What’s going on?
Just 10 entrants remain in the Golden Globe Race. Seven will not pass the first Cape. 17 sailors pushing toward Hobart would have been very impressive, but who really thought that would happen. Certainly not me. Before the start I could probably have given odds on who would or would not pass that Cape, but on the Vendee Marina at the GGR Village we were family, so why? Just starting was significant.
All true adventures have an unknown outcome. Back in Les Sables d’Olonne I was surrounded by real adventurers from 13 countries with one common objective. They were setting out totally alone with no connection to shore support or open phone lines offering social and emotional comfort on the way round. This simple fact makes the GGR unlike any other around the world yacht Race in the last 50 years. The Vendee and Volvo are pick up the phone 24hrs a day and asks for support. Call your mum or your engineer. Not so the GGR. When they sailed over that horizon for a long slow voyage, giving up every aspect of a normal life, just like in 1968, they were as alone and unsupported as you can possibly be.
It was all too much for some and they are no longer sailing. Each has a story to tell of their investment in a dream. It could be said that all but ARE Wiig were beaten in their mind well ahead of any equipment failures. SIR ROBIN on SUHAILI was super human with a drive and passion that was hard to believe and harder to replicate 50 years on. His prize was different, even though the challenge was similar. He was to be the FIRST and he was fiercely British, a scholar of Britannia ruling the waves.! He also had a Frenchman following.
Today (compared to the 1960’s) our values are totally different, our reasoning and commitment on another level and the results are starting to show. JL VDH knows what is needed and is doing it. His boat, the equipment, the food and the fun are all much better than in 1968. The challenge is the same, but with that huge advantage he can do it better and faster and he is. Bravo!
My weekly phone calls to entrants continue to evolve. They are softer and slower. They cling to the last and do not want to go. You hear it in the voice of a single soul, questioning their existence in this game. It is there, hard to describe but it is. They try a brave face as they know the world is listening. They want to project ALL OK and they are strong, but little things suggest there may be personal struggles during that week.
Her boat is OK, yet SUSIE offers little hints of doing it tough, her conversation a little down. With genuine emotion UKU declares IT IS HARD! NOT the sailing, but the emotional challenge of real isolation from life, family and friends. He longs for them. MARK SLATS is a tough giant softening over time. He wants to talk and not hang up. I tried four times to do just that before I succeeded!
TAPIO is a window to happy and sad. He is absorbed and emotionally involved in the beauty of his surroundings and forgiving of anything else. A yacht does not need electricity. He will not stop. LOIC is desperately alone with no radio and no news. He misses family. He does everything with what he has. He thought about ARE in Cape town and then his old mast. To be sure and safe he heads to Cape Town for a safety pitstop. Bravo! A proud CHICHESTER sailor.
A call from Tomy offered more than his words. IT IS NICE TO TALK WITH YOU TODAY was delivered off a quivering voice. It was humbling for me to listen to that. He understands fourteen weeks in the Southern Ocean brings no guarantees! He goes over emergency procedures with me. He has solo circumnavigated before, but not like this, in this little boat totally alone.
Of course, it is OK for IGOR and his beloved ESMERALDA. He laughs loud. Capt’n COCONUT I’m not so sure. His calls give nothing away. He is on Holiday. He is happy. ISTVAN is the same. When he talks of his challenges, and there are many, you can hear his smile! GREGOR is pure youthful determination from an Irish guy going places. Bring it on then give him more.
ARE WIIG became a headline banner for honest seamanship. Strong as an OX, he and his boat took a fall! It shocked us all. It was ARE. No way, Not ARE. But that is the way of the sea. Without realizing, ARE became a headline banner for the SPIRIT of the Golden Globe. He sailed himself home. We were all proud. He praised the GGR regulations and the GGR family. It is a story for all sailors yet to be told, but it will be.
ERTAN, KEVIN, NABIL, PHILIPPE, ANTOINE, and ARE have gone. We miss them but understand. We admire LOIC in the Chichester Class. We salute the final 10. The Golden Globe is a tough journey like no other. Is it a Voyage for Madmen? NO WAY! But there are hints of real parallels to 1968 even similar type pressures that played on Donald Crowhurst.
These sailors are alone, truly unsupported, without technology, in little ships inspiring us every day. That’s WHAT’s GOING ON!