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Vaikobi 2024 LEADERBOARD

Route to the Global Solo Challenge 2027-2028

by Marco Nannini / Global Solo Challenge 16 May 07:03 PDT 16 May 2024
Cole Brauer, Philippe Delamare © Global Solo Challenge

Louis Robein, the last competitor still at sea in the Global Solo Challenge 2023-2024, has reached the latitude of Rio De Janeiro but most notably, today, has crossed the Tropic of Capricorn.

The cold temperatures of the deep South are finally well behind him and, milestone after milestone, A Coruna must start to appear within reach for the formidable French skipper.

The journey to the finish will be paced by milestones such as the crossing of the equator and getting back in the northern hemisphere, sailing north in the tradewinds to the Tropic of Cancer, negotiating the Azores' high pressure and finally heading east towards the Iberian Peninsula.

This year's spring seems to have given us more rain and cold temperatures than usual but by the time Louis will cross the finish line summer will have arrived giving him a more manageable route to the finish than some of his fellow competitors who had to dodge winter storms right till the finish line.

Whilst Louis gently closes in towards the finish line, there is plenty of activity in the background. Over 70 skippers have already registered their interest in the Global Solo Challenge 2027-2028 with 5 having already taken the step to formally enter, others will wait till their plans to participate will firm up, with many window shopping for a boat. Others are studying the regulations to understand what modifications will be required to comply with the safety framework of the Event. Details of entrants will soon be made public on the event website.

We often spoke of the camaraderie that developed among competitors in this first edition, something we have always encouraged and which naturally occurred among like-minded sailors with a common dream. Despite staggered starts and a format that did not make it easy for all skippers to be together before any single start, the challenge and adventure they shared created a bond that transcended space and time. Somewhat as if only those who have been "out there" could really relate and understand one another.

We created a group chat for the 2027-2028 skippers. Not every enquirer feels quite ready to commit to the project or wants to make their intentions public, but over 30 skippers have joined the group and over time will learn about one another's project, boat, personal story as well as trials and tribulations to get to the start.

For the 2023-2024 edition we had received nearly 700 initial requests of information with a total of 54 skippers registering their interest in the competition. 20 became full entrants and 16 managed to cross the starting line. Louis Robein, on arrival would become the 7th finisher of the first edition of the Global Solo Challenge highlighting the incredible attrition existing to go from dream to accomplishment.

Based on the experience of the first edition, we have every reason to believe the interest for the second Global Solo Challenge will grow considerably. With three and a half years to the start, the number of skippers already working on their projects gives us confidence in a progressive and sustainable growth of the event. More skippers are expected to start and, we think, more will also manage to finish as the experience and common issues faced by skippers can be passed on to future competitors.

Unlike established events with boats all belonging to the same class, like IMOCAs in the Vendée Globe, the waters of the Global Solo Challenge were, relatively speaking, fairly uncharted in terms of boat preparation for a non-stop circumnavigation on boats not specifically or solely designed for the task.

The history of solo circumnavigators, after the 1968 Golden Globe Race, takes us to the BOC Challenge of 1982-1983 which had two classes for boats 32-44 feet, and 45-56 feet. The BOC Challenge was a solo race with legs, but it was effectively the precursor of the Vendée Globe. It is not a coincidence therefore that it was the winner of the first BOC, Philippe Jeantot, that went to launch the first edition of the Vendée Globe in 1989.

The BOC Challenge is probably the closest event in spirit to the Global Solo Challenge as entrants were not the modern elite sailing super-stars we see in the IMOCA circuit today with staggering budgets. The BOC remained accessible to sailors with the dream of a circumnavigation and in the early editions it was the go-to event to achieve the dream of a relatively affordable circumnavigation. In 1986-1987 the minimum length was increased to 40ft, still manageable financially, however as time went on the BOC Challenge progressively lost its role of precursor and training ground for future circumnavigators whilst the Vendée Globe kept growing and increasing its popularity and standing.

By 2006 the BOC, then called Around Alone, dropped the 40ft Open Class and saw just seven starters, all Open 60s and just one Open 50. The event was effectively only collecting entries by boats passed down from the Vendée Globe which in 2004 had closed the doors to Open 50s and only accepted IMOCA 60s. The last edition of the BOC Challenge, then named Velux 5 Oceans, was held in 2010-2011 with just 5 older IMOCA 60s taking the start.

The rise of the Vendée Globe and the slow decline of the BOC Challenge effectively meant that unless you could put together the budget of an Open 60, the doors were shut for a circumnavigation. In 2008 and 2011, with the rise of the new Class40s, a former BOC Challenge competitor, Josh Hall, launched the Global Ocean Race, which was in stages and in 2008 had a double handed as well as a solo division. The solo class however only saw 2 entries and was dropped in 2011 when I took part and the event only allowed double handed entries on Class40s. The race, despite trying to fill the void left by the disappearance of the BOC Challenge, did not fully take off and was only staged twice.

In other words, since the 2002 BOC Challenge the sailing world had no affordable round-the-world solo sailing events. The Vendée Globe was the only non-stop race which went from strength to strength over the years but, undoubtedly, created a massive empty space for any aspiring circumnavigator without a massive budget. A top level modern day Vendé Globe campaign hits budgets around 20 million euros over a 4 year cycle and even the lowest budget entries on older boats need to raise a few million euros.

It's no surprise then that 2018 and 2022 saw the revival of the original 1968 Golden Globe Race which with its historical reenactment at least created a new possibility for those with the dream of a solo nonstop circumnavigation. I have tremendous respect for those participating, the format, the type of boats, the duration, the isolation makes it an event for some but not for all, as I think the GGR demands a special kind of participant that is aligned with the particular spirit of the event.

We finally come to the Global Solo Challenge. When I launched the event in late 2020, I wasn't trying to revive a previously existing event and I was responding to my very own inner unfulfilled dream of a solo nonstop circumnavigation. In 2011-2012, when I sailed double handed with legs, there was no affordable solo nonstop event. Even the struggling ex-BOC then required an older IMOCA and the Vendée Globe budgets were already out of reach for an amateur.

To put it simply, the Global Solo Challenge is the event that I wish had existed back in 2011. By extension I imagined that others like me had or have a similar dream. The notice of event was updated after the initial announcement to respond to requests from sailors with boats that did not fit the original eligibility requirements until the event took its current more liberal and open format that allows the participation in any boat of 32ft and above that can comply with the safety regulations. These have been kept strict and in line with the best practices regularly updated by World Sailing in their cornerstone publication, the Offshore Special Regulations, which covers events such as the Vendée Globe and the Global Solo Challenge, defined as Category Zero events for their route and at high latitudes in isolated and often cold waters.

The road to the 2027-2028 Global Solo Challenge has started with the revision of some aspects of the Notice of Event, with no significant changes to the format and eligibility, just some refinements stemming from the lessons learned in the first edition. Next we will review the Safety regulations adding or improving where we think it's appropriate. For both these activities I wish to thank the skippers of the 2023-2024 edition that have contributed with their invaluable feedback and observations.

Taking care of sailors, the challenge they face and their safety will always be the number one priority and I am committed to keep focusing on their needs first. I feel any deviation from this path can eventually see the downfall of an event as I truly hope the Global Solo Challenge will stand the test of time. We can all think of many events that lost their bearing despite their glorious past and struggled or disappeared.

To make the event appealing for sailors, their needs and aspirations must be catered for. Each participant joins the event with their own ambitions and the common dream of a solo circumnavigation takes many forms across different skippers. For some, even if not for all, gaining visibility and showcasing their skills for future projects is one of the goals. Therefore delivering an engaging and widely followed event for the public has always been one of our goals as taking part can become a stepping stone for participants.

An analysis of the media return of the event is being carried out. We know from key statistics that we reached a very significant public, especially considering the available resources and the event being a first edition, we are extremely pleased with the results and we will give further details when the media report will be available.

Continue reading the full article here...

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