Emphasizing hands-on, low-tech sailing, the Golden Globe Race 2018 (GGR 2018) takes circumnavigation back in time.
Nearly five decades have passed since Sir Robin Knox-Johnston won the original Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, becoming the first man to sail solo and nonstop around the planet.
Next year will see a flotilla of wind-powered craft follow in the British yachtsman’s wake, as 30 sailors compete in the 2018 edition, a nautical marathon celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Knox-Johnston’s amazing 1968 voyage.
Starting from Plymouth on June 30, 2018, competitors will sail a course covering about 30,000 miles (48,000 kilometers). They will pass through four rendez-vous “gates” and round the Cape of Good Hope, Australia’s Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn, before returning to the British departure port.
Putting the Spice Back into Sailing
As a tribute to Knox-Johnston, whose teak yacht Suhaili lacked the high-tech gadgetry of today’s advanced monohull vessels, GGR 2018 competitors will sail without the aid of computers, GPS systems or satellite phones. They will use sextants and paper charts, make log entries manually and determine the weather by eye and experience.
“Only a handful of GGR 2018 sailors knew about celestial navigation when they entered the race, so many have had to learn or relearn the technique,” says race founder and organizer Don McIntyre, who sailed solo around the world in the 1990 BOC Challenge Race. “These same sailors will also be licking their fingers and sticking them into the wind.”
They will use sextants and paper charts, determine the weather by eye and experience.
It is now possible to circumnavigate in under 80 days. But participants in the GGR 2018, which is more about human against nature than human against human, will spend over nine months at sea in their simpler, less-equipped boats. Knox-Johnston’s feat took 312 days.
“For those used to sailing with iPods and iPhones, it will certainly be a paradigm shift,” says McIntyre. “I call it putting the spice back into sailing. In this race, there are no cutting-edge materials making yachts go fast, no sophisticated electric autopilots steering straight courses, no satellite navigation and weather forecasts telling competitors where they are and where to go.”
We are now in a world where superyachts can be sailed by one man with a touchscreen. According to McIntyre, this kind of high-tech, hands-off development is symptomatic of a wider trend shaping our lives.
“I call it flat lining,” says the Australian. “The whole civilized world is geared up to it. You get hot, you turn the air conditioner on. You get cold, you turn the heater on. All of a sudden, the highs and lows of life disappear as you head for that comfortable middle line. And then some people get bored.”
McIntyre believes the trend toward automation in sailing has advantages, but that it also can detract from the thrill of being out on the open ocean.
“The tech lets a lot more people get out on the water comfortably and safely, which isn’t a bad thing,” he says. “But there is a certain satisfaction and purity in doing something all by yourself, safely overcoming a challenge using your own brain and wit. Getting out and having a go. I think we all need this to truly feel alive.”
Back to the Basics
The 29 men and one woman taking part in the GGR 2018 have each paid a US $2200 entry fee. Competitors hail from 11 countries, including Brazil, India, Palestine and Russia. This eclectic group, boasting a mix of ages, professions and characters, is united by one common thread—a craving for raw adventure.
“This is all about man and woman against the elements,” says McIntyre. “These are all guys who could not sleep the moment they heard about the race. They want to go back to basics, not pilot the fastest, fanciest 60-foot ocean racer that effectively sails itself.
“The participants in the GGR 2018 know they are rewriting history,” continues the veteran sailor. “Their accomplishments will be all theirs. They won’t belong to a computer or the sailor with the most money. In our automated age, Golden Globe sailors are true pioneers in the spirit of Robin Knox-Johnston.”
Read more about sextants on NauticExpo website.