Year 2018/9 is the 50th anniversary of the first solo, single handed circumnavigation, a race very much in the British sailing tradition all be it on a grand scale.
Who says there are no adventures left?
I’ve been honoured, asked to write briefly about this, The GGR18 and my involvement.
Today one of the most dramatic yacht races in history is underway The Golden Globe Race 2018 [GGR18 to it’s friends].
The yachts and equipment are limited to circa 1968, plus modern safety kit which by the way, is proving it’s worth.
These are in their way, superyachts, although this is not cheque book sailing.
This is experience, preparation, muscle, guts and good luck sailing.
It was my good fortune to be invited by one of the organisers, Barry Pickthall, to attend the last days of preparation, meet the sailors, their teams, the organisers, the world press and attend the start.
The location and support, the town and port were ideal, La Sables d’Olonne on the Atlantic coast, Vendee province of France.
The weather was near perfect, warm, relaxed, very sunny.
Onward from the benign start, the race is proving every bit as gruelling as the original.
To date, four yachts have been dismasted including Abhilash Tomy [India]‘s beautiful Suhaili replica ‘Thuriya’.
Three of these men were rescued most skilfully under arduous conditions and the other, Norwegian Are Wiig, made it back to Cape Town under jury rig.
8 of the original 18 remain sailing, most have encountered ‘difficulties’.
The one Brit Suzie Goodall, is still now 3rd overall after Race leader Jean-Luc Van Den Heede suffered a knock-down and damage to his mast, some 1,900 miles west of Cape Horn, forcing him to head for Chile
The first boat will be we hope, home by February 2019, the last, who knows when?
One competitor still sailing, Istvan Kopar, American/Hungarian, a real tough fellow, has said “Right now, I’m more attracted to gardening than offshore sailing.”
As I write, the race leader with his Rustler 36 ‘Matmut’ is in fairly serious trouble with a damaged mast forcing him to make for Valparaiso.
So far not one competitor has reached Cape Horn.
My involvement goes back more than 50 years, to a pub at Downe in Kent, ‘The Queen’s Head Head?’.
As I came of age, I would often accompany my Father for a quiet beer, sometimes at Downe.
The walls of the Queen’s Head Arms? were plastered with black and white photos, of a 26 year old fellow and his yacht, slowest boat in the fleet, making history in the first attempted single handed solo non stop round the world race.
That young man was trying to sail Falmouth to Falmouth, never mind win, just do it.
He was a merchant navy officer with British India SNCo, his family lived at Downe.
Little could we have guessed, how our lives would meet.
I never imagined he and I would become friends.
Today you probably know of him, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.
The original race was sailed by yachts we would today describe as ‘basic’.
Only one completed the course.
Even that yacht was thought lost.
She, ‘Suhaili’, was out of communication for 3 months, obituaries were prepared, until Robin spoke with a British tanker in the N Atlantic.
Robin and Suhaili had survived some very dramatic seas including a swamping by an 80 foot wave.
Robin told me it took him three hours to bail his boat out …
He and I first met while he was preparing for a transatlantic solo race at Queen Anne’s Battery Marina, Plymouth.
At the invitation of the manager, Mark Gatehouse, I showed some paintings, several of which were of BISNC ships so caught Robin’s eye; he asked to meet the artist.
He said he had an idea.
Six months later true to his word he wrote “for a brief inglorious moment there was me & two masts in sight & nothing but ocean in any direction for 2,000 miles“. He added, impossible to photograph, could you paint this for my wife and I?
The result Robin named “Roaring Forties” is one of his most cherished possessions , with copies available co signed by Robin, via my web site as a classic, signed, numbered print on canvas.
You can discover the story and acquire a print from frickers.co.uk/art/marine-art/yachts-and-superyachts/ or via the GGR18 web site.
Joshua Slocum was first to sail solo around the world making numerous stops, still a classic story, in 1895-1898.
He and Sir Robin have become legends.
Happily for us Robin is a legend in his own and our life time, Long may he continue to be so and inspire us.
How to follow the GGR18 race
FLEET TRACKING: goldengloberace.com/livetracker/
Mobile tracking APP: ybtracking.com/race-app.php
Skippers soundcloud: soundcloud.com/goldengloberace