like it’s 1973

The Ocean Globe Race started from Southampton off the south coast of England q week ago. In full disclosure here, I am the Race Commentator, but I hold no bias. Having said that I hold no bias, I have to say that it was a spectacular start full of emotion and one of the best around-the-world-race starts that I have ever been to, and I have been to plenty. For those not familiar with the OGR, the event slogan is “Sailing like it’s 1973.” It’s essentially a retro Whitbread race limited to boats that had sailed in previous races during the 70’s and 80’s, as well as similar boats of the time, Swan’s being a good example. In the earlier races there were many Swans and in this race, there were nine swans competing including some famous ones. 

In the 75/76 race, Clare Francis skippered a Swan 65 named ADC Accutrack. She was the first female skipper with a mixed-gender crew. That same boat is back in the OGR, now renamed Translate 9 has a very competitive Italian team racing with their eye on the top prize. There is also a Swan 651, Spirit of Helsinki which is the same boat my old mate Skip Novak and I sailed from Finland to the Dominican Republic in 1984. We were hired to train an amateur Finnish crew who were planning to compete in the Whitbread the following year. The boat still looks great; some of these older boats never age. Like a fine wine (yes I know it’s a well-worn cliche) they just seem to get better with age. 

One of the most iconic boats in the race is Maiden. Some may remember that Tracy Edwards led the first all-female team in the ’89/90 Whitbread. Maiden was originally Disque ‘D‘or skippered by Pierre Fehlman in the ’81/82 Whitbread. It was later abandoned and left to rot behind a shed on the docks in Cape Town. Tracy found the boat and restored it. She sold the boat after the Whitbread and it was once again abandoned. Tracy found it rotting in a boatyard in the Seychelles Islands and once again rescued it. It’s back in immaculate condition and competing, again, of course, with an all-female crew only this time it’s very multicultural. Black, White, Arab, Indian, South African, you get my drift. 

The course is the same as the original races with a start off Southampton with the start cannon being fired off the Royal Yacht Squadron. I may be wrong but I think that they are the same cannons used to start that race around the island which was won by the yacht America and how the America’s Cup was founded. In any case the cannons have been there for a very long time. 

The first leg is a bit of a milk run down to Cape Town, South Africa. After that, the real fun starts. It’s a blustery trip across the Southern Ocean to Auckland, New Zealand. The third leg, of course, takes the fleet around Cape Horn by which time these mostly unseasoned sailors will be Southern Ocean veterans with almost 20,000 sea miles under the keel. The last leg goes from Punte del Este, Uruguay back to the finish in Southampton. 

One of the favorites to win, at least line honors, is Pen Duick V1, The boat skippered by the legend Eric Tabarly. This time it’s his daughter Marie Tabarly at the helm and if the look on her face at the skipper’s press conference is anything to go by, she means business.

OK, so I said I am not being biased but the start in Southampton was spectacular and quite emotional, for the crews for sure, but for me too. My first circumnavigation started right there, same cannons sounding the start. As we chased the fleet in a RIB last week I felt myself slip back into the baby-faced, wet-behind-the-ears kid who took off around the world having no clue what I was getting myself into, but coming back a better person, well at least I thought so and that’s really all that matters. I hope that you will follow the race and live tracker at www.oceangloberace.com.  – Brian Hancock. 

Picture by Aïda Valceanu / OGR