The Right Weapon for the Fight
Published on January 7th, 2019
The 2018 Golden Globe Race (GGR) started for 17 skippers from Les Sables d’Olonne on July 1, 2018, with the inaugural solo non-stop around the world yacht requiring entrants to use only the same or similar type equipment and technology that was carried on board Robin Knox-Johnston’s 1968/69 race winning yacht Suhaili. Race Chairman Don McIntyre shares his personal view on the boats being used.
The lower latitudes are tough on GGR boats as it is for all who venture south. It’s a place of extreme beauty, a true wilderness that captures the imagination of sailors and reminds them of their insignificance. Nowhere else on earth is like it. Its power is unquestioned and unchallenged. You never beat it, just move and bend with it in deep respect.
You venture south at your own risk with an open mind in the knowledge that you may not return. The allure of the lower latitudes is steeped in history and folklore. For many the attraction is to successfully round Cape Horn, a moment mixed with pride, excitement, awe and most often great relief.
To succeed you must believe in yourself and your ability, trust your boat and prepare for the worst.
Current race leader Jean Luc Van Den Heede first coined the fun phrase Petit Escargot (little snail) describing the 36-foot full displacement yachts of the GGR when he joined the Race in 2015.
He has sailed five times solo around the Globe in larger boats up to 80-feet long including his BOC and Vendee Globe yachts. He knew the challenge was tough, indeed very tough, but stakes his life on his Rustler 36 Matmut as a safe ocean-going yacht, up to the demands of the territory and right for this simple yet serious adventure.
The essence of the Golden Globe Race rests with strong honest boats, basic reliable sailing systems, no computers, world class safety gear, and full risk minimization. It’s a unique challenge, accessible and affordable to any man or woman with the passion and desire to do it.
The choice of boats for the GGR is defined within well-conceived parameters specifically relative to the event. At 32 to 36 feet, they are proven ocean voyaging yachts conceived by respected designers. The keels, rudders, and hulls are over engineered by modern standards. These designs are not prone to damage from hitting underwater objects and their long keels track well under windvane self-steering even in heavy weather.
Only six of the original 17 starters in the GGR are still sailing, and there have been five dismastings through the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Some may think this is because the boats are too small, too slow, and cannot outrun the storms. However, history does not support this assumption.
Many ordinary well-prepared yachts from 22 to 38 feet have safely solo circumnavigated via the Great Capes and continue to do so. Speed may sometimes help in the south, but many modern fast yachts are still overcome. My 50-foot 1990 BOC Challenge yacht Buttercup and another entrant Kanga Birtles in his 60-foot yacht could not outrun the same storm and we both rolled 360°. Both rigs survived…watch the video here.
Typical racing sailors would never use these ‘Petit Escargot’ yachts for normal racing and have trouble coming to terms with their features and ocean-going ability. However, most have never sailed them, nor been in the south and have not used windvane self-steering. They feel more modern designs with fin keels and outboard rudders may be safer. Again, history does not support this assumption.
Modern fin keel lightweight surfing boats often need electric autopilots to steer and require constant human input and effort to control these sometimes unforgiving designs in heavy weather. These designs simply have less ability to look after themselves. GGR style boats are much more forgiving in heavy weather and sail well under windvanes without the need for electrical power.
A few years ago, I was involved in the rescue of French solo sailor Alain Delord, sailing a fast, light modern fin keel 35-foot yacht solo around the globe. He was unable to control his boat in a storm and then was dismasted 440 miles south of Hobart in Tasmania, spending four days in a life raft before we were able to recover him. See the video and story.
Collectively, I have spent 3.5years of my life in the southern latitudes over 22 years on yachts and small expedition ships and have 48 years sailing experience. I have seen her moods. I know that the better prepared you are, the more luck you have, but I also know that sometimes you can have the best prepared boat with the best skipper, yet that guarantees nothing.
History makes this very clear. Last year’s OSTAR solo transatlantic race saw five finishers from 15 starters. The early Vendee Globe races saw an average of only half the fleet finish. In 1996-97, only six of 16 starters finished and in the 2008-9 Vendee Globe there were 18 of the 29 starters failing to finish. The retirement statistics of problems (3 keels, 3 steering and 7 mast issues) make interesting reading.
• Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environment) day 85: lost keel.
• Jean Le Cam (VM Matériaux) day 58: lost keel bulb, capsized
• Jonny Malbon (Artemis) day 56: delaminated mainsail
• Jean-Pierre Dick (Paprec-Virbac 2) day 53: lost port rudder
• Derek Hatfield (Algimouss Spirit of Canada) day 50: broken spreaders
• Sébastien Josse (BT) day 50: broken rudder system
• Yann Eliès (Generali) day 40: fractured femur
• Mike Golding (Ecover 3) day 38: dismasted
• Jean-Baptiste Dejeanty (Groupe Maisonneuve) day 37: faulty halyards, broken auto-pilot
• Loïck Peyron (Gitana Eighty) day 36: dismasted
• Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) day 36: ran aground
• Dominique Wavre (Temenos) day 35: damaged keel box
• Unai Basurko (Pakea Bizkaia) day 28: faulty starboard rudder box
• Jérémie Beyou (Delta Dore) day 17: damaged rig
• Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) day 6: cracked hull
• Yannick Bestaven (Energies Autour du Monde) day 4: dismasted
• Marc Thiercelin (DCNS) day 4: dismasted
• Kito de Pavant (Groupe Bel) day 4: dismasted
The 2018 Golden Globe Race is re-creating and making history. It is new, innovative and different in many ways. It is seen as a Cultural Renaissance in sailing. There is no such thing as the perfect boat in any ocean or situation. The GGR Petit Escargots are right for the southern course and what is quickly becoming known as the toughest race in the world.
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.