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Global Solo Challenge: Utmost excitement from beginning to end

by Global Solo Challenge 30 May 03:16 PDT
Global Solo Challenge © Global Solo Challenge

A new and unique sailing event will set sail from A Coruña, Spain, at the end of August 2023 and is intended for all those offshore sailing enthusiasts who have a dream: circumnavigating the globe non-stop and single-handed.

Sailing around the globe, solo, non-stop is undoubtedly a daring feat, which is usually a domain of elite ocean sailors with multi-million-dollar campaigns. But it doesn't have to be that way anymore, as the GLOBAL SOLO CHALLENGE aspires at being as inclusive as possible, allowing skippers with a wide range of boats and budgets to take part in the event, the only restriction is that the boats must satisfy GSC strict safety regulations to sail in the extreme southern oceans.

With all this said, you might ask yourself, but how is the event going to be fair considering the great variety of boats that will be on the start line, ranging from a Sparkman & Stephens 34 to an IMOCA 60? Well, this is exactly why the format of the event is unlike any other.

To give all entries a fair chance to cross the finish line first, the organization has adopted a staggered start system. Depending on the yacht design and speed potential, there will be entries that will set off at the end of August and others that will not set sail until halfway through December. Summing up, slower boats start first, and faster boats leave later, based on their expected circumnavigation time. This way every entry has a chance of winning.

Truly dramatic from beginning to end, it will surely feel daunting and emotional to be among the first skippers to set off from the piers at Marina Coruña. Equally, it will be nerve-wracking for those with a long wait before their departure, as the last skippers to set off will have to keep cool, waiting for their turn to start the chase. And once they finally set sail, they will have to sail fast, and well, to make up for the head start given to the slower groups. It will be the ultimate enactment of the tale of the tortoise and the hare, with steady cruisers chased by performance-thirsty skippers on faster boats. Who will cross the finish line first? That will be the question that will keep us all hooked from the beginning to the end!

Set to start off A Coruña, in the northeast of Spain, between the end of August and December 2023, the route will take GSC skippers eastward by the three great Capes: Good Hope, Leeuwin, and Horn. A 26,000-nautical-mile circumnavigation that will probably take the faster boats 100 days to complete, whilst the slower ones could take over 200 days.

Fulfilling a Dream

There are many sailors and offshore navigation enthusiasts who dream of sailing solo around the world non-stop. Starting this summer, several of these intrepid dreamers will cast off from the pontoons of Marina Coruña to circumnavigate the globe by taking part in the Global Solo Challenge.

The event has the Galician city of A Coruña as its port of departure and arrival, and it will take participants 26,000 nautical miles to circumnavigate the globe solo eastward via the three great capes. To understand all the distinctive features of the first edition of this event, we thought it would be appropriate for the creator himself, Italian ocean navigator Marco Nannini, to describe it to us.

What is the Global Solo Challenge?

The Global Solo Challenge 2023-2024, starting in A Coruña, is the first edition of this solo, non-stop circumnavigation. Its format differs from any other existing round-the-world nautical event as it allows participants to compete with a wide range of boats and very different budgets, aiming to be as inclusive as possible. You can participate with any boat, there are no upper length limits, the only requirement is that the boats comply with strict safety requirements. That being said, in order for boats with different performance potential to participate in the same event, offering everyone the chance to win, we decided to adopt a system of staggered starts in the style of a pursuit rally. The slower boats leave A Coruña first, and the faster ones leave later, establishing the departure day according to the design and speed potential of each vessel.

How long will it take to complete the circumnavigation?

The first boat to leave at the end of the summer will take approximately 200 days to complete the route, while the time will be reduced to about 100 days for the fastest boat, which won't leave till the end of autumn. The experience and skill of each competitor will be key to their ability to sail in a time as close as possible to the potential of their boat.

What are the attractions of this challenge?

The main motivation behind many of the participating skippers is undoubtedly the desire to achieve a lifelong dream. Solo offshore navigation is a unique experience, and a single-handed circumnavigation represents a huge challenge and an incredible achievement for those who complete it. The format of this event makes this dream a tangible possibility, as the necessary budget can vary greatly depending on the type of boat chosen.

What is the Global Solo Challenge's stance on environmental issues?

Pollution and environmental sustainability problems are very complex issues. However, the effects of human consumption of natural resources, the increase in energy use for industrial processes, and the pollution resulting from energy production, as well as the landfill waste produced by humans, lay bare for all to see. It is mistakenly believed that sailing is a very "green" and environmentally friendly sport. The image of the blue seas and boats propelled by the mere force of the wind is very attractive, but it hides the harsh reality of very unsustainable practices affecting most of the nautical industry in terms of a lack of foresight for the end of the boats' lifespan.

A lot of pollution is created to build a boat, and then it's practically impossible to recycle, not even partially. The industry is just beginning to become aware of these problems, and some pilot projects are trying to change the course towards a more circular economy, but there is still a long way to go. A significant change in production processes and recycling capacity at the end of the life of boats may still be a long way off.

Therefore, at present, the best way to limit our negative impact on the planet is to extend the lifespan of existing boats instead of using natural resources to build new vessels. This is even more evident in the world of racing, where the need to be the fastest requires continuous technological innovation and the construction of new boats for each event, especially in the most important races, where boats tend to have a very short life cycle to the point that some are built to compete in a single event.

The GSC, with its unique format, does not encourage building a boat for the event; in fact, it would make very little sense, and indeed, no registered boat has been specifically built to participate in this event. Many skippers have simply entered with the boat they already owned, while others have given a second life to a boat, "rescuing" it, renewing it, and preventing it from becoming landfill waste. Renovating an existing boat to participate in the event is surely the most environmentally friendly choice a competitor can make, and we are pleased that the format has achieved this goal.

What would you like to say to the participants? And to those who dream of participating?

First and foremost, stay safe. Getting to the starting line is already a great challenge, completing a solo circumnavigation is an incredible achievement, fewer people have done it than astronauts have been on the International Space Station. It sounds unbelievable, but it's true. Less than 200 men and women have achieved this feat. To those who dream of participating, I would say that every journey begins by travelling the first mile, and often getting beyond the horizon is just a matter of determination and passion. Turning our dreams into reality is one of the most satisfying experiences of life and, perhaps, in part, an important aspect of our often complex existence on earth.

For more details on the format, the route, the entries, and much more, visit

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