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Two additional skippers complete the Golden Globe Race 2018

by David Schmidt 26 Mar 09:00 PDT March 26, 2019
Istvan Kopar umping for joy as Puffin crosses the finish line - 2019 Golden Globe Race © Jane Zhou / GGR / PPL

As spring steadily increases its much-welcomed march across North America, and as the Caribbean racing circuit delivers even more heat to an already simmering pot, it's normal for sailors' attention spans to pivot to buoy racing and thoughts of the long and promising season that lies ahead. While it's tempting to get sucked into the latest round-the-buoys results from destinations exotic or far removed (or, depending on one's latitude and longitude, the local YC), it's also important to remember the long-term hard work and dedication of the skippers who are still contesting the Golden Globe Race 2018.

A quick rewind: The "GGR 2018" began on July 1, 2018, and is a race for skippers using period-specific vessels (read: full keels and displacement), sextants (read: no electronic navigation) and radio communications (read: single sideband radios, no sat-comms, shy of emergencies), in an effort to recreate the trials and tribulations experienced by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston (GBR) and his fellow competitors in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race of 1968-1969. Knox-Johnston, of course, won this race in 312 days, becoming the first person to sail solo and unassisted around the world, and on January 29, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (FRA; 73), arrived in Les Sables d'Olonne, France after "just" 211 days, 23 hours, 12 minutes and 19 seconds to claim top prize in the GGR 2018.

Van Den Heede was joined on the winner's podium by Mark Slats (NED; 41), who crossed the finishing line on January 31 with a total elapsed time of 214 days, 12 hours, 18 minutes and 30 seconds.

These finishes not only delivered an exciting - albeit slow - circumnavigation race for sailing fans, but they also proved race-organizer Don McIntyre's operating thesis that an event that usurps technology with old-fashioned adventure and seamanship would be wildly attractive to a sailing community otherwise accustomed to watching professional sailors racing aboard corporate-sponsored IMOCA 60s, Volvo Ocean 65s and the mighty "Ultime" class of trimarans (not to mention other professional-sailing gigs).

Now, months later, two more skippers have sailed their slow steeds across the finishing line, completing the winner's podium.

On March 14, skipper Uku Randmaa (EST; 56), sailing aboard his Rustler 36 Masthead Sloop One and All (the same design used by both Van Den Heede and Slats), crossed the finishing line with a time of 255 days, 14 hours and 5 seconds to take third place in this demanding offshore contest.

"The hardest part of the voyage was lack of wind. I was stuck in the St Helena high pressure system for more than a week," said Randmaa in an official GGR 2018 press release. "My biggest worry was keeping the boat in one piece. I was worried that if something broke I might not be able to finish the race."

Additionally, Randmaa admitted to loosing almost 45 pounds during the course of his circumnavigation, however this personal sacrifice wasn't his biggest concern. "The biggest pollution mainly plastic was after rounding the Cape of Good Hope," said Randmaa. "There were streams of it in the ocean. At one time time, I came across a door and on another occasion, a complete tree. If I had hit that, I think my steering would have broken."

Then, March 21st, skipper Istvan Kopar (USA; 66) crossed the finishing line to become the fourth person to have completed the GGR 2018 with a finishing time of 266 days, 14 hours and 5 seconds.

Keen readers of this newsletter will remember that Kopar was battling a severe black-mold infestation aboard his Tradewind 35 Puffin, which began in the Southern Ocean due to a lack of ventilation and threatened to turn his boat into a floating Superfund site. Additionally, Kopar battled steering-related problems.

"This is the happiest day of my life," said Kopar in an official GGR 2018 release. "And this [Les Sables d'Olonne] is the best place to be...the capital of offshore sailing."

"It was torture for me," continued Kopar in the same official release, describing his circumnavigation. "My self-steering failed almost from Day 1. The boat itself did not have a problem. It was I who had the problems. Luck was just not with me. I think I'm done with sailing now and will take up gardening instead."

Irrespective of his future plans, Kopar, the lone American to start or finish the GGR 2018, can rest assured that he accomplished something that cannot be purchased with a currency as thin as mere money, and that no-one can ever take away.

As of this writing, this leaves a sole GGR 2018 competitor, Finland's Tapio Lehtinen (61), sailing aboard Asteria, his Gaia 36 masthead sloop, still racing out of a starting class of 18 skippers. According to the GGR 2018 leaderboard, Lehtinen is expected to finish racing on May 13 at 2134 hours, local time.

Sail-World offers our biggest congratulations to Mr Randmaa and Mr Kopar for finishing a race that's far tougher, both physically and mentally, than just about any challenge we can think of (unless we start combining celestial navigation sailboat racing with "fair means" high-altitude mountaineering), and for rising to their respective challenges with great courage, determination and style.

Finally, we also wish Mr Lehtinen safe and rewarding sailing during the remaining 3,905 nautical miles separating his bow from the Les Sables d'Olonne finishing line.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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