Golden Globe Race: Longue Route 2018

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 Bernard Moitessier’s famous Joshua has been lovingly preserved in France. Photo by Peter Nielsen

Bernard Moitessier’s famous Joshua has been lovingly preserved in France. Photo by Peter Nielsen

As the 50th anniversary of the Golden Globe Race of 1968-69 approaches, it seems the battle lines have been drawn. On the one hand, we have a highly organized tribute event: the previously discussed Golden Globe Race 2018 (see Waterlines, March 2016), put together by ex-BOC racer Don McIntyre, with a fixed starting time and location and strict rules, including limitations as to what sorts of retro boats and equipment can be used. On the other, we have an utterly disorganized anti-matter tribute event: the Longue Route 2018 (longueroute2018.com), being put together by another ex-BOC racer, Guy Bernardin, in recognition of Bernard Moitessier’s role in the original race.

Moitessier, on his 39ft steel ketch Joshua, of course, became a legend when he blew off his chance to win the Golden Globe, the first-ever solo nonstop round-the-world race, and kept on sailing to Tahiti so as to “save his soul.”The book he wrote about his voyage, La Longe Route (in the original French, or The Long Way, in the English translation), has since inspired all sailors with a spiritual bent and most particularly French sailors, who (ironically) have consequently come to dominate singlehanded ocean racing.

Bernardin’s event does have some rules. For example, vessels are limited to anything 52ft long and under. Participants (not competitors, as there will be no prizes or awards) should also start from a port north of 45 degrees north latitude in Europe, or north of 41 degrees on the East Coast of North America, sometime between June 18 and September 30 2018. They are then required to circle the globe nonstop via the great southern capes and return to a French port north of 45 degrees, which had yet to be disclosed as we went to press.

Other than that, they are free to run their own voyages as they see fit and can judge for themselves whether they have respected Moitessier’s legacy.

I am pleased that Bernardin is doing this. I met him at the end of the 1986-87 BOC Challenge in Newport and later saw him knocking about Narragansett Bay on his fantastic replica of Joshua Slocum’s Spray, in which he cruised around the world with his family after retiring from racing. Of all the solo-racing sailors I’ve met and/or followed over the years, his heart has seemed closest to the spirit of what I think these sorts of events should be about.

Moitessier’s decision to quit the Golden Globe and keep on sailing, which he announced to the world on March 18, 1969, by flinging a note in a film canister onto the deck of a passing ship via slingshot, has in my mind always marked a great turning point in the history of ocean sailing. Prior to that, bluewater cruising and racing were greatly intermingled. Afterward, they became much more distinct avocations. There are still a few sailors, of course, who have managed to bridge the dichotomy, and Bernardin is one of those, as is evident in the segue he made from high-tech racing machines to the archaic wooden oyster smack that Joshua Slocum (the namesake of Moitessier’s own boat, not coincidentally) made so famous.

The question now is which event will attract more sailors? McIntyre has been promoting his Golden Globe Race for over a year and a half and claims to have filled his roster of 30 competitors, with others standing by on a wait list. The Longue Route list, meanwhile, has just nine entrants, as per its website, though I’ve heard there may actually be 10. Check the bios on the site and you’ll see an interesting range of boats being used, from a steel ketch similar to Joshua to a plywood gaffer to fiberglass production boats.

I won’t be surprised if we see many more Longue Route entrants, now that the event is getting some publicity. Unlike McIntyre’s event, you don’t need to go out and get a special boat to do it. You don’t have to do any qualifying this or that. You don’t have to throw out all your modern electronics. You can just go, or not, in the boat you already have. To me, it seems much more true to the original.

SAIL’s cruising editor, Charles J. Doane, sails on the Maine coast and down in the West Indies whenever he gets the chance. He is the author of The Modern Cruising Sailboat, published by International Marine, and is a blogger at SAILfeed.com

August 2017

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