This blog post has been lent to us by our friends at All at Sea and first appeared at
Monday, 03 July 2017

Tapio Lehtinen from Helsinki, Finland is an entry in the 2018 Golden Globe Race. . Image: Tapio Lehtinen/PPL Photo Agency/GGR

In just under a year, on 30 June 2018, up to 30 sailors will set out from Plymouth to recreate history at the start of a solo circumnavigation in small traditional long keeled yachts using just paper charts, a sextant and wind up chronometer to navigate by.

The race marks the 50th anniversary of the original Sunday Times Golden Globe Race and the remarkable achievement of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in becoming the first man to complete a solo nonstop circumnavigation.

Fifty years on from the original race when only one of the nine starters managed to finish, the dramas being faced by competitors during their 2,000 mile proving trials show that the challenges remain just as great.

Six months after Australian entrant Shane Freeman was capsized and left dismasted 600 miles from Cape Horn, Frenchman Loïc Lepage lost his liferaft, when it exploded from its canister stowed on deck during his 2,000 mile proving trial. It was a heart-stopping moment, but after returning to France to replace the raft and review the position and fastenings, he has set out once more to sail solo to the Azores and back.

Frenchman Lionel Regnier, who has made 23 previous transatlantic crossings and never retired from a race before, also suffered self-steering failure when racing his Rustler 36 One and All in this year’s windswept OSTAR transatlantic Race from Plymouth to Newport. The damage forced him into early retirement and long hours of hand-steering back to France. By all accounts, Lionel had a torrid time, and after a week of reflection has decided to retire from the GGR, sell his boat and devote his energies to supporting fellow Frenchman Jean-Luc Van Den Heede.

Then, just days ago, American based Palestinian entrant Nabil Amra said of the trials he experienced aboard his Contessa 32 during a voyage out into the Atlantic to gain his 8,000 sea mile qualification. “It was a much rougher trip than I let on but it hasn’t shaken me off the GGR horse. I’m still in it. I had a Shane Freeman incident with the wind vane and my drogue… Then had to hand sail the last 550 miles with a sodden cabin and clothes, spoiled food, no heat or self steering gear. It was a real test of mental and physical endurance. I’m now working on having my phone and camera, destroyed by the conditions, salvaged to get the footage off them to make a short video of the voyage.”

And spare a thought for Nérée Cornuz, the 27 year old Swiss/Italian currently sailing his engineless Lello 34 solo from Cape Town has suffered broken rigging and problems with his home made windvane self steering enroute to the Mediterranean.

Don McIntyre, the race founder says of the dramas. “These events have been a wake-up call for competitors. The 2018 GGR is no more a walk in the park than the original event back in 1968. It will be a race of attrition testing even the fittest and best prepared. Skippers will now be re-looking at every part of their boats to reassess what parts could break and plan how to fix them when conditions are at their worst.”

The past winter has seen some of the original entrants inevitably drop out but their places were eagerly filled by those on the Wait List. This has left a very strong list of 26 entrants.

Don McIntyre, the GGR Chairman, said: “The Race is limited to 30 entrants, and since we have received more than 150 enquiries, we don’t think it will be long before our list is full again.”

The latest race entrants are Tapio Lehtinen from Finland and Abhilash Tomy from Mumbai. Tapio has competed in the 1981/2 Whitbread Round the World Race aboard Skopbank of Finland, the 1985 Two handed Round Britain and Ireland Race, the 2STAR transatlantic race 1986, the Azores and Back race in 1987 and the 2014 Bermuda Race.

Commander Abhilash Tomy, KC from Mumbai, is one of India’s most prominent sailors and has been given one of five Special Invitations to join the GGR. A serving officer in the Indian Navy, he has had the advantage, just as French sailing legend Eric Tabarly did, of spending much of his career sailing for his Country.. Abhilash has covered 52,000 miles under sail while in the Navy including a solo non-stop circumnavigation from Mumbai and back in 2012/13.

The Race in numbers

The course: 30,000 miles with 4 rendezvous gates
26 entrants (Max entry list is 30)
Competitors represent 14 countries
America (3) Australia (3) Brazil (2) Britain (3) Estonia (1) Finland (1) France (6) Ireland (1) India (1) Italy (1) Netherlands (1) Norway (1) Palestine (1) Russia (1)
Oldest competitor: Jean-Luc van den Heede (FRA) 72.
Youngest competitors: aged 27: Roy Hubbard (USA) Susie Goodall (GBR) and Nérée Cornuz (Italy/Switzerland)

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