One sails in the fastest, most sophisticated and prestigious sailing challenge in the world, all over in just minutes! The other is attempting the longest, loneliest, most demanding and slowest race, for any individual in any sport on the planet. The Dalton family wants it all!
With the America’s Cup just days away and the third edition of the grueling eight month solo Golden Globe Race starting next year, the contrast is extreme.
Graham Dalton, the elder brother of New Zealand’s America’s Cup supremo Grant Dalton, has entered in the 2022 Golden Globe Race. The gritty 66-year old from Auckland has unfinished business – to sail solo around the world and win! Two previous attempts have ended in disappointment. In the 2003 Velux 5 Oceans, a four-stop solo circumnavigation he was dismasted close to Cape Horn and in 2007 he completed the same race but outside the time allowance.
Grant Dalton on the other hand has sailed all the major international Ocean races and won, including the Whitbread Around the World Race and of course the America’s Cup. His dreams happened. It does not get any bigger or better. His big brother has had his dream since childhood. Inspired as a schoolboy by Sir Francis Chichester’s solo one-stop circumnavigation in Gipsy Moth IV back in 1966/7, he recalls:
Many of my friend’s parents had yachts and their boys would talk about Chichester’s adventure in the playground saying ’That’s what I’m going to do – sail around the world’. I knew they wouldn’t, but I made a commitment – and every day since, this has been my goal.
But entering the next GGR non-stop solo round the world race, starting from Les Sables d’Olonne, France on September 4, 2022 has not been straightforward. Having been dismasted, suffered broken rudders, and torn sails, 4 fractured ribs, and endured chronic food poisoning during previous attempts, Graham says:
This time, I waited until I said to myself that I wanted to do this again three days in a row before making the commitment. It has taken some time to resolve.
The decision was made only after a lot of soul searching and self analysis. Graham is a determined, tenacious character with great self belief, – many of the attributes shared with his younger brother Grant. The big difference between the two is that while Grant is happy to court the media spotlight, Graham is not.
I’d rather not have any publicity. I don’t need it because I won’t have a sponsor. It’s just a distraction that I can do without.
If it were possible, I sense that he would prefer to just turn up at the start dressed like the anonymous Japanese masked wrestler The Great Sasuka and take on all challengers. He’s happiest with his own company and a project to focus on. The media bruha and contact with the outside world – even competitors – he would just as happily do without. The perfect mindset for a solo sailor you might say.
But third time around, Graham has been asking questions – of himself and to others. One of these is about mental preparedness. A good American friend who had spent 23 years as a US Navy Seal advised: ‘The brave don’t live forever, but the cautious never live’.
He now has the inscription on his study wall at home, alongside the badly buckled titanium steering wheel from his last yacht smashed by a wave as a reminder of what can happen at sea. And the message? I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t finish up on a bulkhead within his yacht to bolster his mindset when things go awry as they undoubtedly will at some point during this 30,000 mile battle against the elements.
Another mentor is Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, the 73-year old French sailor who led the 2018 Golden Globe Race from the Cape of Good Hope all the way back to the finish. Graham has bought Van Den Heede’s Rustler 36 Matmut which bettered Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s winning time set in the first Sunday Times Golden Globe Race in 1968/9 by 100 days. He has not only bought the winning yacht but hopes to benefit from the great knowledge and experience gained by the 6-time solo circumnavigator Jean-Luc.
If Coronavirus travel restrictions allow, Dalton plans to travel to France in May to complete the yacht’s fit-out and sailing trials before setting out into the Atlantic on a 2,000 mile qualification solo sail to sweep away any lingering doubts.
I’ve got some ideas how to make Matmut even faster. I’ve no interest in simply sailing around the world again. It is the competitive aspect that really appeals. I’ve entered the GGR to win, and without distractions I think I can.Jean-Luc Van Den Heede
His brother Grant is of the same mindset. He has taken on the greatest high-tech sailing challenge on earth and won. In the next few days he puts it all on the line once again. Dreams don’t come any bigger! The family conversations must be quite interesting!