Reality “TV” Sailing Style

September 13, 2022 in Books, Sailing yarns - 2 Comments

I wake, roll over, and check the YB tracker to see what’s happening with the 2022 Golden Globe Race (GGR) fleet. This group of intrepid sailors departed from Les Sables-d’Olonne, France on September 4.

I repeat this ritual every four hours until I fall asleep. This will be my routine until June 2023, when the competitors are slated to complete this 30,000 nautical mile race. It’s true. I might be a little obsessed. Let me explain…

What is the Golden Globe Race?

In 1968, the British Sunday Times sponsored the Sunday Times Golden Globe, the first singlehanded round-the-world yacht race. Nine sailors started the race. Only one sailor, Robin Knox-Johnson, finished. However, there was one other guy, Bernard Moitessier, who was on track to finish and win. More about him in a moment.

2018 marked the 50th anniversary and the GGR was resurrected. An open invitation to all sailors went out. Anyone could enter, and if they met the requirements of the race–both in terms of the boat and proving one’s own skills and abilities–they could start.

Here’s the rub. Entrants were limited to sailing similar yachts loaded with only equipment (and technology) available to sailors in 1968. That means no GPS, no Starlink, no chartplotter, no wind instruments, no electrical auto pilot, no water maker. And the list goes on…

The 2018 race was a hit! So, now the plan is to run the race every four years.

Why the fascination?

The 1968 race seeded the founding of the modern day, highly professional and technical Vendée Globe round-the-world race. And while I find the modern race exciting and enjoy following, I feel a bit disconnected. The boats those sailors are racing are like Formula 1 race cars. They are so beyond anything I would ever find myself sailing.

But sailboats from 1968? I get those boats. And, while I have no desire (I repeat… NO desire) to sail solo, non-stop around the world for months, the reality is that if I DID want to do so, even I could join this race.

I have huge admiration for these sixteen skippers (Update: now down to fifteen as one person dropped out after a few days due to personal reasons).

The bravery and gumption it takes to even raise one’s hand to take on such a challenge is remarkable. Then, to do all the things one has to do and make all the sacrifices required adds an entirely new level of tenacity. And that’s all just to GET to the starting line.

Then, they have to actually leave the dock. Alone. And then keep going. Mile… after mile… after mile while Neptune and Mother Nature do whatever the heck they are going to do. It’s the epitome of bravery and faith.

So, how can you follow along?

Join my obsession!

You can access the race tracker from the GGR website. It updates every four hours–it looks like this. You see each skipper/boat, and then select “Leaderboard” to see the current rankings.

If you have PredictWind, you can track the race with the PredictWind weather overlay. This is a cool view because you see the current and differing weather that each skipper/boat is experiencing. Ironically, looking at this view is far more advanced than what the competitors can actually see for themselves as PredictWind and fancy GRIB files didn’t exist in 1968. These skippers are relying on weather faxes (which is fairly unstable tech), and communicating with passing ships via VHF. They can also talk with one another via VHF radio and share information (if they are so inclined, which they seem to be).

The skippers also have a weekly satellite phone check-in call with GGR race organizers which are recorded and posted on the website under Live > Day by Day. It’s fascinating to hear these conversations. I was listening this morning to Simon Curwen’s call. He has no idea that he is in the lead or how he’s doing compared to anyone else. He’s just out there doing his thing and wondering, wondering, wondering.

Finally, you can follow the social media of any skippers who have a social media presence. Their teams are posting information on their behalves.

But wait, who is that WAY out in front?

If you look at the image above, you’ll see the track of Bernard Moitessier. Monsieur Moitessier had the fastest circumnavigation toward the end of the 1968 race and was the likely winner. However, he chose not to finish the race and, instead, kept going on a second lap. He rejected the idea of the commercialization of long distance sailing. I wonder if he’s rolling in his grave with the advent of social media + the race! Anyway, you can see how the 2022 fleet tracks against his race. Right now, they are behind.

As an added element of my current obsession, I am reading The Long Way, Moitessier’s account of the 1968 race. I can’t help but imagine the similarities between what the current competitors are thinking and feeling with what Moitessier went through all those years ago.

I love what he says about his boat, Joshua, “People who do not know that a sailboat is a living creature will never understand anything about boats and the sea.” I concur. As I am getting to know Felicità, I find her demanding, protective, stoic, and patient. I’m falling in love with her more and more every day.

~ Gretchen


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  • John R Buzan September 14, 2022 at 10:06 am

    In every account about sailing that I like, I seem to encounter sailor-authors like you who are enthralled by Moitessier’s “The Long Way.” So I’ve given up and ordered my copy, today. Let me think about following the GG race that you recommend. I do love seeing the magnificent videos from the Vendee found-the-world races, and follow them (kind of) closely. Best of life, sailing!

    • gntsailing September 14, 2022 at 10:38 am

      Hi Uncle John! LOL, I just sent you and email about this post. But, lo and behold, you’ve already been here. 🙂

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