The Golden Globe Race (GGR) kicked off from Les Sables-d'Olonne France on September 4th, and if you aren't in the know, this is a different kind of race. It mimics the original race that took place in 1968 in which Sir Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person ever to sail non-stop, solo, around the world.
The current GGR stays within the traditions of that original race by keeping entrants to only utilize yachts and equipment that were available in the time of that original race. No modern gadgets, no GPS, etc. This demands that the entrants utilize the sun and the stars to navigate. They are highly isolated. This race is a hard-core homage to the original bad asses of solo sailing.
The Original Golden Globe Race
In the journey I am on with my sailboat and her refit I have gravitated to the world of solo-sailing as my pursuit. I have a long way to go to gain the needed experience to make any large passages solo, but that is the goal. I have befriended some very experienced single-handers and I am soaking up all the knowledge I can from them. I have also read many books, some directly related to that famous original 1968 race. One book in particular by Bernard Moitessier titled 'The Long Way' has been highly inspirational for me.
Moitessier was one of the sailors in that original race and would have arguably won the race had he not decided to remain at sea. After having circled the southern ocean via the Great Capes, instead of heading back up north to the finish line and embrace the fame that would have certainly come, he decided that he needed to remain at sea to "save his soul". He continued on through the southern ocean to round the planet once again finally stopping in the South Pacific. His journey at sea aboard his boat Joshua was a spiritual journey above all else.
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, also in that original race, decided that he would make that left turn at Cape Horn and return to Europe becoming the first person to complete the solo, non-stop journey.
But the race had many other trials, challenges, and strange twists. The book "A Voyage For Madmen" by Peter Nichols is an excellent read about the bravery and challenges faced by the 9 sailors that set out on the adventure, with only one making it back to the finish line.
One particular competitor, Donald Crowhurst, basically lost it out at sea during the race and failed both the physical and the spiritual journey all together. A film on that can be seen here.
Demons at Sea
I have listened very carefully to the single-handed sailors that I have met or read. Of course adventure & exploration are a driving force, but I have also heard them speak of the spiritual journeys they undertake while being alone at sea. I've heard them speak of forging a deeper connection with themselves because when at sea alone there is no-one but yourself. You are forced to confront yourself. A true opportunity to face your demons.
Moitessier said once in an interview: "We all have to fight against something. And if we don’t fight, we never evolve. We just stay what we are, which means we stay a bunch of monkeys. We have to fight against something that is bigger than us; we have to create something bigger than our little selves."
To me, being truly alone to face the inner conflicts that are so easily muted in our TikTok Kardashian society is terrifying, but it is also the true adventure and challenge I seek and need. Couple that with the physical and the technical challenges of sailing a boat alone, keeping it running, repairing items as quickly as possible, and holding oneself to a higher standard. Procrastination, low self expectations, slackness.. these are not going to work. Can I hold myself to a higher purpose while facing the demons I need to conquer unabated by the noise of the outside world?
I want to go into that darkness, fight the dragon, and hopefully emerge a truer person more connected to my soul. Evolve from the monkey Moitessier spoke of.
So imagining sailors competing in a race is one thing, but realizing that a spiritual journey is likely happening underway on each vessel at the same time adds so much intrigue to the race for me.
The GGR 2022
There are many races that can get a wannabe sailor like me excited. I have friends who love the Sail GP which is like the Formula 1 of sailing, the America's Cup, the Sydney to Hobart race, etc. But these are team based and while exciting, I more enjoy the the single-handed races because of the demon at sea aspect.
Singlehanded races like the Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race, the Vendee Globe, the Jester Challenge, and others are also exciting, but to me the GGR adds such an element of personal triumph, challenge, and legacy like none of the others. I imagine the thoughts that the competitors are thinking as they fight the doldrums, as they are faced with heavy weather. Alone. Their joyful moments and their loneliness.
As I write this, the pack is firmly between the two continents (Africa and South America) working their way south, catching the winds with an eye on getting to the slingshot of the Southern Ocean. That notorious stretch of water that circles the planet with virtually unlimited fetch. Unpredictable conditions, cold temperatures, and isolation; now the demons aren't only in the mind.
From what I've picked up by listening to single-handed bad-asses like Jerome Rand, Matt Rutherford, and reading the accounts of Moitessier and Sir-Robin; where the sailors and their vessels have any weakness, internally or externally, the ocean (especially the Southern Ocean) will find it and exploit it. This years fleet is not exempt.
So by watching the tracker for the 2022 GGR, and re-reading the accounts of the past & current solo sailing legends, I am able to engage with this race in a personally creative way. Imagining what is going on in the mind of the captains, the in-between moments aboard. I look at the weather they are experiencing and ask myself, what would I be doing. I think about them, and I send them my positive energy.
We have very limited time on this planet to achieve extraordinary things, if we so choose. To that end I am in awe of these people that embark on such audacious adventures. I am envious of their spiritual journey. That, to me, is the real challenge of life that so few pursue.
To understand the current race as a whole and its competitors, the best resource is the GGR 2022 website. I am a web professional and this site is one of the best organized and usable sites out there. You can explore each captain, the boats, the legacy of the race, and so much more. It would be ridiculous for me to duplicate that information here.
As of this writing 3 vessels have dropped out. The rest of the fleet continues south and the really 'sporty' part of the journey is in front of them. Now is a great time to start tracking the race, read the various articles and podcasts about the sailors, read the books that recount that incredible first race in '68, and imagine you are onboard a vessel. Imagine what is happening. Share the energy.
Below is a list of resources about the race (past and present), sailing the southern ocean, and journeys that will help to immerse yourself in the legacy and current challenge of this incredible journey:
Sailing Into Oblivion - Jerome Rand has been frequently updating his listeners on the race and his thoughts based on his experience.
Paul Trammell - Paul has interviewed a few of the competitors in this years race and frequently provides updates & thoughts on the race. He has an excellent interview with Elliot Smith (Episode 20).
If you know of other resources to add here please post a comment.
Mike D. is the founder of Sail Junky Magazine. Striving to find more purpose in life, Mike writes and shares about his journey to rediscover his passion for living a fulfilled life, especially through the medium of sailing. firstname.lastname@example.org