Reliving the Voyage for Madmen
BY ADMIN • MARCH 1, 2018 • NEWS, OLDER, RACING • COMMENTS OFF • 102
Jean-Luc van den Heede (72) sailing his Rustler 36 MATMUT. The Frenchman has completed 5 circumnavigations already and is a favourite to win the 2018 Golden Globe Race.
This re-enactment of the first ever solo round the world race that took place in 1968/69 is scheduled to leave from Les Sables d’Olonne on the west coast of France on July 1 this year. A total of 23 boats from 14 countries are expected to be on the start line, all of them vying to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who won the first race, and legendary French sailor Bernard Moitessier. The latter was favourite to win, before deciding not to turn left at Cape Horn towards the finish, but to continue west to Tahiti instead.
Robin Knox-Johnston on board Suhali on his return to Falmouth in 1969
When the nine sailors left Falmouth between June 1 and October 31, 1968 it was not known whether it was actually possible for one person alone to sail around the globe without stopping. Two years earlier Sir Francis Chichester had completed a solo circumnavigation, but with a stop of almost two months in Sydney, during which he was able to refit the boat and replenish fresh provisions.
In 1969 Knox-Johnston was the only finisher, while the pressure of preparation and racing resulted in Donald Crowhurst losing his life at sea, as Peter Nichols detailed in his book A Voyage for Madmen. Crowhurst’s story is also the subject of a newly released film, The Mercy. With the race sponsored by the Sunday Times newspaper there was a huge prize fund of £5,000 – in those days enough to buy a house – which Knox-Johnston gave to Crowhurst’s widow.
The fleet will gather during a festival at Falmouth in early June, before then heading to Les Sables d’Olonne for the start on July 1.
Competitors in the Golden Globe re-enactment race are limited to use the same style of yachts and equipment that were available to competitors in that first race. It’s therefore restricted to long keel production boats between 32-36ft (9.75-10.97m) designed before to 1988. It also means sailing with no modern technology – even music must be on old-school cassette tape. The yachts will be tracked by satellite 24/7, but competitors will not be able to interrogate this information unless an emergency arises, when skippers can break open a sealed box containing a GPS and satellite phone.
The start is predicted to be a bigger event than the start of the Vendee Globe race that sees around a million people visit the French port in the two weeks leading up to the race.
In recognition of the Golden Globe’s history, and to mark the 50th anniversary of Knox Johnston’s departure at the start of the 1968/9 race, there will also be a week of celebrations in Falmouth from June 9-14. This will finish with a parade of sail, with Knox Johnston on board Suhaili, plus other classic globe girdling yachts, including Moitessier’s Joshua and Chichester’s Gipsy Moth IV, together with the entire fleet of 2018 Golden Globe Race yachts.