Cycling Sports

300 days of solitude at sea: ‘Seclusion is biggest challenge’

ed8371861bb79974635cd5c69e481c08 - 300 days of solitude at sea: 'Seclusion is biggest challenge'

Eighteen sailors on July 1, departed for a journey around the world. Only, non-stop, and without modern aids to navigation. Just as with the legendary Golden Globe Race of 50 years ago.

In 1968, wrote the British newspaper The Sunday Times, a competition for something where no-one had ever managed was: alone and non-stop around the world sailing. It was a legendary race. Of the nine participants, took just one man to finish the race: Robin Knox-Johnston. The Englishman sailed with his wooden 32-footer Suhaili as the first non-stop around the world. That he did in 312 days.

His biggest rival is Bernard Moitessier hooked when the biggest part of the race behind the back. He set sail for Tahiti. “Because I am happy at sea and perhaps also to my soul to save’. Similarly, other participants homed or were faced with bad luck. The inexperienced Donald Crowhurst would in a fit of madness overboard jumped. If he gave up, hung him in a financial disaster over the head. He falsified his log book, kept bobbing up and down in the Southern Ocean, and hoped again to pick up and the race to sail. Eventually, he succumbed under the immense pressure and loneliness. His body was never found, his boat. The winner, Robin Knox-Johnston gave his prize money to the family of Crowhurst.

Fifty years later, the race re-sailed as a tribute to the performance of Robin Knox-Johnston. The Englishman calls it a great honor. “The isolation is the biggest challenge for the participants”, he says, the magazine Sailing. “The sailing itself is barely changed, but the man. In my days you had much less incentive than now. Now you have the internet and mobile phones and other aspects of life become much easier. To all of that for nine months of solitude, can be difficult.’

On 1 July the participants went in Les Sables-d’olonne in France. Most of them sail after almost a week off the coast of Portugal, according to the livetracker. They will be around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa to sail in the direction of Australia and New Zealand. Hence, sail to Cape Horn in South America to then set course to the Atlantic Ocean and back to home.

Just like when the participants are designated on astronavigatie. With a sextant, they have to define their position. A gps, they may not use it, because that was fifty years ago. Also the design of their boats should not be under thirty years of age and the need to langkielers. For safety reasons, they have a satellite phone that lets them each week with the race directors call.

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