recaptured glory?

Has some of the true adventure been lost from modern day ocean racing? My first long offshore race was the Parmelia Race, a 13,000 mile jaunt from England to Australia. Nothing compares with rolling through the Southern Ocean trying to snatch a sun sight after five days of grey skies knowing that you are fast approaching the coast of Western Australia, but not really sure where you are. It was 1979 and the only way we could communicate with the outside world was to patch a single-sideband call through Portishead Radio in England. All we had for entertainment was the BBC World Service which we wired through to a cockpit speaker and listened to the evening news, or on Sunday nights a radio drama. Those we heady times for a 21 year old kid who grew up landlocked in South Africa.

So it was with great interest that I read about the Golden Globe Race being managed by long time solo sailor and adventurer Don McIntyre. Don competed in the 1990-91 BOC Challenge Solo Around the World Race at a time when the race was still an event for those seeking pure adventure rather than the competitive, professional event that it became. A sailing adventure, by my definition, attracts social misfits, renegades, loners and those running from ex-wives and/or the government and the early single-handed races attracted their fair share of all of the above.

The first Golden Globe race was held in 1968/69. It was the first ever solo non-stop race around the world and was won by Robin Knox-Johnston in his leaky double-ender Suhaili. Robin’s circumnavigation was pure adventure; over three hundred days eating canned food, no communication with the outside world except for a brief rendezvous off Tasmania to exchange mail, catching rainwater to survive,
and receiving a hero’s welcome when he returned to England. Now McIntyre wants to recreate that event on the 50th anniversary of Knox-Johnston’s circumnavigation, and he wants the race to have the same look and feel of the original. I love the idea.

In order to make the Golden Globe Race as authentic as possible McIntyre has a list of do’s and dont’s. For starters your boat must be “designed prior to 1988 with a full-length keel with rudder attached to their trailing edge.” That rules out most boats, but I am sure there are plenty of oldies but goodies out there with a lap of the planet left in them. The boat must be fiberglass, have a minimum design displacement of 6,200kg, and a hull length of between 32ft and 36ft.

Competitors have to navigate with a sextant, use paper charts (can you still get paper charts?), hand write their log books, and hand steer or use a wind vane. No powered auto pilots permitted. There are plenty of other rules including no outside assistance and one requirement that I think is quite clever. All sailors will be required to make a mandatory rendezvous off Tasmania in the same bay where Knox-Johnston stopped to make repairs to his boat. They will sail through a “gate” at which point the clock will stop, they will meet with the Race Director and media and hand over film and photos, but they may not take anything on board and definitely may not receive assistance in any way, by anyone. The clock will restart when they pass through the “gate” a second time.

McIntyre expects that he will get 25 entrants, the maximum allowed. He has received interest from 48 sailors in 15 countries, most of whom have been drawn to the race because of its simplicity and authenticity. This email from one potential competitor sums it up for all potential competitors. He wrote, “What I love about this race (apart from it solidifying a dream long held) is that you’ve created something that the average sailing person worldwide (with commitment) can compete in. It is therefore truly an open race as it is not open in class but truly ‘open to all’.”

I would love to enter but don’t think I have it in me anymore. I have been too spoiled. There were some answers that I didn’t see on the race website. I wonder if you can have modern foul weather gear. Clothing has come a long way since the days of oil skins (canvas coated with multiple applications of linseed oil sometimes finished with a layer of paint.) How about my iPad? Just for reading and music of course and are competitors required to eat a certain amount bully beef (spam) just for authenticity. I don’t know the answers, but look forward to following the race. Oh, and one last thing, Don McIntyre will compete in his own event. Now that’s commitment. – Brian Hancock. Check out his excellent blog.