Around the World Alone Non-Stop – With No Modern Electronic Navigational Aids
By Steve Morrell
In 1966, Sir Francis Chichester sailed solo around the world from England and back via the five southernmost great capes: Cape Horn (South America); Cape Agulhas (South Africa— the southernmost cape, being 19 miles farther south than Cape of Good Hope; Cape Leeuwin (southwestern cape of Australia); South East Cape (southern most point of the island of Tasmania); and South West Cape (southernmost point of the main islands of New Zealand). Upon his return, he was celebrated for his voyage, even being knighted by the Queen.
But Chichester made one stop on the way around the world and received assistance. After his return, many were inspired to be the first to sail in the last great challenge in sailing: Sail solo around the world non-stop via the five great capes—a 30,000 mile trip.
A year later, the British Sunday Times announced the Golden Globe Race: Be the first person to sail solo around the world non-stop via the five capes—unassisted by others. There were no rules and no fees; just a trophy for the first to accomplish the feat, and a £5000 UK Pounds prize for the fastest time.
Nine people entered the race and their voyages became something of legend. Entrants were to depart between June 1, 1968 and October 31, 1968. They all departed England at various times in the starting window, as there was no official start. They were all to sail from west to east, making Cape Agulhas off South Africa as the first of the five capes.
Of the nine, five became noteworthy.
French sailor Bernard Moitessier went around the capes, but—because he rejected the commercialization of what he felt was a spiritual quest—upon re-entering the Atlantic, he decided to abandon the race and continued on to the east to settle in Tahiti—even though he was in excellent position to be the first to finish. He sailed around the globe one-and-a-half times by the time he settled in Tahiti.
Chay Blyth entered the Golden Globe with no sailing experience. After rounding Cape Agulhas off South Africa, he retired from the race because of boat problems. Afterwards, he dedicated his life to the sea and later became the first to sail non-stop westwards around the globe.
Donald Crowhurst sailed on a trimaran that he was building, although trimarans were just beginning to be noticed as ocean-going sailboats—even though they had a tendency to flip at sea. Crowhurst was convinced he would be first to finish with such a fast boat, but he had no real experience sailing on the open sea. He departed in a rush on the last day allowed, Oct. 31. His boat was not even finished and his supplies in a mess, even leaving many repair items on shore. After making it to somewhere in the southern Atlantic, communication became erratic—eventually stopping altogether—until some time later when he radioed that he had gone around the world and re-entered the Atlantic. In truth, he had stayed in the Atlantic the entire time. Eventually, he disappeared, but his boat was found, empty, shortly afterwards. He had kept two logs, one fake and one real. In the final analysis, after reviewing his real log and a vague suicide note, it was assumed he jumped overboard. It was a sad ending.
Nigel Tetley’s boat sank with only 1100 nautical miles to go—while he was in the lead in the Atlantic on the return. He sailed on a trimaran and was the first to go around the Horn in a multihull.
One person finished, becoming the first to sail around alone non-stop and to also win the prize with the fastest time. Robin Knox-Johnston sailed in his self-built (in India with two friends), 32-foot, Atkins-designed, double-ended wooden ketch, Suhali, which he sailed from Bombay back home to England, sailing solo from South Africa. When the Golden Globe came up, he was determined to sail in it and went to the Sunday Times for sponsorship. The Times considered him to be the least likely to win, so Knox-Johnston went to the neighboring Sunday Mirror where he arranged sponsorship. During the race, he faced his share of breakdowns. His hull was leaking so he dove on it and caulked it underwater. After losing his self-steering gear, he faced serious problems with his rudder, which he eventually lashed tight. With no rudder, he learned how to balance the boat with the sails so the boat would steer itself on a continuous course on its own.
Golden Globe Race 2018
Fast forward to June 2018—in a world where GPS and electronic charts, satellite communication and other electronic aids make finding your way around the world in a sailboat an easy thing to do. But still difficult is the sailing in the world’s great oceans, especially the southern ocean where no land exists to break up the waves that go around and around the southern end of the globe—the ocean that the Golden Globe Race sails in by rounding the five capes…
Along comes Australian sailor Don McIntyre who comes up with the Golden Globe Race 2018, which celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the original Golden Globe in 1968. In general, the skippers, boats and equipment must be somewhat equal to the conditions that Robin Knox-Johnston had in his 1968 trip.
The 2018 version follows the same route, but this time, experience is required. Entrants must show 8000 ocean sailing miles, along with another 2000 miles solo. Entrants are allowed to enter by invitation only and must be 18 years of age.
The boat must be of an approved design—and designed prior to 1988—and be 32-36 feet long, and it can be of fiberglass construction. Many production designs have already been approved. Plus there are numerous restrictions on sails, propellers, keel (must be full keel), rigging and miscellaneous other items.
No electronic navigation aids are allowed. All entrants must use similar methods available to Knox-Johnston, who used a sextant and tables. There are features that allow for safety, such as a GPS Chartplotter—that will be in a sealed box—that will allow skippers to open in an emergency. Satellite tracking devices will be on all boats, but not available for viewing by the skippers. They will also be able to carry two satellite phones for one-a-week checking-in communication with race headquarters. There will also be a “two-way satellite short text paging unit (to race headquarters only) for twice daily 100-character text reports.”
The rules and restrictions are quite extensive for skipper, boat and equipment and all details are included in the NOR, available at www.goldengloberace.com.
The race begins on June 1, 2018 and everyone must depart within five days.
As of press date in early August, here is the current line up, as described on the race website:
The number of entrants for the Race is limited to 30, and the event is already oversubscribed. Professional sailors and adventurers dominate but they also include an architect, farmer, furniture maker, foreign exchange trader, engineer, teacher and social media technologist. All have considerable short—and single-handed sailing experience, one having logged five solo circumnavigations. They are from Australia (4), Brazil (1), Estonia (1), France (7), Ireland (1), Italy (2), New Zealand (1), Norway (1), Palestine (1), Russia (1), Switzerland (1), UK (5), and the USA (4). Their average age is 48. The youngest are 27 (one British woman, two Italian men and one American). The oldest is a 71 year-old Frenchman.