PLANNING A LONG VOYAGE
Six months is really quite a long time, at least when it comes to travel planning.
Sailors, who have a boat to pack as well as their bags, can find the weeks flashing by though as extra, unforeseen jobs jump out from every corner and every task completed reveals another new task that cannot be ignored. One apparently fairly popular way to deal with the ever-expanding jobs list is just to set sail anyway and have anything that really turns out to be a problem fixed or air-freighted in en route.
Thanks to the wonders of modern logistics, it is possible to repair, replace and replenish from just about any port in the world. Provided, that is, that the credit card can take the pounding – or the shore team (“Dear Grandma…”) is prepared to pick up the bill. Family can usually be relied on for a good bail-out or two: blood is still thicker than water and with deep blue sea between the parties there is plenty of time and space for everyone to work through the emotional consequences of raiding the piggy bank.
And when the wanderer returns, nobody thinks to ask about the difficulties (torments?) encountered along the way because, well, they’re back now and it’s time for them to pipe down and get back on the hamster wheel. Except that there are some for whom the scale of the achievement is actually directly proportional to the suffering endured, for whom every trial recounted makes the halo shine a little brighter, for whom embellishing the darker side of the tale – as and when the occasion merits – is all part of the game. Stories need to add up though, in the mind of the audience at least, even if there is a rather different truth lurking in the head of the protagonists.
SALON NAUTIQUE DE PARIS
Paris wasn’t as I remembered it. Not just because a daring early-morning high-wire artist was making his way from the Eiffel Tower to the Trocadéro 100 metres up in the air (with a cross-wind, no less), bringing traffic to a complete standstill, but also because over at the Porte de Versailles two separate gatherings had drawn together some 44 sailors, all of them riddled with the solo non-stop sailing virus and preparing for the trip of their life (not for the first time in the case of repeat offenders like French nautical institution Jean-Luc van den Heede, for whom the upcoming adventure will be his sixth and, in all probability, slowest solo circumnavigation).
The agenda included press events in Les Sables as well as Paris, the recording of short video portraits and a round of introductions to an excited public and the insatiable cameras.
The gathered sailors were a very diverse bunch – some hugely experienced and others relatively new to the game, some very well resourced and others scratching around for every penny – and the events too are quite different from each other. I have already addressed some of the more pronounced differences in part 1 of this piece, but there is certainly more to discuss.
GOLDEN GLOBE ROUTE – GGR:
The would-be GGR skippers have handed over their entry fee and signed up to a rigorously organised race with a substantial rule book, including financial penalties and other consequences, in exchange for the promise of media exposure (perhaps even fame) and the chance to compete for a cash prize (quite possibly the main draw for some of those entered). The organisers have been keen to ensure a thoroughly international line-up of competitors to maximise interest around the world, even allowing themselves a measure of wriggle-room in relation to the rules where necessary to build a well-rounded and interesting field.
One particularly notable entrant is Indian yachtsman Abhilash Tomy, who found himself a celebrity in his home country after becoming the first Indian to sail around the world non-stop and unassisted. Tomy is due to race the GGR a newly constructed replica of Suhaili, an attraction that adds a special sparkle to the event as a tangible link to the original 50 years ago.
LA LONGUE ROUTE – LLR:
Away from the GGR another group of sailors have decided, for all kinds of reasons, that trying to sail around the world non-stop is challenge and motivation enough. Inspired in large part by the story of Bernard Moitessier, this event leaves the choice of boat and equipment very largely to the skippers’ discretion.
It would have been tempting at first to characterise the GGR and the LLR as typically British and typically French respectively, but this angle does not work so well now that the GGR has relocated to Les Sables and both events are being organised in France. Philosophically at least, however, the two remain quite distinct.
The sailors themselves have much in common of course, not least the fact that they are preparing to take on a massive challenge – perhaps the ultimate challenge in sailing circles – and it is not surprising that there are some familiar and highly respected names among the starters. Portraits of the competitors can be foundhere:
France looks set to have a total of 20 skippers in the two events, underlining once again how the tricoleur dominates short-handed offshore sailing. The UK currently stands second with six entrants, followed by the USA with three. The GGR will be contested by sailors from 14 nations, whereas
just six nationsare represented in the LLR fleet.
The first question for aspiring GGR skippers when it comes to financial planning is probably not so much “What would I like to have?” as “What do I need to have to be allowed to race?”. I have heard it suggested that making the start line of the GGR is likely to cost between €200,000 and €300,000 per skipper, largely due to the expense of establishing technical compliance with the wide-ranging rulebook. This obviously puts the event absolutely out of reach for many sailors: there is only so much a person can save by living like a monk while preparing the boat and the financial burden of the race itself is exacerbated by what is likely to amount to more or less two years with no outside income. Of course what really determines whether one sees this as daunting financial challenge or stimulating diversion with attractive fringe benefits is one’s position in life: the up-and-coming name with a family to support might well do the sums and think again, whereas any second thoughts among the “comfortably off” are likely to have other causes.
Calls to sponsors and financial backers seem so far to have largely fallen on deaf ears if the websites are anything to go by, but support in kind is making a welcome difference to many campaigns.
There are no enforced costs for LLR entrants, who are left almost entirely to their own devices in terms of planning and preparation.
It would perhaps make sense when discussing budgets to consider the responsibilities assumed by the event organiser. If there is no event organiser, there is no question of the organiser’s responsibilities; as soon as an organiser exists, however, responsibilities come into play – and it seems it is not just the organiser who has a say in what they might be.
The decision of the French Sailing Federation (FFV) to go public with its concerns about the safety of the GGR and even suggest that it might not be allowed to start from Les Sables underlines the point: the organisers have decided that boats are not to carry modern communication systems and the FFV apparently views this as the organisers coming up short in their duty of care to competitors. If, as has been suggested, the organisers have imposed this restriction in part in order to maintain control of potential media content from the boats (and the source of income such content represents), finding a solution acceptable to the FFV may not be straightforward. Time will tell whether this rigid rule will remain or whether the sailors will be spared total social isolation and allowed to communicate with family at home, for example, albeit perhaps as a side-effect of the stronger safety measures required to relieve the burden of responsibility on the organisers and convince the FFV to give the green light.
As the two changes of start venue attest, not everything has gone to plan so far in the lead-up to the GGR. I imagine the man behind the idea of the GGR 2018, Don McIntyre, was hoping for an influx of weighty sponsors in whose financial lee he could devote himself entirely to the organisation of this anything but straightforward event – an area in which he undoubtedly has a wealth of experience (one need look no further than the meticulously detailed conditions of entry for proof of this).
Reading his explanation of his thinking in relaunching the race, it seems McIntyre is now working to make the best of the situation as it stands by concentrating all his efforts on the realisation side and entrusting the all-important matter of financing the event to his own company, McIntyre Adventure.
Are we overstimulated today? Have we become impervious to the stock superlatives? I have no hesitation in answering yes to both questions – and not just because I do my business in a segment of the market dedicated to the slower-moving sailor. The type of sailors who dream of long passages over blue water are generally left cold by the lightweight flyers currently in favour among our most prominent naval architects.
We live in an age when records fall almost daily, a single-hander can circle the Earth in a fraction over six weeks and the most advanced boats are the product of gargantuan budgets stumped up by big companies confident (or should that be optimistic?) that there will be enough individuals – customers – out there in the wider world glued to their latest device for every scrap of content from the boat to make the whole exercise financially worth the effort. Like the Formula 1 circus, the highest-profile professional sailing events invite us to share in the “drama and passion” even though the sport we are watching has next to nothing in common with the sport we practice. And at the end of it we are left with a vague notion that we really ought to try Company X for our next set of tyres and look into insuring the boat with Company Y.
The GGR will be ploughing a different furrow and it will be interesting to see whether it is possible these days to maintain a sufficient level of tension and excitement over a period of nine months or so, especially as the relatively snail-like pace of the competitors will make it difficult to feed the media’s hunger for regular updates without creating the impression that, actually, there are really a great many days when nothing the least bit sensational happens.
The list below, which makes no claim to be complete, shows the boats currently registered for the GGR together with their choice of silent helm.
Mark John Sinclair 59 AU
Mark Slats 40 NED
Nabil W Amra 42 Palestine
SV Lel May
Francesco Cappelletti 39 ITA
Endurance 35 ?
Jean-Luc van den Heede 70 FR
Gregor McGuckin IRE 31
SV Gary Luck
Kevin Farebrother 48 AU
SV Silver Heels
Tradewind 35 ex DON?
Loic Lepage 61 FR
SEA FEATHER + HYDROVANE
Ertan Beskardes 56 UK
SV Lazy Otter
Are Wig 58 NOR
Susie Bundegaard Goodall 28 UK
Uku Randmaa 54 Estonia
Philippe Péché 56 FR
Abilash Thomy, 38 IND
Suaheli / Eric Replica
Istvan Kopar, 62, US
Antoine Cousot 44 FR
Igor Zaretskiy 66 RU
SV The Grand
Francesco Cappelletti 39 ITA
Endurance 35 ?
Tapio Lehtinen 59 FIN
Benello Gaia 36
Nabil W Amra 42 Palestine
SV Lel May