Corinthian Round-the-World Races

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The start of the 2018 Golden Globe race in Les Sables d’Olonne

The start of the 2018 Golden Globe race in Les Sables d’Olonne

Both the 2018 Golden Globe Race (GGR) and the Longue Route, two tribute events run in homage to the original 1968-69 Golden Globe nonstop round-the-world race, were an armchair sailor’s dream come true. With online trackers and modern global weather-modeling it was possible to follow the action in some detail—and plenty of action there was! A number of boats were abandoned, there was one very serious injury (a broken back), and while there were, fortunately, no fatalities, at times it very well looked like there might be.

The Longue Route, more a tribute to Bernard Moitessier than to the first Globe race, wasn’t actually a race and was obviously a one-off, never to be repeated. However, Don McIntyre, who organized the 2018 GGR, always planned to run a follow-up event to take place in 2022. More recently he also announced he is doubling down and organizing yet another round-the-word tribute race, the Ocean Globe Race (OGR), to run in 2023, a kind of recreation of the first Whitbread Race, which ran in 1973. Like the Whitbread, the OGR will be sailed in fully-crewed boats (as in the GGR the types of boats are limited to certain retro designs) and include three stops en route.

Meanwhile, yet another round-the-world competition designed to attract amateurs (or “Corinthians,” as they once were termed) was announced last summer. Organized by a French firm, Sirius Events, the new Globe 40 race will be limited to Class 40 boats sailed by doublehanded crews. Like the OGR, it will also take place in stages (with seven stops, as opposed to the OGR’s three) and allow for crew changes midway. (Under OGR rules at least one person, the skipper or some other qualified crew member, must be aboard for the duration, while the Globe 40 rules don’t even have that restriction.) Such rules not only make the races more accessible to sailors with more limited funds, as crew changes should make cost-sharing more tenable, they will also appeal to sailors with limited free time.

Prior to 2018 there was, and still is, one event, Robin Knox-Johnston’s Clipper Race, that has to some extent democratized round-the-world racing. But the Clipper Race is a different sort of animal in that race management owns the boats and hires the skippers, and amateur crew buy-in strictly on a “pay to play” basis. This makes it a bit like an amusement park ride—an interactive one to be sure—but still, the “players” have little responsibility for what is happening around them. These newer events, on the other hand, harken back to the early days of round-the-world racing—to the original Golden Globe, the Whitbread and the early BOC races—when Corinthians organized and financed the campaigns, prepped the boats and called the shots while racing.

Admittedly, these new races have their odd nuances as well. Both of McIntyre’s upcoming events, for example, require that competitors navigate by sextant alone. This rule comes in spite the fact several competitors in the first GGR seem to have evaded it by using their “retro” SSB radios to ask friends onshore to fetch position data off the race website’s tracker page—a strange collision of old and new technology if ever there was one. The next edition of the GGR also features a special “Joshua class,” open to those willing to buy, through McIntyre, a brand-new recreation of the primitive steel-hulled ketch Bernard Moitessier sailed in the 1968 Globe race.

More importantly, it seems there is a market for these events. As of this writing, there are 22 prospective skippers hoping to sail in the GGR 2022 (only one of whom so far, McIntyre himself, is planning to sail in the Joshua class). Meanwhile, about 30 prospective Class 40 campaigns have announced they hope to compete in the Globe 40, currently set to start during the summer of 2021. Similarly, there are already nearly two dozen declared entrants for the OGR, including adventure-charter captains and regular SAIL contributors Andy Schell and Mia Karlsson of 59º North.

For those who bemoan the increasing professionalization of sailboat racing, this must seem an encouraging trend. For those armchair sailors who until now could only follow these kinds of round-the-world events online, it seems we now have more chances than ever to get into the game for real. For more on the GGR, visit oceangloberace.com. For more on the Globe 40, go to globe40.com

April 2020

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