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Global Solo Challenge - One watch at a time

by Brian Hancock 26 Nov 2022 06:44 PST
A big swell and a small albatross © Global Solo Challenge

One of my favorite short stories when I was a nipper growing up in South Africa was 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner'.

It was first published in 1959 and was about a boy from a poor family who finds long distance running as an outlet, a way to ease his mind in trying times, his trying times meaning that he was in prison. He garnered some privileges from the authorities because of his prowess as a runner.

The story came out as a movie and the tagline was, "you can play it by rules... or you can play it by ear - what counts is that you play it right for you." If that doesn't resonate with sailors, especially solo sailors, then I am not sure what does.

I am no longer a nipper; in fact I have more than a few gray hairs but as I have navigated my way through life, especially after I became a professional sailor, I have thought about the lessons learned from that simple story. Now, I am thinking about all the sailors that have signed up to do the Global Solo Challenge and how they will navigate their way not only around the world, but through the mental challenges that will inevitably come their way; along the way, as they lap the planet.

My mate Skip Novak, who has done multiple circumnavigations, might just have summed things up perfectly when he wrote his book, 'One Watch at a Time'. It was about the '85/86 Whitbread Round the World Race. I raced with Skip aboard Drum, the boat owned and sponsored by Simon le Bon and the managers of the rock group Duran Duran. You have heard of them, right? Anyway I digress. The point of the title of Skip's book is what all the sailors who have signed up for the Global Solo Challenge need to consider. They might need to also consider this. It's a well worn joke that goes, "how do you eat an elephant?" The answer; "one mouthful at a time."

Let's look at the task that lies ahead. A single-handed, solo, alone, call it what you want, non-stop circumnavigation via the three southern capes is a brutal challenge. For a start it's a long way, around 26,000 miles depending on the route you take. Some of the 52 competitors that have so far signed up for the race might have gone down the same path that my wife and I did many times when we signed up to run various marathons. We had a few martinis, started to reminisce about all the races we had run and then filled in the credit card information for yet another race. In the morning, slightly hungover, we realized what we had done but with the money already spent we went off and ran the race. It's lonely being a long distance runner. It's also lonely being a long distance sailor and I hope that there is no buyers remorse among the competitors that have signed up for this grand adventure.

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