My life these past four years is all GGR
The last 117 days I live and breathe it 24hrs. I know every sailor, every wind, every wave. I can feel entrant emotion and sometimes pain. Occasionally I anticipate their thoughts and actions. We are a little family of intrepid voyagers and adventures from all corners of the world recreating 50 years of history in the spirit of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and SUHAILI.
There are no real surprises in this game as anything goes in extreme adventure. But sometimes I too ask WHY? I am not sailing but I live it. In my subconscious I am there beside them and wake in the depth of night to wonder about one or a more. Are they ok, cold, wet, even safe? Any attempt at sleep thereafter can be challenging, so I get up and check the tracker just like many of you. I look closely for signs.
Sometimes they ring. Again, I wake immediately stumbling for the phone then the light, balancing pen and paper at the ready. Their initial relaxed HELLO means nothing to me as they hope to sound in control no matter what. It’s the following words that have me holding my breath. You what? Can you repeat that… You’re OK? Great! Do you need anything? Fantastic! I breathe again. Thanks for calling! I try to sleep, but rarely do as night turns to day my fingers still dancing across the keyboard. It’s what I want to do, so it’s OK. I am living it with my sailing family.
When that call comes describing a rollover and lost mast it is tough on us both. When it’s all over we question WHY? I personally know more sailors who have been knocked down or rolled over in the Southern Ocean that have kept their mast, than lost them. That includes me. So WHY are four GGR rigs on the seafloor? I am still thinking about it and so are many sailors. I have no simple answer for now other than suggesting it’s tough in the Southern Ocean. Maybe even tougher than it was 50 years ago. Climate is changing the world over.
All boats and rigs went through thorough rebuilds and checks prior to the start. No one could look at GGR rigs and question their integrity. No one did. They all looked good. They were a great display of industry best practice based on around the world standards and I was happy with them. Over the next nine months we will investigate many things, talk to mast makers, riggers and the sailors themselves to see if lessons are to be learned. If there are and I hope so, we will make recommendations to entrants for the 2022 GGR. They won’t be new rules (we already have plenty) because the GGR is for sensible sailors who are watching and learning from this extreme test and no one would intentionally go far South with a rig they believed was anything other than ready!
At any level the GGR is a HUGE challenge both emotionally and physically. I have said many times in the past that…The world has never seen anything like this for 50 years. Maybe the activities and dramas of the past months just confirms that the challenge today really is as tough as it was back then.
And then there is Susie! She has given me the toughest moments of the Race so far. What a sailor she is. Youngest person in the fleet with the courage and determination of a ????? How can you even compare her. From the very beginning she has done everything right. She is still there fighting. She has had serious challenges that have nothing to do with the weather or the boat. Social media can make it look all too easy, or all too hard, but it can never really get inside the depth of emotion it can take to keep going day after day. She has had some bad luck like all entrants. She has made good and bad decisions too. But Susie has pressures maybe more than most because she is the lone woman in the GGR with an amazing story and a great smile. On the Ocean we are all equal, but when I saw another version of ABHILASH’S and GREGOR’s storm about to form right on her projected position I thought, OH NO! Not Susie.
I checked, then checked again all possible forecasting options to take her away or through it. It was hopeless. I had to send her BACK! How could I even suggest that! I checked with Jesse another solo circumnavigator. He agreed she had to run, run fast and run now. I sent the message… SUSIE GO BACK! Susie rang to confirm and decided to go for it, not believing her own decision. I am not sure when I decided I would rather be out there sailing through the storm than sitting awaiting the outcome, but I did. It was tough for me. Was it the right advice or not?. Would she roll and lose the mast or worse? Time moved very slowly. It was my personal nightmare reminding me of the strength and trust of FAMILY. I am not a Race Director, I am simply family. We are close in our own way, we really are. She did it and it is her story and what a story it is. A GGR sponsor would make Jane and I VERY happy but not half as happy as when Susie rang to say it was nearly over!!! That was a dandy!!
Living the GGR through the Yellowbrick tracker is unique but throw in the daily tweets and soundcloud calls and you have a complete picture. It is rich food for your imagination. Many tell us it is more LIVE and connected than they ever would have dreamed. LOIC LEPAGE is gone and now there are only eight. You can feel the difference, you can see the difference. Who will make it to the end? This adventure has matured and like many I respect these eight more than ever before. It is a long road and we are not fully half way. J-L VDH is flying while IGOR ZARETSKIY is fighting his own battle half a world away. This is a race, an adventure, a struggle to survive and a celebration of something we rarely see these days. True human endeavor and raw courage.
I wonder what tomorrow brings?