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American Ronnie Simpson's Open 50 is the 52nd entry in the Global Solo Challenge

by Global Solo Challenge 22 Aug 06:59 PDT
Ronnie Simpson - USA © Global Solo Challenge

Ronnie Simpson from Honolulu in Hawaii is one of the most experienced sailors entered in the Global Solo Challenge to date.

At 37 years of age, he is in his prime physical condition to take on this challenge, which he hopes to be a stepping stone for his ultimate dream: participating in a Vendée Globe. He has chosen a 1994 fixed keel David Lyons Open 50 originally designed for the BOC Challenge and that has proven itself as a reliable boat in many voyages ever since, including a round trip from the US to Cape Horn and back with her previous owner.

We are very pleased to have attracted Ronnie's entry which raises the number of confirmed Open 50s entries to 4, with 2 more potential skippers in the process of making a final decision. As a combat-wounded and retired Marine Corps veteran Ronnie certainly does not lack determination and drive, two key factors in pulling off a round the world campaign. His extensive sailing experience will shorten the time required to become acquainted with the boat and ready to set off.

Ronnie's 52nd entry does not come as a surprise, as we still have several skippers trying to put together their campaign. Some prefer to do so in the background and only announce the project when they are sure they can make it, others come forward and public in earlier stages, hoping to attract interest in their campaign.

Whatever the strategy, fundraising is a common challenge for all participants. Some have decided to put their campaign on hold and have, for the time being, withdrawn their entry. Others may still come forward, especially after the Route du Rhum, where several boats/skippers that could potentially enter the GSC will be on the starting blocks. The final number of starters is anyone's guess, but even if just half of the entered skippers eventually made it to the starting line, the GSC would certainly earn itself a sizeable place in the panorama of offshore solo yachting events.

As organisers we are incredibly happy with how things are developing, several high profile skippers have been in touch recently, indicating a progressive increase in the interest from more experienced and professional skippers. As in Ronnie's case, the GSC could over time become a stepping stone before a Vendée Globe campaign where skippers can demonstrate their skills and affirm their credibility as offshore sailors.

Interview with Ronnie Simpson

Where does your passion for sailing come from?

The original idea to sail stemmed from the idea of freedom and of being able to cover great distances with just the wind. Once I began sailing however, the passion was continually fuelled by all of the amazing doors that this sport has opened up for me. Whether competing in amazing races on big boats with incredible sailors, or leisurely cruising to find surf in the South Pacific or the endless income opportunities available, my life has become intertwined with the sport and I'm forever grateful for that.

What lessons have you learned from sailing?

Sailing has taught me how much I am capable of. I've never had to dig deeper than I have during my bigger solo races and that has taught me that I can do anything with the right approach. If sailing has taught me one thing, it's that it taught me to dare to dream.

What brought you to like single-handed sailing?

Sailing always represented freedom to me, and the ultimate freedom is to be able to sail your own boat whenever and wherever you please. So it is inevitable that I began sailing solo. What kept me hooked though is a strong desire to sail in the Vendée Globe one day.

What prompted you to sign up for this event?

I had contemplated this race since it was announced but I did not have a boat that was suitable. As soon as the Open 50 was offered to me by the current owner, the decision was a no-brainer. My ultimate goal is to sail in the Vendée Globe, and this opportunity excites me on a lot of levels.

How do you plan to prepare for this event?

I will begin sailing the boat in late August and then we will officially launch the campaign on September 1 in Portland, Maine. I will then sail the boat down the east coast of the USA before doing some fully-crewed racing in the Caribbean over the winter. After the Caribbean 600, I will do a solo qualifier voyage back to Maine and then do a final refit before the solo delivery to Europe.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge?

Obviously, raising the money necessary to get to the starting line in good shape is always a challenge on an endeavour like this. It's a huge uphill battle to just start the race! And then once you start, you have to do whatever it takes to finish, so that isn't very easy either. If you're so lucky to finish, then you'll probably go depressed from the emptiness that sets in once you finish off a campaign like this and don't know what comes next.

This race is going to be really hard from start to finish, and then even afterwards. I just tell myself that if I place one foot in front of the other, it will all turn out okay in the end.

Tell us about your boat.

I am sailing the Open 50 'Sparrow'. She is a fixed-keel Open 50 that was designed by David Lyons and built for the BOC Around the World race. She has raced around the world twice and was recently sailed from California to Maine via Cape Horn by the current owner. She has just been re-fit at Maine Yacht Center and is in great shape, though we will plan to upgrade sails and other systems before the start.

Do you intend to link this personal challenge with a social message?

As a combat-wounded and retired Marine Corps veteran whose life has been changed by sailing, I feel very strongly about the many benefits that sailing can provide our veterans. I am proud to be raising funds and awareness for the veterans' sailing non-profit US Patriot Sailing.

I also hope that this campaign can do something to promote environmental conservation and diversity in sailing.

Sailing experience:

  • 130,000+ miles at sea
  • 19 crossings between mainland and Hawaii
  • 4 fully-crewed races to Hawaii (1 class win)
  • 2 solo races to Hawaii (1 class win)
  • 1 participation Sydney - Hobart
  • 10,000 mile solo cruise USA to New Zealand on an engine-less 27-footer
  • 14,000 mile solo cruise around the Pacific on a 34-footer
  • Numerous inshore, coastal and offshore races and deliveries.

About the boat:

  • Boat name: Sparrow
  • Project: Open 50 fixed keel (David Lyons)
  • Sail number: USA 56914
  • Year: 1994
  • LOA: 50ft
  • Displacement: 8,180 kgs
  • Upwind sail area: A lot
  • Downwind sail area: Even more

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