Please select your home edition
Edition
Selden

Norwegian skipper Are Wiig demonstrates legendary seamanship in the Golden Globe Race 2018

by David Schmidt 10 Sep 08:00 PDT September 10, 2018
Are Wiig was 3rd in fleet when passing through the Marina Rubicon photo gate in Lanzarote - Golden Globe Race © Christophe Favreau / PPL / GGR

As someone who grew up sailing offshore, I was taught at an early age that one only presses "the button" on their EPIRB or personal locator beacon in moments of absolute emergency. True, everyone's definition of an "absolute emergency" varies, but two recent experiences - one personal, the other public and international - caught my attention and brought the responsibilities involved with pressing said button into a new light.

As any experienced adventurer or mariner should well know and appreciate, entire teams of search and rescue professionals are called to put their lives on the line each time the button is pressed, adding a gravity that should help distressed souls determine if their situation qualifies as an absolute emergency.

Sadly, this isn't always the case.

A few weeks ago I was hiking in the mountains near my hometown of Seattle, Washington, with two friends who are both experienced sailors. A few miles from the trailhead, we encountered a large party of hikers who had pulled off to the side of the trail, their packs open and first-aid equipment on display. Apparently, one of the hikers stumbled and broke or injured his wrist (or possibly his forearm) and banged his head on a rock.

While there was some (limited) blood on the trail, our injured hero was lucky to be hiking with two doctors and three nurses, all of whom where swarming the patient, tending to his injuries, calming him down (its fair to say that he lost his head) and generally stabilizing the situation. My friends and I asked if we could provide assistance, but we were told that the group was in great shape, given their mini ER team of medical professionals.

Also, as we were hiking away, one of the nurses casually mentioned that they would be fine, as they had already pressed the SOS button on their PLB.

While the old saw about never judging another man without walking a mile in his hiking boots stands true, my friends and I couldn't believe that someone who was surrounded by medical help and was only separated from his car by maybe two or three miles of (relatively) flat terrain would judge this situation to be an "absolute emergency". True, his wing was damaged and his head was bumped, but his legs and feet were A-OK, and his party had more than enough medical experience, equipment and daylight to get him out safely, sans needing to call in the cavalry.

This moment was made all the more poignant by the fact that one of my companion's has a brother who serves in the United States Coast Guard, so - for her - pressing the button has much more personal potential consequences.

Compare this rather questionable display of human perseverance and commitment to adventure with the awe-inspiring story of Are Wiig (58; NOR), a professional seaman, engineer and marine surveyor who was participating in the singlehanded Golden Globe Race 2018 aboard Olleanna, his OE32 masthead cutter. On August 27, 2018, Wiig called race headquarters on his satellite phone to inform them that he has been rolled through 360 degrees roughly 400 miles southwest of Cape Town, South Africa, and had suffered a broken spar, a broken cabin porthole, and other damages.

According to reports, Wiig, who was belowdecks and uninjured, was sailing in strong 35-45 knot winds and negotiating 22-25 foot seas when the incident occurred. While Wiig was quick to cut most of the rig away to prevent holing his hull, he wisely used some of the canvas as a sea anchor, buying himself time to calmly re-evaluate his lonely situation and formulate a plan for self-rescue.

While this misfortune spelled the end to his race (he had been laying in fourth place at the time of his dismasting), at no point did Mr. Wiig use his EPIRB or PLB, nor did he request outside help.

Flash forward to the evening of September 3, and Wiig and Olleanna limped into Cape Town under a jury rig. Impressively, Wiig had actually sea-trialed his jury-rigged spar system (comprised of two spinnaker poles) prior to starting the GGR 2018, proof positive that races and even some survival situations are won and lost before the starting guns sound.

"This was a great display of seamanship," said Don McIntyre, the GGR 2018's race chairman, in an official race communication.

Peter Muller, a Cape Town resident and one of two local sailors who were on hand to welcome Wiig into Cape Town, offered a sobering assessment of Olleanna in the same race communication: "His boat took a hell of a beating," reported Muller. "The mast had broken in at least two places and the pieces were lashed down on deck. She had a cracked deck and popped porthole. [Wiig] said that the cracks and damage on the starboard side went right through the boat. He had only seen this type of damage before in his work [as a surveyor] when boats had fallen over onto concrete when stored on land."

While I'm no medical professional, nor have I ever truly been in an "absolute emergency" situation (touch wood) outside of driving in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, I've certainly suffered enough backcountry bumps, bruises, back spasms and boat bites to know that there is a stark difference between a relatively minor situation that unfurls less than three miles from the trailhead while in the company of multiple doctors and nurses, and the kind of offshore battering that Wiig and Olleanna sustained, alone and hundreds of miles from dry land.

And while I offer only minimal judgment of the hiker, I wholeheartedly raise my glass to Mr. Wiig, who demonstrated the kind of seamanship, gumption and perseverance that is defining the Golden Globe Race 2018.

As for pushing "the button", all sailors are advised to ponder these two tales of "absolute emergency", and to always consider the lives and welfare of the brave men and women who are duty-bound to respond to emergency calls.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

Related Articles

AC36 news, Susie Goodall successfully rescued
Latest newsletter from David Schmidt of Sail-World International sailing news is giving Pacific Northwest sailors some mental reprieve until our next regatta-rain, wind and all-or until the snow gets deep enough for the powder skis. Posted on 11 Dec
A tsunami of Am Cup Challenges hits Auckland
The flurry of Late Notices of Challenge for the America's Cup, caught everyone by surprise As Emirates Team New Zealand's Chief Operating Officer Kevin Shoebridge told the Auckland Council's Governing Body on Thursday afternoon, they all came in on the last day [November 30], and three came in within the last five minutes of entry time. Posted on 11 Dec
The Kite Douse
Master photographer, Andrea Francolini, calls it 'A study of shapes' Drawing inspiration from 'the dance' when Bow1 and Bow2 get enveloped in the kite as it comes down, 'Il Duce' turned in these images. Master photographer, Andrea Francolini, calls it, 'A study of shapes'. Posted on 9 Dec
A Q&A with Peter Becker and Joe Cooper about YASA
A Q&A with Peter Becker and Joe Cooper about the Young American Sailing Academy I checked in with Peter Becker and Joe Cooper, who serve as president and board member (respectively) of the Young American Sailing Academy, via email, to learn more about YASA's mission to help develop the next generation of American offshore sailors. Posted on 5 Dec
AC36, RORC Transatlantic Race and GGR 2018 news
Latest newsletter from David Schmidt of Sail-World While the international sailing media has rightly been focusing on offshore sailing for the past few weeks, movement has also been afoot in sailing's grandest event, the America's Cup. Posted on 4 Dec
Kindly Leave the Stage
What happens to ex-Olympic classes? The Carnival is over...but the Show must go on! These comparisons with a circus have never been stronger, all the more now that the Finn has been told to "kindly leave the stage", with the Olympic Regatta at Enoshima bringing an end to 72 years service. Posted on 3 Dec
Hard not to miss
He's known for his collection of shirts He's known for his collection of shirts. Perhaps even that moustache too. He certainly knows the pointy end from the blunt, as well. Posted on 2 Dec
From surfer to Round the World Race winner
We speak to Clipper Race skipper Wendy Tuck We talked to Wendy Tuck, winner of the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race who is also the first female skipper ever to have won a round the world race of any type. She has also recently been awarded Australian Sailing's Female Sailor of the Year. Posted on 29 Nov
Action in the RdR, Transatlantic Race and GGR 2018
Offshore adventures in the Route du Rhum, RORC Transatlantic Race and Golden Globe Race 2018 Three classic events are currently unfurling: the tail end of the Route du Rhum, the opening salvo of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Transatlantic Race, and the ongoing saga (now on Day 149) known as the Golden Globe Race 2018. Posted on 27 Nov
He's back, she's terrific, and they're expanding!
The great Frank Quealey wrote a piece during week about the 18 footers The great Frank Quealey wrote a piece during week about the season proper for the legendary 18 Footers, which has now commenced in earnest. Posted on 25 Nov
P&B Autumn Sale 2018 - FooterMelges 14 2018 FooterSOUTHERN-SPARS-OFFICIAL-SUPPLIER-52-SS728-X-90 Bottom