The utmost challenge is to actually come to the starting line. It’s a long journey with both financing and get the required experience. Then with all the preparations, the boat has to be in perfect condition, you have to the study the weather conditions and have a good plan over all.

Also, you need a great strategy on how to sail out of the English Channel and how to handle the high-pressure belts on the Atlantic. The absolute toughest part is the beginning of the race, out and through the English Channel and down towards the Bay of Biscay. There are continuous heavy low-pressure system, which means that you have to keep adjusting the course when needed. At the moment I check the weather forecasts 2-4 times per day and then with my computer’s assistance, I choose the best route.

How does it feel to be all on your own for this race?
The loneliness is not something that worries me, but of course it makes it that much tougher. To go from a regular size crew to double-handed and then to all on your own, makes the sailing a whole lot harder. It can be many sleepless nights and knowing the fact no one ever can take a turn with you, demands a special mindset where you accept the situation and let yourself be in it. Either way, in the end there is a reward waiting and you do what you set yourself out to do.

Photo by Ryking Ocean Racing

One of the many reasons for our collaboration with Ryking, is that he has experienced inadvertent activation of his lifejacket during his many adventures. “It’s not the right moment to look like the Michelin man when there is a general chaos and breaking waves” says Ryking.

When sailing in the toughest conditions as Ryking has done, you need to know that your lifejacket activate only when you need it. With this in mind the Hammar Inflator has previously been tested before, in one of the world’s toughest races, Volvo Ocean Race.

Ryking has done it before, broken the world record by crossing the Atlantic, amazing what one can do with only one man, one woman and one boat. But that is a totally different story.

We are very happy to be a part of this journey and can’t wait for the start in Saint Malo. We wish Mikael Ryking the best of luck.


Name: Mikael Ryking
Born: 1971
Lives: Tyresö
Yachtclub: Tyresö Yachtclub
Occupation: Ocean racer
Motto: Rather die than hesitate, everything is just one decision away!