Is the Golden Globe Race the toughest sailing event in the world?
Is there anything that even comes close in any individual sporting challenge that combines epic adventure, extreme endurance and human endeavor to this magnitude?
There is faster, more complex and certainly more competitive, even more impressive, but anything tougher? Does it really matter? Probably not, but people are talking and are keen to compare.
The Atlantic swallowed six GGR entrants, for the simplest of reasons mostly determined by equipment choice or personal reckoning. This surprised many but was in line with my own earlier predictions based on simple statistics and a gut feeling. It was sad to lose them, but it was honest and real. That’s the way it works for any circumnavigation. Those who step out into the Southern Ocean have hardened up and are the best of the best, a necessity if you hope to endure four months of survival at the bottom of the world. Down there you have nowhere to hide, even from your own emotions and fears. Down there you are a volunteer facing your own reality in a dream planned over many years.
They are scared but not worried. The risk is high but mitigated. The physical demands are relentless day after day. The psychological pressure is a rollercoaster with no STOP button. Their isolation intense and passion never questioned as each follows a path over the horizon into the unknown. Their future is uncertain. With heightened senses they are happy to survive just one more day. Where else can you enter a competition with all this?
If you were watching the GGR LIVE coverage of entrants through Hobart, you met real sailors and special human beings. Mid adventure they opened their world with a glimpse explaining why and how they are doing. We laughed and cried together, slightly in awe at these incredible adventurers and warm fun personalities that made it look all very easy. We know it’s not.
Spray sailing at 24kts with bright lights around the world the now normal way is not them. They sail like it’s 1968. Four more did not make it to Hobart. That’s tough on everyone. Now we are eight souls sailing with huge ambitions. Meanwhile the GGR family of followers is expanding every single day as the stories get bigger and people are talking. News is absorbed in 50 countries. While I never worry about what people think, I often wonder how they feel about the GGR and I am starting to perceive a change and feel a consensus.
Early in the GGR a few thought the Atlantic retirements a bit too easy. When we started to lose masts in the Southern Ocean some were surprised. Inevitably followers and commentators around the world are looking for comparisons yet there are none. They are starting to realise that the GGR is like nothing the world has seen before, ever. They are starting to respect the sailors and understand the challenge. Some now say it is the TOUGHEST!
Being truly alone on a little boat with the basics for 240 days may just be tougher than the rest! You decide!
Mike Golding, considered as one of the world’s most successful offshore sailors, had this to say about the GGR in Yachting World, September 2018, Page 26:
Don’t for a moment underestimate the enormity of the challenge that the sailors taking part in the 2018 Golden Globe Race (GGR) are undertaking. It would be easy to think of the GGR as another ‘ARC style’ ocean rally – but that could not be further from the truth. The GGR is, without question, one of the toughest sailing challenges for many decades, and I hope the 18 competitors receive a supportive following.
When I saw that the French sailing legends Jean-Luc Van Den Heede and Philippe Péché had signed up to compete in the GGR, for the briefest of nanoseconds I considered entering the race myself. But, equally swiftly, I knew the limitations and restrictions would drive me completely and utterly bonkers… The GGR offers a refreshing opportunity to take on a huge personal challenge without the cost and complexity of one of the mainstream professional events. It’s entirely possible to fund an entire GGR campaign for the price of a single IMOCA 60 mainsail – which opens the door to a completely new band of solo adventurers.
If the original race is anything to go by, only two of the 18 starters might complete the 2018 event as true Golden Globe finishers. Perhaps another four or six will need to stop but can still finish as ‘Chichester class’ entrants. Finishers or not, these 18 sailors from 13 countries will certainly have some amazing stories to share. And if the GGR produces even one more Robin Knox-Johnston and a scattering of Chichesters, what’s not to like?Mike Golding