Start of the Golden Globe Round the World Race

Eighteen valiant sailors are ready to start tomorrow on one of the most challenging events ever conceived. This single-handed non-stop event marks the 50th anniversary of the first single-handed non-stop circumnavigation achieved by Robin Knox Johnston in 1968-69 on the 32-foot ketch Suhaili.

The original Suhaili

The Golden Globe Race will start from the French Atlantic port of Les Sables d’Olonne known throughout the world as the start and finish of the most famous round the world single-handed race, the Vendée Globe.

The Golden Globe yachts docked alongside the Vendée Globe pontoon

In total contrast to the Vendée Globe, which every four years attracts the ultimate state-of-the-art racing machines, the boats taking part in the Golden Globe Race have to be production boats built before 1988 along classic lines, and their equipment must respect the same constraints.

No electronic devices are allowed nor automatic pilots, so participants have to rely on wind-operated self-steering gears and do their navigation by classic methods, with a sextant and trailing log. Electronic aids to navigation and safety equipment will be carried on board, but are sealed and can only be opened in an emergency.

For us at Cornell Sailing, the Golden Globe Race has a very special significance, as among the participants is Istvan Kopar, who has sailed in several of our previous events: the Columbus anniversary rally America 500 in 1992, the ARC in 1995, and, between 1996 and 1997, the Hong Kong Challenge round the world race.

Istvan Kopar’s Hong Kong Challenge yacht Mol Hungaria

Mol Hungaria at the start in Hawaii

Although it is now 22 years since I took that photograph at the start in Honolulu, I can still vividly remember my amazement and concern as the daring helicopter pilot flew only a few feet above the sea and just as close to the committee vessel on which I was standing.

Jean-Luc van den Heede

Istvan will be in very good company as among the participants in the Golden Globe Race are some outstanding sailors, foremost among them the French legend Jean-Luc van den Heede. The five-time circumnavigator is the record holder of the fastest solo west-about non-stop circumnavigation and at 73 the oldest participant in the race.

Nabil Amra, racing under the Palestinian flag, “so that my Palestinian compatriots would have something
to follow and keep their minds off their daily suffering.”

In these days when there is so much talk about migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, it occurred to me that the make-up of this race is a perfect reflection of the world we live in.

Nearly half the sailors were either born in or are citizens of a different country to the flag they are flying, so we have an American of Palestinian origin flying the Palestinian flag, Istvan Kopar, a Hungarian flying the US flag, Ertan Beskardes, who is of Turkish origin but flying the British flag, where he now resides, Gregor McGuckin, originally from Northern Ireland flying the Irish flag, Mark Slats, born in Australia, flying the Netherlands flag, and two Englishmen, Mark Sinclair and Kevin Farebrother, each flying the Australian flag where they are now settled.

Susie Goodall

Susie Goodall, the only woman among them, whose reason to join was very simple:
It might be lots of fun.”

My presence in Les Sables d’Olonne was a unique opportunity to present each participant with a copy of the latest edition of Cornells’ Ocean Atlas, in the hope that this collection of the latest pilot charts may help them find more favourable winds as they make their way around the world, as expressed in my dedication: “Fair winds wherever this atlas may take you.

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