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Global Solo Challenge: How long does it take to go from novice to round-the-world sailor?

by Global Solo Challenge 6 Aug 03:14 PDT
Chay Blyth - British Steel - 1971 - First person to complete a west-about solo circumnavigation by the three Great Capes. © Global Solo Challenge

One of the pioneers in the World of Solo Circumnavigation is Sir Charles (Chay) Blyth. Up until 1968, Blyth's only seafaring experience was as a long-distance rower when he, along with John Ridgway, rowed the Atlantic Ocean.

In the Sunday Times, Golden Globe Race of that year, he entered this race with no sailing experience, whatsoever. Indeed, Author Peter Nichols wrote that "Few people leaving a dock for an afternoon sail in a dinghy, have cast off with less experience than Chay Blyth had when he set sail alone around the World." It is even reported that Blyth followed some friends in their yacht for the first part of the race so that he could copy them!

Blyth was sailing a 30 ft yacht called Dytiscus III, and incredibly despite his lack of experience and knowledge of sailing, he actually made it beyond the Cape of Good Hope. Then, in storm force 10-11, the fibreglass twin-keeled yacht, broached repeatedly, breaking the self-steering gear.

The yacht was also knocked down three times before Blyth decided to retire.

With hindsight, the boat that he was sailing, was deemed totally unsuitable for such a journey.

In 1971, still having only three years of sailing experience behind him, Blyth became the first man to circumnavigate the Globe, solo and non-stop westwards, so that was against all the prevailing winds.

In contrast, all of the entrants to the Global Solo Challenge (GSC) have considerable sailing experience, with the number of nautical miles already covered by each sailor being measured in tens, if not hundreds of thousands of nautical miles.

The organisers, have set a framework of the minimum requirements for the boats to be used, and whilst they may assist and advise the entrants, at the end of the day, it is for the individual skippers to decide if their boats and indeed they themselves are up to the challenge

To ensure that the skippers are aware of their own abilities, the suitability of their boats and its equipment, the organisers have stipulated that every sailor will have sailed the boat that they are going to be using in the challenge for at least 2,000 nautical miles, solo and non-stop before they can even get to the starting line.

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