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Global Solo Challenge and Ocean Globe Race updates, SailGP news

by David Schmidt 26 Sep 08:00 PDT September 26, 2023
Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team helmed by Ben Ainslie in action on Race Day 1 of the ROCKWOOL Italy Sail Grand Prix in Taranto, Italy © Bob Martin for SailGP

As the season's first atmospheric river starts to gain steam here in the Pacific Northwest, I find myself daydreaming about the two around-the-world races that are currently unfurling. While the two events provide fantastic opportunities for sailors to work with nature to circumnavigate our lovely, lonely planet, they are sufficiently different in their nature to provide some interesting contrasts, especially given the other two big (hydrofoil-borne) events that are driving the news cycle.

The Global Solo Challenge began in late August off of A Coruña, Spain, with singlehanded sailors taking to the sea aboard any kind of vessel they like, so long as it measures at least 32', stem to stern. If you're envisioning quick rides like Class 40s, Open 50s, and IMOCAs, you're on the right track, at least eventually.

The Global Solo Challenge employs a pursuit-style starting format, where the tortoises start before the hares. The first starter, Dafydd Hughes, of Talybont, West Wales, United Kingdom, began racing on Saturday, August 26, aboard Bendigedig, his 1971 Sparkman & Stephen 34. He was joined at sea on September 17, when skipper Édouard De Keyser, of Brussels, Belgium, began sailing SolarWind, his Solaire 34.

Big picture, as of this writing: Hughes was well to the east of Recife, Brazil, while De Keyser was west of Agadir, Morocco.

The next starter, Phillipe Delamare, of Le Mans, France, is set to begin sailing on September 30 aboard his 2012 Actual 36, while skipper Pavlin Nadvorni, of Varna, Bulgaria, is set to begin racing on October 12 aboard his 1997 Farr 45.

North American interests are being represented by five sailors.

Three sailors are expected to start on October 28 aboard Class 40s, namely David Linger, of Seattle, Washington, Cole Brauer, of Boothbay, Maine, and Peter Rourke, of Newport, Rhode Island.

Ronnie Simpson, of Honolulu, Hawaii, is also set to start racing his Open 50 on October 28. Simpson is easily one of the most experienced offshore sailors participating in this event, and is expected to be a force to be reckoned with as the fleet laps the planet.

Finally, Curt Morlock, from the sailing Mecca of New Castle, Colorado, will begin racing his IMOCA 60 on December 9. It should be noted that Morlock declined to state how many offshore miles he has sailed.

By comparison, Linger has sailed 20,000+ miles, Brauer has logged 50,000+ miles, Rourke has 50,000+ miles under his keel, and Simpson has a whopping 130,000+ miles to his credit.

One can only hope that Mr Morlock knowns what he's getting himself into, and that his time in the United States Marine Corps has given him the strength, resources, and common sense to get himself back to dry land. (Better still, I hope that Mr Morlock gives me reason to eat these words - I will happily do so if and when his IMOCA 60 crosses the finishing line.)

Meanwhile, the Ocean Globe Race began on September 10 on the waters off of Southampton, United Kingdom. This "retro race" seeks to recreate the challenges of the 1973 Whitbread Round the World Race, and, as such, sailors much compete aboard production yachts that were built before 1988. The rules also stipulate that crews cannot use modern sails, equipment, or technology (read: electronics), so navigators can look forward to using their sextants in the Southern Ocean (and everywhere else).

News recently broke that crew member Stéphane Raguenes, who was sailing aboard the French-flagged Triana, a Swan 53, slipped on deck and badly lacerated the back of his leg last week. As a result, Raguenes was successfully rescued, via helicopter, over the weekend.

As of this writing, skipper Marie Tabarly, racing aboard Pen Duick VI, is in the pole position, followed by skipper Jussi Paavoseppä, racing aboard Spirit of Helsinki, roughly 160 nautical miles astern; skipper Heathers Thomas, racing with an all-female crew aboard Maiden, is in third place, some 170 nautical miles astern of Pen Duick VI.

Unlike the Global Solo Challenge, which is a non-stop around-the-world race, the Ocean Globe Race employs a series of global stopovers, just like the original Whitbread Race. Leg One of the OGR will take the fleet to Cape Town, South Africa, and as of this writing, there was roughly 3,900 miles of brine separating Pen Duick VI from the race's first finishing line.

As mentioned, these around-the-world events are being juxtaposed in the sailing media against the two other bright, shiny objects on the international sailing stage, namely next year's America's Cup and the traveling foiling circus (I mean that in a complimentary way) called SailGP.

Cup junkies got their first taste of the 37th America's Cup during the first Preliminary Regatta of this cycle on September 14-17, which unfurled on the waters off of Vilanova i La Geltrú, Spain. American Magic foiled away on their AC40 with a narrow win over Emirates Team New Zealand.

The next Preliminary Regatta is expected to unfurl on the waters off of Jeddah, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from November 29 to December 2. The last of these regattas is expected to take place off of Barcelona, Spain, next August.

The SailGP calendar is also in full swing and is in the middle of its three Season 4 European stopovers. The first of these took place from September 9-10, off of Saint-Tropez, France, followed by last weekend's racing (September 23-24) on the waters off of Taranto, Italy; the final European event is set to take place off of Cadiz, Spain, from October 14-15.

Impressively, Ben Ainslie's Emirates GBR SailGP Team took the win at both San Tropez and Taranto, making them the only SailGP squad to have nailed two regatta wins this season.

While the New Zealand-flagged team (in)famously destroyed their wing at the Saint-Tropez event and were subsequentially sidelined for the Taranto event, Season 4's leaderboard sees Australia enjoying a six-point lead over the second-placed Brits, who are tied on points with the Spanish, who are sitting in third place.

Fourth-place Denmark is only two leaderboard points astern of the Brits and the Spanish, meaning that Season 4's state-of-play is very much a live wire.

Also in sailing news, skipper Chris Poole, along with Andres Guerra and Austin Colpaert, took top honors at the U.S. Match Racing Championships, skipper Brian Keane, along with Conor Harding, Thomas Barrows and Ronald Weed, won the J/70 North Americans, and Max Kohlhoff and Ole Burzinski won the Star Worlds.

Finally, word recently hit that the 2024 Vic-Maui International Yacht Race has been cancelled due to the devastating wildfires that recently ravaged Lahaina, Maui.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt North American Editor

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