Reflections on first 70 days

Published on September 10th, 2018

The intent of the inaugural Golden Globe Race was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sunday Times Golden Globe solo non-stop round the world race in 1968-69 in which Sir Robin Knox-Johnston became the first to complete such a voyage.

While there have been many similar races since then, there have been none with the conditions of the 2018 Golden Globe Race which restrict the skippers to using the same type of yachts and equipment that were available in that first race. Race founder Don McIntyre reflects on the first 70 days of the contest.

Just 10 entrants remain in the Golden Globe Race. Seven will not pass the first Cape. Seventeen sailors pushing toward Hobart would have been impressive, but who really thought that would happen. Certainly not me.

All true adventures have an unknown outcome. Before the start from Les Sables d’Olonne, France, I was surrounded by real adventurers from 13 countries with one common objective. They were setting out totally alone with no connection to shore support or open phone lines offering social and emotional comfort on the way round.

This simple fact makes the GGR unlike any other round the world race since the first GGR 50 years ago. The Vendée Globe and Volvo Ocean Race crews can pick up the phone 24 hours a day and ask for support from their mum or engineer. Not so in the GGR. When these sailors sailed over horizon, they gave up every aspect of a normal life. Just like 1968, they are as alone and unsupported as you can possibly be.

It was all too much for some and they are no longer sailing. Each has a story to tell of their investment in a dream. It could be said that all but Are Wiig were beaten in their mind well ahead of any equipment failures. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on Suhaili was super human with a drive and passion that remains hard to believe, and is harder still to replicate 50 years on.

Today our values are totally different and the results are starting to show it. Jean-Luc Van Den Heede knew what was needed and is doing just that. His boat, the equipment, the food and the fun are all much better than in 1968. The challenge is the same, but with one huge advantage – he knows it can be done. The challenge is to do it faster!

My weekly phone calls to each entrant continue to evolve. They are now softer and slower. The skippers cling to the last word and do not want to go. You hear it in their voice, questioning their existence in this game. They try to brave-face their situation since they know the world is listening. They want to project ‘ALL OK’ and are strong, but little things hint at personal struggles.

Her boat is okay, yet Susie Goodall gives a few hints when her conversation sounds a little down. With genuine emotion, Uku Randmaa declares ‘IT IS HARD’! That’s not the sailing… he’s referring instead to the emotional challenge of real isolation from life, family and friends. Mark Slats is a tough giant now softening over time. He wants to talk and not hang up.

Tapio Lehtinen is a window to happiness – and sadness. He is absorbed and emotionally involved in the beauty of his surroundings and forgiving of anything else. His Gaia 36 Asteria is now without power, but a yacht does not need electricity. He will not stop. Loïc Lepage has been desperately alone with no radio and no news. He misses family. To be safe and sure he headed to Cape Town for a safety pit-stop. Bravo! …A proud Chichester sailor.
A call from Abhilash Tomy offers more than just words. ‘IT IS NICE TO TALK WITH YOU TODAY’ is delivered with a quivering voice. It is humbling just to listen. He understands that 14 weeks in the Southern Ocean brings no guarantees! He has completed a solo circumnavigated before, but not like this, in a little boat, cut off from the outside world.

All is always okay for Igor Zaretskiy and his Esmeralda. He laughs loud. With Capt. COCONUT (Mark Sinclair) I’m not so sure. His calls give nothing away. He is on holiday and always happy. Istvan Kopar is the same. When he talks of his challenges, and there have been many, you can hear his smile! Gregor McGuckin displays a youthful determination – an Irish guy going places.

Without realizing it, Are Wiig became a headline banner for honest seamanship and the Spirit of the Golden Globe. Strong as an ox, he and his boat took a fall! It shocked us all, but that is the way of the sea. He sailed himself home (for which we are all proud) and praised the GGR regulations and Race family.

Ertan Beskardes, Kevin Farebrother, Nabil Amra, Philippe Péché, Antoine Cousot, and Are Wiig have all gone. We miss them but understand. We admire Loïc Lepage, now in the Chichester Class and we salute the final ten skippers. The Golden Globe is a tough journey like no other. Is it a ‘voyage for madmen’? NO WAY! But there are hints of real parallels to 1968 even to the type of pressures that played on Donald Crowhurst.

These sailors are alone, truly unsupported, without technology, in little ships inspiring us every day.

The next compulsory turning gate for the fleet is off Hobart, Tasmania.

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The 2018 Golden Globe Race started for 17 skippers from Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday July 1, 2018, with the inaugural solo non-stop around the world yacht race expected to take 9-10 months to complete.

The event marks the 50th anniversary of the Sunday Times Golden Globe solo non-stop round the world race in 1968-69 when rules then allowed competitors to start from ports in northern France or UK between June 1st and October 31st.

A notable twist to the 2018 Golden Globe Race format is how entrants are restricted to using the same type of yachts and equipment that were available in that first race, with the premise being to keep the race within financial reach of every dreamer.

The rules allow for one breach of the strict solo, non-stop un-assisted circumnavigation without the aid of modern electronic navigation aids regulations that make this Race unique. However, those that do move down to the Chichester Class as if, like Sir Francis Chichester in 1966-67, they have made one stop during their solo circumnavigation.

Those who breach the rules for a second time are deemed to have retired from the GGR Event and the organisers have no responsibility or obligation to them.

Source: GGR

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