GOLDEN GLOBE RACE 2018: A Highly Regulated Retro Singlehanded Round-the-World Event

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Suhaili under sail

We have an announcement this week that ex-BOC Race competitor Don McIntyre is organizing a retro reprise of the famous 1968-69 Golden Globe Race to start June 14, 2018, in Falmouth, UK. This being the 50th anniversary of the date on which Robin Knox-Johnston departed from that same port on the voyage that brought him fame, fortune, and victory in the original event. The tip being that all competitors in this new event must race using only technology that was aboard Knox-Johnston’s 32-foot wood ketch Suhaili in the original race (see photo up top), but are prohibited from sailing in a boat identical to Suhaili or in any boat similar to the ones that competed in the first race.

How weird is that?

Don’t get me wrong. I have long lamented the demise of true Corinthian singlehanded round-the-world events like the old BOC Race, where avid sailors with limited budgets and fairly low-tech boats could step out into the limelight, and I love the idea of a Corinthian re-run of the Golden Globe Race. But I really am scratching my head over the rules of this 2018 event. Of which there are many, which is a little ironic considering how few rules there were in the first race. All you had to do back then was leave on a solo non-stop circumnavigation from any British port anytime between June 1 and October 31 and you were in.

By far the most puzzling restrictions pertain to the boats to be sailed, which must be production-built full-keel fiberglass boats designed before 1988 with hull lengths (not counting protrusions fore and aft) of between 32 and 36 feet. Which means Knox-Johnston couldn’t compete in Suhaili if so inclined, as she is made of wood. And Bernard Moitessier couldn’t compete in Joshua, as she was steel and 39 feet long. And neither Nigel Tetley nor Donald Crowhurst could compete in their Victress trimarans, which were 40 feet long and built of plywood. Nor could Chay Blyth or John Ridgway compete in their twin-keeled fiberglass Westerly 30s (the only production glass boats in the original race), because they were both too short and didn’t have full keels with attached rudders.

Moitessier on Joshua

Bernard Moitessier aboard his 39-foot steel ketch Joshua in the original Golden Globe. He ended up blowing off the race to sail halfway around the world again to Tahiti

Etc.

Exactly all of the original competitors and their boats would be disqualified under these rules.

So I’m wondering, what’s the point to these restrictions? It can’t be safety, as 32 to 36 feet is a bit small, I think, for a non-stop circumnavigation in high southern latitudes. Everyone no doubt would be more secure in somewhat larger boats, and I find it odd that the best relatively low-cost older production boats for this sort of event–like the Valiant 40, Ingrid 38, Fast Passage 39, Passport 40, etc.–are all banned from the competition.

Of course, strict budget control might be a reason for the low size limit, but the fact is I think it’s likely most would-be competitors already own boats that are too large for the race (like me, for instance), hence might be put off by the cost of having to buy another boat just to do the race in.

The last reason I can think of is that McIntyre himself already owns a Tradewind 35 that he plans to race in the event, and maybe, just maybe, he wants to make very sure he is competitive. (So maybe, just to short-circuit such conflicts of interest, we might also consider a rule banning race organizers from competing in the race.)

Tradewind 35

A Tradewind 35 with nether regions exposed. This is one of 12 pre-approved race models, most of which are British built. There are also very strict restrictions on how competing boats can be refit for the race. Most significantly, no weight reduction or rig enlargement is allowed

Westsail 32

The venerable Westsail 32 is one of the few American-built boats on the pre-approved list. It is also likely the slowest boat on the list. Other boat models can be approved for competition at the discretion of the organizers, but must conform to the base restrictions: lengths between 32 and 36 feet, fiberglass hull, production run of at least 20 hulls, full keels with attached rudders, and a minimum displacement of 13,668 lbs.

Don McIntyre

Race founder Don McIntyre

The race’s technology restrictions do make a lot more sense to me–both to maintain cost reduction and the spirit of the event–but some are just plain mean-spirited. For example, you can’t bring your iPod along to listen to music, but are restricted to 1968 technology (i.e., cassette tapes), and if you want to take photos or video you can’t use digital cameras. Also, I think the prohibition on GPS navigation is going to put off a lot of people who might otherwise be very keen on doing this.

I’ll be very curious to see how the event plays out! Here’s the official promo viddy, which features RKJ himself, who is fully supporting the project.

IN RELATED NEWS: The old Golden Globe Race is coming to the Big Hollywood Screen, as director James Marsh is working on a film about the race’s most tragic character, Donald Crowhurst, who will be played by Colin Firth.

Donald Crowhurst

Donald Crowhurst aboard Teignmouth Electron as he set out on his Golden Globe voyage in October 1968. After realizing his boat was not fit for the Southern Ocean, Crowhurst faked a circumnavigation by sending in false position reports while sailing in circles in the South Atlantic. He is believed to have killed himself by stepping off the boat after he realized his fraud would be exposed

For more on that, check this link to the Facebook page of ex-Yachting Monthly editor Paul Gelder, who was helping Marsh and others involved in the film’s production with their boat-shopping earlier this year.

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15 Responses
  1. Hartley

    Interesting.. at least they are requiring TWO 406 EPIRBs, and they will have a sat beacon on board, so the organizers will know where they are (no Crowhurst imitators), even if the competitors don’t..:-) The “100 degrees S longitude” typo is amusing in their post. The BP 7,000 entry fee will limit the field, I predict.

  2. Don McIntyre

    Great to see healthy comment…and appreciate the interest…I actually bought my Tradwind 35 for this event and she is not the fastest in those currently approved 🙂 and you may like some of the possible new announcements on July 1st with the Official Pre-Notice of race…here is the ist update…all the best there…Don McIntyre 2018 GGR Founder…Oh and the French are only coming for fun..money will not win the race..only the skipper…2018 Golden Globe Race UPDATE No. 1 In only three days from the official 2018 GGR announcement we have over 3000 views of the race video clip, over 40 emails from interested sailors and 10 confirmed requests for invitations to compete (on July 1st when the pre-Notice of Race is issued), including one of the biggest names and record holders in solo sailing in France.(3 Italians, 1 UK, 2 France -including our first lady, 1 Brazil, 1 Spain, 1 South Africa and 1 Australia! me) Many others around the world are contemplating decisions in the weeks ahead . Incredibly NO emails, or contact from any other UK sailor?..So I ask …“who is protecting the honour of Sir Robin Knox Johnston and Suhaili ”??…Just my friend Chris Jacks? Hmm..looks like we have a race!!.

  3. Charlie

    @Don: Thanks for stopping by. I wish you all the best, and I hope the event is a big success. I’d love to see something like this done on a regular basis (though maybe with slightly different rules). Maybe this will start that! Cheers!

  4. Stuart Greenfield

    I am a British amateur yachtsman with quite a bit of ocean racing under by belt and I am very interested in this race. However with just 20 places and the restrictions highlighted in the article I would be more interested if the number of entrants was unlimited and the type of yachts allowed opened up. All the other restrictions are fine really. But I agree with Charles.

  5. Hartley

    Glad to hear you”re getting interest, Don! I think the race concept is interesting (tho not for me – I’m too olde, fat & lazy :-), though the tight limits on eligible boats will cause some friction. I saw a note on the Tayana list this morning about the race, wondering if the venerable Tayana 37 could be “petitioned in”.
    I note that an RDF is allowed, since they were current technology during the original race – but data on useful radio transmitter locations to DF may be hard to find, since very few carry an RDF these days. Last I checked, the locations of seaside radio transmitters wasn’t on the US nautical charts, though other charts might still include this data.
    The limitation on digital cameras just seems petty, however – and likely to severely limit the amount and quality of photographs and movies(video) coming out of this race. What conceivably advantage accrues to a competitor who has a digital camera vs. a film camera?

  6. Charlie

    @Hartley: I was wondering about the Tayana 37 myself. A very suitable boat, except it’s 1 foot too long, and there are many of them available. I was wondering, too, about AIS. It’s a very important modern technology for singlehanders to carry, IMHO.

  7. Hartley

    @Charlie: I agree 120% that AIS would make a lot of sense – and it doesn’t convey any real advantage to a competitor (other than possibly preventing their being run down!). It does involve a GPS, but that part is easily hidden from view, IMHO. According to those who own them, the Tayana 37 is actually only 36′ 4″ of fiberglass..:-)

  8. Richard

    The Cape George 36 I built and lived aboard back in the day would have been money for this race. She used to giggle like a young girl as she sailed up over Valiant 40’s and Fast Passage 39’s.

    I can’t but agree that the original rule book was superior to the new one for this event! Bizarre that none of the original competitors boats would be allowed.

  9. John F

    Don Mcyntre says he bought this boat for the race but here is the link to the original purpose for the boat:
    http://www.mysailing.com.au/news/don-mcintyre-is-on-the-hunt-for-two-young-adventurers-to-sail-around-the-world
    The only sense I can make of the restrictions on what production boats qualify is that his boat is at the top end of performance range.
    Below is a quote from Don about the boat he purchased to send a couple of young people around the world.

    ” If I find the right person, or team, who have what it takes, I will provide the yacht and all the equipment to safely sail around the world. The voyage should take between 18 to 24 months and could change the life of the crew and inspire others. The boat is a “Tradewind 35”, perfect for the voyage with a solid offshore reputation. The crew will prepare and refit the boat with the new equipment themselves. They will bring their own personal kit and find their food along the way. They will leave from Sydney on May 2nd 2015, probably via Darwin, Indian Ocean to Cape Town, Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean through Panama and then across the Pacific Ocean, back to grand welcome in Sydney in November 2016. ”

    Fair go Don if you want to restrict the feild to be no faster than the boat you already have just say that. But don’t insult our intelligence by fabricating an elaborate set justifictions that just don’t stand up to even the most cursory examination.

  10. Don McIntyre

    Don Mcyntre says he bought this boat for the race but here is the link to the original purpose for the boat:
    http://www.mysailing.com.au/news/don-mcintyre-is-on-the-hunt-for-two-young-adventurers-to-sail-around-the-world
    The only sense I can make of the restrictions on what production boats qualify is that his boat is at the top end of performance range.
    Below is a quote from Don about the boat he purchased to send a couple of young people around the world.

    Fair go Don if you want to restrict the feild to be no faster than the boat you already have just say that. But don’t insult our intelligence by fabricating an elaborate set justifictions that just don’t stand up to even the most cursory examination.

    .All fun hey!!..if you look at the time lines..you will see clearly my Tradewind would have returned with plenty of time to refit for the race!!..you see that was always the plan. I have the boat now sitting on a mooring doing nothing while I play with ICE in the Pacific. Treasure hunting!!. …I just wanted young people to use this boat..but yes I bought this boat for many things..you will see I have been planning a personal recreation of Suhaili twice before..but now it is a new idea..LOL…and the fun for the 24 entrants who have applied to race in the past 10 days it to chose the boat..wowo!! .NO one else has yet said Tradewind 35…most Rustler 36..I think the best would be Biscay 36…so looks like I have the snail..for a beautiful sail! 🙂 always fun!! and a great blog you have!!

  11. Don mcIntyre

    [quote=Hartley] Glad to hear you”re getting interest, Don! I think the race concept is interesting (tho not for me – I’m too olde, fat & lazy :-), though the tight limits on eligible boats will cause some friction. I saw a note on the Tayana list this morning about the race, wondering if the venerable Tayana 37 could be “petitioned in”.
    The limitation on digital cameras just seems petty, however –

    Interesting and real comments! 🙂 thanks to all..We looked very carefully at the boat Type to choose for this race when planning..over many months..beside other things it is all about keeping the fleet together for safety, making no boat too much faster than any other, so every skipper has a chance and a dream and keels and rudders are as safe as you can have..like Suhaili..so Yes I have always liked the Tayana 37 , I have one beside me right now in Fiji, but she is a very clever design that uses the waterline well and is Hugely faster than the Westail 32 and we had to have her. In fact she was the starting point for all boats in this class as she is closest to Suhaili…so we had to draw a line…

    WE like the retro race and as they say. “you cannot be Half pregnant” so many have to learn a new skill and to live the simple life..Film is not as bad as you think..same to a sextant..some have emailed to say they will only come if they can use their sat phone to call home every day, or only with radar and GPS… so it goes…this race is not for them..this is for the skipper who understands..and many do with delight and joy.. thanks for all the comments…life is a library..choose your cover!… love this Blog! 🙂

  12. jim Simonw

    Charlie, will you be in Newport next week. 12 of us crazy Canqdians have chartered two sailboats. A jeanneau 46 ,Imqgine, and a Benneteay 42. Probqbly docked at the Ne2port yacht club. 2hy not drop by for a beer.

  13. Pete Hogan

    I think Charlie’s comments and criticism’s of the race rules are spot on. The Sunday times should set the rules and run the race. The flexible starting time of the original race would allow a much bigger fleet. I’d love to do this race. The 68 Golden Globe, when I was 17 was my dream adventure.

  14. Lee Frederick Werth, Ph.D

    A retro race with early simple equipment is a great idea but lacks the spontaneity and authenticity of the first Golden Globe. Making position reports and having Epirbs undermines the psychological challenge of being truly alone. Safer but less real.

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