The Vendee fleet are currently flying around the world, with many of the yachts not just flying across the chart but skimming the water on foils. The America’s Cup sets an incredibly high-tech precedent, and there’s every chance that someone at your local yacht club will be mucking around with a foiling dinghy, wing sail or virtual sailing.
But faced with all this exciting high-tech development, there are plenty of sailors who are feeling a little nostalgic for the days when four knots was considered a respective average speed and when sailors weren’t supported by extensive teams and high-tech weather routing.
Among those nostalgic sailors is Don McIntyre, well known for his Antarctic, solo sailing and small open boat journeys (as well as buying a 16-year-old girl a pink yacht to sail around the world), to name just a few of his exploits. But his next adventure is shaping up to be his biggest yet.
In 2015, Don announced the ‘retro’ 2018 Golden Globe Race and was immediately overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response. The 2018 GGR is a tribute to the Original Sunday Times race on its 50th anniversary.
The original Golden Globe is, of course, one of sailing’s best-known legends. Lured by £5,000 worth of prize money, nine sailors set off. But faced with ill-equipped or designed boats and the challenge of months of complete isolation, the fleet quickly dwindled.
One entrant, Donald Crowhurst, never left the Atlantic Ocean, famously reporting a false course around the world before jumping off his boat. And Frenchman Bernard Moitessier, considered a race favourite, was well on track to claim the prize money when he decided to ‘save his soul’ and continue on a second circuit of the Southern Ocean rather than returning home.
Only one of the original nine entrants, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, finished and became the first person to sail solo, nonstop and unassisted around the world.
The 2018 edition requires competitors to circumnavigate as Sir Robin did, in small, sturdy yachts designed prior to 1988 and between 32 and 36ft. No electronic instruments, autopilots, satellite phones, computers or GPS are allowed.
I can’t help but wonder how many of the 2018 entrants will cope with the solitude, restrain themselves from the temptation of pulling into passing ports and avoid gear failures to finish the race.
Clearly, Don isn’t the only one keen to return to what he calls the ‘golden age of solo sailing’. In the months after the race’s announcement, 30 sailors from 13 countries quickly signed up, and a further five have joined the waitlist.
And the French, with their unrivalled passion for solo sailing, have embraced the GGR, quickly becoming the largest nationality represented among the entrances.
Sadly, the entry list’s wonderful diversity of nationalities doesn’t extend to gender diversity with only one girl, 27-year-old British Susie Goodall listed.
The race is about giving the everyday sailor a chance to race around the world, but the skippers are required to have extensive offshore miles under their belt and must be adept at celestial navigation as GPS navigation won’t be allowed.
August 2018 might feel like a world away, but for those with yachts to prepare, time is counting down. Many of the entrants also plan on sailing to the start line in Falmouth, no small undertaking for those like Shane Freeman who is currently sailing from Australia.
I’m enthusiastically following all race updates and look forward to keeping you updated.
You can read more on the Golden Globe website - www.goldengloberace.com