The Programmer on the Saltwater i.e., our man at the Jester Challenge

Posted: 2022-04-29

Written by: Justyna Cichocka, Employer Branding Specialist

Andrzej Kopytko, our Senior Software Developer, professionally associated with programming for over 15 years (with 4 of them at Solwit), has been sailing since he was a child. Andrzej is about to make an extraordinary attempt – one that requires courage, experience, and a lot of hard work (almost as much as a production deployment!).  In just over a week, he will participate in the Jester Challenge regatta. Keep reading to find out why this is such a remarkable event.

Andrzej, what are your plans for May and the beginning of June?

Well, actually I have one for May, June, and July, to be exact That plan is to complete one of the toughest voyages in the world – the Jester Challenge. It’s a cruise in which I aim to sail 3,500 miles from the UK to the US. This will be my second attempt on this route; the first one, back in 2017, ended after approximately 700-800 miles due to rig failure (breaking the baby staysail on which the storm foresail was mounted). Since then, I have had some time to prepare for the next attempt. First of all, I changed the boat – last time I sailed an 11m Delphia, now I am sailing a 10m one, but much more powerful – Najad 34. Plus, of course, my preparation involved plenty of sailing and training.
On April 15th, I am boarding the yacht and sailing to Swinoujscie, and on April 30th, I am going directly from Amsterdam to the starting point, which is scheduled for May 8th, in Plymouth. After more than a month, I will reach Newport, about 140 miles from New York, and then there’s the return trip, of course. On the way back, a quick stop in the Azores, and then quickly back to work .

Why is this expedition considered one of the most difficult sailing routes?

First of all, it’s very long – I’m assuming I will be able to sail 3500 miles within 5-6 weeks or so, without resting and getting ashore. Since it’s a solo voyage, there won’t be much in the way of support . And the most challenging thing is probably the wind – I optimistically assume that the majority of the route will be upwind – along with the temperature, which in the area of the Labrador current can drop several degrees. At this latitude, the weather system generates dangerous lows, which descend in such a way that when we sail from east to west, we go against the wind and the current, too. The last thing of such importance on the list are icebergs, which I really hope to avoid, as I plan to rather stick to the loxodrome, i.e., go below the shortest route. However, all will be clear once the start is made.

Any idea how many daredevils will be at the starting line alongside you?

For the moment, 5 people, out of 13 registered, have confirmed their attendance.

How much experience do you need to undertake such a cruise?

It’s hard to say. If I say that it’s a lot, it might seem as if I am very experienced with it. In fact, I have been sailing since I was a kid. Of course, with some breaks – if only to organize my relationship, family, and domestic matters (for over a decade it was difficult to get away for longer trips), but I managed to come back right away on the Saltwater. I believe you need to have some charisma in you and the determination to cope with all the problems. 

Andrzej Kopytko

And what does your significant other think of your idea?

She believes in my responsible approach and proper preparation But in all seriousness, she supports me strongly and allows me to pursue my dreams. She even wrote about this on Facebook recently, so I can’t help but believe her.

What should we wish you before the start?

Most of all, good winds! I am expecting at least 4-5 encounters with strong low-pressure systems bringing stormy winds, so, the fewer of them, the better for me and the yacht. Obviously, contact with me will be difficult – my press officer, Maciek (professionally a team leader, in private a great friend), will keep you posted on everything!

Jacht Solwit

The Jester Challenge is considered to be one of the toughest regattas in the world. Competitors sail from English Plymouth to American Newport – upwind, against the current, in extreme conditions, and in the vicinity of icebergs. It starts on May 8 at 12:00 – you can follow Andrew’s journey story on the dedicated Facebook profile.
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