As a youngster I grew up in awe of the world’s great yacht race the Whitbread (now the Volvo Ocean Race). Giants of men put their vessels and teams together and went around the world as fast as possible with few electronic navigation or weather forecasting aids, and achieved great feats by comparison to what people do today.
Without belittling the feats of modern Volvo Ocean or Vendee Globe skippers, their lives are much easier while they blast around the world today. All have very accurate GPS mapping systems, and they are fed weather forecasts by shore based experts. Their skill is in reading the weather patterns and driving the boat at great speed.
Sailing 26,000 miles nonstop singlehanded around the world in under 80 days is bogglingly fast, and a massive achievement – and with the new foiling IMOCA 60’s in the next edition you can expect yachtsmen to return in well under that time.
In the next Volvo Ocean, there will even be continuous live video coverage of all the boats because of a new constellation of communications satellites that will allow high speed video streaming even 1500 miles from civilisation in the Southern Ocean.
Honestly? This makes the race a little dull for me. I’m not interested in watching the crews eating their breakfasts – I want to see giants doing amazing feats, and with all the technology in place these guys have become little more than extremely fit athletes sailing for 20 days at a stretch. By comparison to the era of Peter Blake’s Steinlager I, these guys are on a different planet.
In 2018 a group of yachts will leave Falmouth, England and race nonstop around the world. OK, something it seems every man and his dog seems to do these days, complete with your fans watching you eating your breakfast in a Cape Horn snorter with 15 days to go before you get home for tea and medals.
These yachts will be between 32 and 36 feet long. (Yawn – Mini Transat size…). This is where it gets interesting. The boats are to be of a design no later than 1988, and the skippers will only be allowed to navigate using manual instruments and paper charts. They will have to work out the weather coming their way using weather forecasting techniques of the 1960’s. Typically, the yachts are expected to take 300 days to sail nonstop around the world, singlehanded.
The Golden Globe is a race commemorating the 50th anniversary of Sir Robin Knox Johnston’s singlehanded, non stop race around the world in 1968 on Suhaili, a 32ft ketch. Nine started the race, four of whom retired and one who committed suicide. Four made it home.
I’m seriously tempted to try to join these giants of men. If I didn’t have a seven week old daughter at home I’d be trying to raise the £200,000 or so I’d need to get to the start line. Let’s analyse my impossible fantasy…
OK, so I’m pretty knowledgeable about sailing. Not unlike an armchair general telling people in the pub how he’d defeat ISIS after a couple of pints? Not quite. I have thousands of miles of sailing experience in conditions ranging from dead calm to screaming gales. I have been shipwrecked twice, and been in fear of my life on many an occasion. I am but a maggot by comparison to the giants about to do the 2018 race.
I’d need experience. To be invited to join the race you need 8,000 miles, 2,000 of which must be singlehanded. I have 3,500 logged sailing miles so would need to cross the Atlantic twice, once singlehanded. I’d not be confident with just that, to be honest. The best bet would be to do a Fast Track Yachtmaster Xpress course over 13 weeks to achieve the RYA Yachtmaster Ocean. This costs in the region of US $15,000.
Much of this is crewed sailing. I’d not have the confidence or competence to go it alone with a Yachtmaster Xpress course under my belt. I’d really then need to sail a hard route, perhaps from San Francisco to New York via Cape Horn, singlehanded along the pre railway trading route between the two cities – this route is 13,225 miles.
Ideally I’d like to do this as a race prep in my pre 1988 design boat using a sextant and paper charts to get me to New York. At 6mph – the typical speed of a vessel of this type – this would take around 3 months. Add in the passage planning and preparation? I’d better find the fifteen grand in the next few weeks to begin my adventure! Or…? In 2018 I’ll likely watch for the weekly race reports from the competitors, and look forward to their mid race interview in Storm Bay, Tasmania, halfway around their 300 day adventure…
You could do this! but not for 200,000 pounds…all you need is about 100,000 pounds and you would sell the boat at the end for 50,000 pounds…!!! Good luck hey!! :)..great Blog!!..
Don McIntyre..Founder 2018 GGR