Please select your home edition
Doyle Sails 2020 - By Sailors For Sailors 728x90 TOP

Great Cape Race 2021: Why sailing needs a no-frills round the world race

by Guy Nowell 6 Nov 2020 01:38 PST October 2021
Great Cape Race 2021-22 © Great Cape Race

In 1969 Sir Robin Knox-Johnston completed the first solo unassisted non-stop circumnavigation. Sir Francis Chichester and Sir Alec Rose went 'around alone' but many of the sailing Establishment still thought that the idea of a fully-crewed round-the-world race was an impossibility. Fortunately, not everyone was listening.

The best deals are done in pubs, and a meeting between the Royal Naval Sailing Association and brewery chief Sam Whitbread (appropriately, in a pub in Portsmouth) led to the Whitbread Race, and when in September 1973 17 boats crossed the start line in Portsmouth, a whole series of legends began.

Conceptually, it was simple stuff: follow the Clipper routes around the world, and stop off at Cape Town, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro along the way. Four races, handicaps, aggregate times to count for an overall result. An adventure waiting for anyone ready to step up to the plate.

After seven editions of the race between 1973 and 1998, the Whitbread Round-the-World Race became the Volvo Ocean Race, and in 2019 just 'The Ocean Race'. Over the latter period the race became more and more a commercial venture dominated by sponsors' fiscal interests, and less an adventure for Corinthian sailors. The course around the world deviated substantially from the traditional Clipper route, dictated by the need to keep the paying customers happy, visiting Scandinavia, the UAE, India, China, and North America. Some said it was more about the money, and less about the sailing. Some suggested that the tail was now wagging the dog.

The variety of boats that contested the early editions of the race have now ended up as two One Design classes, and private owners with a suitable boat and a competent crew being able to participate are a thing of the past. Except...

Now say hello to the Great Cape Race, brainchild of Andrew Cape, some seriously experienced race management (inc one Volvo-winning team CEO), and of course a few beers in the pub. "We're not trying to recreate the Whitbread Race," says Capey, himself a veteran of eight circumnavigating races, "but nowadays it's really hard for a sailor to get a foot in the door for a Volvo or an Ocean Race. The huge amounts of money involved mean that you have to be at the top of the game in order to get picked, and you can't do that without a lot of experience. It's a Catch-22 situation." (Capey's first Whitbread Race was on board Tokio, in 1993-94, and he says he's not getting any younger).

And then there's the money. "Buying into a full professional one design fleet race like The Ocean Race is very, very expensive. Bring your own boat, and bring back handicaps. It's cheaper that way. There are so many boats out there (and their owners, and crews) that would love to do a round-the-world race, but there isn't a race for them to join. Practically anything that races Class 0, and would like something bigger to chew on than a Fastnet or a Bermuda." Stick to the Clipper Route, limit the number of stopovers, and that way you contain both time and costs."

The emphasis of the GCR is fully "on the sailing, not the circus." With expressions of interest already in double figures, quite evidently there are a few people out there who would like their sailing a bit more plain vanilla and a little less knickerbocker glory. This sounds like an idea whose time has come (again): an open race for anyone looking for some real adventure.

Related Articles

BVI Yacht Sales supports Antigua Sailing Week
This is the second year of partnership with the event The leading Caribbean brokerage firm in the region, specialising exclusively in pre owned yacht sales and brokerage, BVI Yacht Sales has continuously supported and promoted sailing events that celebrate the spirit of Caribbean lifestyle. Posted today at 4:11 pm
SailGP changes, AC racing, Ultim dreams
David Schmidt rounds up the racing news While the world is enjoying some fantastic offshore racing, there's also been great inshore action at SailGP and in America's Cup circles. Posted today at 4:00 pm
Dave Valentine on the TX Yacht Club Challenge Cup
A Q&A with Dave Valentine about the 2023 Texas Yacht Club Challenge Cup Sail-World checked in with Dave Valentine, of the Fort Worth Boat Club, to learn more about the FWBC's Texas Yacht Club Challenge Cup. Posted today at 4:00 pm
IMOCA class in the Retour à la Base update
Richomme learns the solo ropes in IMOCA by leading the charge east For a sailor on his first solo IMOCA race - albeit on board a brand new Koch/Finot-Conq rocketship - things have been going pretty well for Yoann Richomme. Posted today at 3:51 pm
Cup Spy Dec 4: Italians break test boat
Luna Rossa put a significant crack in the topside of their LEQ12 after a serious nosedive on Monday Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli had the misfortune to put a significant crack in the topside of their LEQ12 test boat, following a big nosedive on Monday at the end of a test session in Cagliari, Sardinia. Posted today at 12:47 pm
PredictCurrent: High-res tidal currents model
This groundbreaking solution empowers users to navigate local waters around the globe PredictWind, the leader in maritime weather technology, has announced the launch of PredictCurrent, the world's most comprehensive, high-resolution tidal currents model. Posted today at 12:09 pm
Marine Auctions: December Online Auctions
Bidding will commence on Thursday 7th December Bidding will commence on Thursday 7th December and will end on Wednesday 13th December at 2pm AEST. Posted today at 11:48 am
Deborah Fish elected RORC Commodore
She will take up the prestigious role from James Neville Members of the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) have elected Dr Deborah Fish, OBE as the new Commodore of the London and Cowes based Club with effect from 1st January 2024. Posted today at 10:59 am
Celebrations & drama in the Global Solo Challenge
Of the 16 boats that started from A Coruna so far, 15 are still in the game It's been another fantastic week of sailing at the Global Solo Challenge, a week full of achievements for many skippers and drama for some. Posted today at 10:25 am
LawConnect first home in SOLAS Big Boat Challenge
Fifth and final race of the 2023 Raymarine Australian Maxi Championship Nine of the best performing maxi racing yachts in Australia competed in ideal sailing conditions with an 18kt NE breeze on Sydney Harbour this afternoon in the fifth and final race of the 2023 Raymarine Australian Maxi Championship. Posted today at 7:25 am
Armstrong-Suptonic-728x90-2 BOTTOMRooster 2023 - Aquafleece Robe - FOOTERMarine Resources 2022 - FOOTER