Friday, March 9, 2018

Reviving the Voyage for Madmen

Robin Knox-Johnston on his return to Falmouth in 1969 on board Suhaili
Last week, we saw The Mercy, a movie about Donald Crowhurst, the amateur sailor who lost his mind and his life in the first Golden Globe single-handed non-stop race around the world in 1968/69. The story of the nine men who took part was first told in an excellent book by Peter Nichols titled A Voyage for Madmen.

In July, a new Golden Globe Race will be staged to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first. This replay of the first race is scheduled to leave from Les Sables d’Olonne on the west coast of France on July 1, 2018. A total of 23 boats from 14 countries are expected to be on the start line.  
When the nine sailors left Falmouth between 1 June and 31 October 1968, it was not known whether it was actually possible for one person to sail alone around the world without stopping. Two years earlier Sir Francis Chichester had completed a solo circumnavigation, but his was with a stop of almost two months in Sydney, during which time he was able to refit the boat and replenish provisions. Yet, all nine set out with the dream of being the first. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who won the first race, was the only one who completed it. French sailor Bernard Moitessier was favoured to win, before deciding not to turn north at Cape Horn towards the finish, but to continue west to Tahiti instead “to save my soul”, creating the legend of the free spirit. Donald Crowhurst’s multihull was found adrift but his body was never found. Knox-Johnston donated his prize winnings, a considerable sum of £5000, to Crowhurst’s widow. All others retired from the race.
Moitessier aboard Joshua
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 be a week of celebrations in Falmouth from June 9-14.  On the 14th of June, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston aboard Suhaili will lead a parade of sail in Falmouth to mark the day that Sir Robin set out to win the original Golden Globe Race 50 years before. Taking part in the parade will also be Joshua, Moitessier’s yacht in the original race, and Chichester’s Gipsy Moth IV, which sparked the globe girdling craze, together with the entire fleet of 2018 Golden Globe Race yachts.

Suhaili in 2016 after extensive refit
At 13:45, the time Sir Robin slipped his mooring to start 50 years before, he will fire a cannon from the deck of Suhaili to start the GGR SITraN Challenge charity race to Les Sables d’Olonne with Joshua marking the leeward end of the line. Suhaili and Joshua will also compete with a fleet of other famous yachts. Their arrival in Les Sables d’Olonne will mark the opening of the 2018 Golden Globe Race Village two weeks before the start. Why France?  Because the uncertainties around Brexit made it impossible to secure the sponsorship needed to host the event in Britain. 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. Given that this event is taking place at the halfway point of starts of the Vendee Globe, the venue is perfectly suited to host it. The juxtaposition of the Corinthian Golden Globe event with the technologically sophisticated Vendee Globe is also an interesting one and fits within the French spirit of sailing.

A week-long festival is planned in Falmouth before the fleet
heads to Les Sables d’Olonne for the start on July 1.

Competitors in the Golden Globe Race 2018 are limited to the same style of yachts and equipment that were available to competitors in the first race. They are restricted to plastic production boats between 32 and 36 feet (9.75-10.97m) in length that have full-length keels with rudders attached to the trailing edge designed before 1988. It also means sailing with no modern technology using only paper charts, wind-up clocks, a sextant and the stars for navigation. No smart phone, iPads, laptops, not even a calculator will be aboard. They will hand write their logs and cook with kerosene. They will speak with the outside world only when long-range high frequency and HAM radios permit. They will take photos on film. Even music must be on cassette tapes. No autopilots, only wind vanes. The yachts will be tracked 24/7 by satellite, but competitors will not be able to access this information unless an emergency arises, when skippers can break open a sealed box containing a chartplotter. There is no rating system; the first over the line wins. It is a very affordable challenge and intensely satisfying dream.

Entry into the Golden Globe Race 2018 has been restricted to the following 22 yacht types:

Westsail 32 • Tradewind 35 • Saga 34 • Saltram 36 • Vancouver 32 & 34 • OE 32 • Eric (sister ship to Suhaili) • Aries 32 • Baba 35 • Biscay 36 • Bowman 36 • Cape Dory 36 • Nicholson 32 MKX-XI • Rustler 36 • Endurance 35 • Gaia 36 • Hans Christian 33T • Tashiba 36 • Cabo Rico 34 • Hinckley Pilot 35 • Lello 34 • Gale Force 34.

Interestingly, reproductions of both Suhaili and Joshua are now being built as one-design classes for the planned 2020 race.

The competitors will sail 30,000 miles non-stop, alone and unassisted. So who are the 20 sailors who have registered to date?  From the GGR2018 website:
The number of entrants for the Race is limited to 30. The 20 provisionally registered and paid-up entrants have a remarkable range of backgrounds and sailing experience. Professional sailors and adventurers dominate but they also include an engineer, foreign exchange trader, hydrographer, pilot, tailor and university lecturer. All have considerable short – and single-handed sailing experience, one having logged five solo circumnavigations. They are from Australia (2), Estonia (1), Finland (1), France (4), Ireland (1), India (1), Italy (1), Netherlands (1), Norway (1), Palestine (1), Russia (1), UK (3), and the USA (2). Their average age is 47. The youngest is 28; the oldest, 72. More are looking to announce their entries before the start from Les Sables d’Olonne on July 1, 2018, but they and their boats must first meet the strict entry conditions, which include 8,000 sailing miles and 2,000 miles solo.”

Susie Goodall is preparing her Rustler 36 Starlight
One big difference in this year’s version of the race is that a female sailor is taking part. Susie Goodall will be sailing her Rustler 36 Starlight in which she completed a solo 8000 mile Atlantic loop to qualify for the Race.  She is smiling and appears on track while others are still fitting engines and building boats...the race to the start is ferocious. “It was finally splash day. After 8 months in refit this little one went back to the water. So many modifications have been made to get her race ready,” Susie commented in social media. #GGR2018

Several competitors’ progress with refits has been hampered by the recent bad weather in Europe and the US.  Frenchman Jean-Luc van den Heede, the oldest at 72 who has completed five circumnavigations and will be sailing his Rustler 36 Matmut, is favoured to win the 2018 Golden Globe Race. An additional 18 entrants have now retired from the race.

Jean-Luc van den Heede aboard his Rustler 36 Matmut

Friday, March 2, 2018

Arctic air, ice and temps: a sea change?

Ice receding in the Arctic regions

Yesterday I wrote about sea levels rising faster than predicted. Today, I'm going to summarize the latest in climate change anomalies. Scientists have recorded a warm air intrusion through the central Arctic this winter. In the area north of 80 degrees latitude, average temperatures were 36 degrees above normal. Whereas there were only four such intrusions between 1980 and 2010, there have been four occurrences in the past five years.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Sea level rise is accelerating

A new study by NASA's Sea Level Change team published February 12 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that sea levels are rising at accelerating rates rather than a steady increase as previously thought. That means that by 2100, the levels will be twice as high as previously predicted, causing serious problems for many coastal cities. If the rate of ice melt continues at this pace, sea levels will rise 26 inches (65 centimeters) by 2100. That's a lot more than shown in the graphic above.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Mercy of the Golden Globe Race

With the advent of the resurrection of the Golden Globe Race in 2018 comes the release of the movie called The Mercy, telling the extraordinary tale of Donald Crowhurst's bid for fame and fortune in the first Golden Globe single-handed non-stop, around-the-world race. Starring Colin Firth and Rachelle Weisz, it's a disturbing journey through the deteriorating state of mind of a man who set out to win everything and realizes he is about to lose everything instead.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Monday, February 19, 2018

Managing heavy weather at sea

Yesterday, we addressed a conference of about 100 cruisers at the Irish Sailing Cruising Conference. In 2008, on a crossing of the north Atlantic, we encountered six gales and managed to avoid one strong storm. What we learned then, we were here to share about our experience with storm management. The conference was summarized overall in Afloat magazine.

aleria message8

Following is an overview of our talk:

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Ocean Cruising Club Awards

As PR Officer, Web Editor and Rear Commodore of the Ocean Cruising Club, I have the honour of being the one to announce the winners of the annual awards which recognize the extraordinary achievements of people cruising the world's oceans. I've been a member of the Awards Committee and co-Chair for several years so I know how arduous a task it can be to coordinate the awards decision-making process. We have members all over the world taking part, some submitting nominations others taking part in the selections of winners. In any case, it's an extraordinary thing to be part of as we journey into people's lives to see what they've done that merits the attention of the world, and to be blown away by the stories we uncover.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Buying a boat

Many of you are probably scouring the boat shows for that perfect next boat. Whether it's larger for the big adventure or smaller for the downsize, the decision to buy is never an easy one. Until, of course, you fall in love. Then all bets are off. Here's a decision tree that may make it easier. I came across it randomly on the internet and don't know who to credit. I hope it helps.

Good luck!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Diary of an Atlantic crossing

We are shortly giving a talk on heavy weather sailing at the ISA Cruising Conference. I recently came across my diary from our first Atlantic crossing in 2008. I was reminded that the markets collapsed while we were at sea. As all we had was an SSB radio, we didn't really know about anything happening in the world, so it didn't matter. We sailed north from New York to Canada and then set off for Westport, Ireland from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Herb Hilgenberg was our weather router and Matt aboard s/v Ault was the only other sailor in the northern North Atlantic. That it turned out to be Matt Rutherford is a whole other story.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas at Sea

In 2009, Alex and I set sail from Ireland in early October heading to the Mediterranean to overwinter. When we got to Portugal, someone told us it was going to be very cold there, so we turned right and went to the Caribbean instead.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Citizen science and sailing

Getting involved in scientific research is a real game changer for many cruisers. Like Alex and me, many people get out there and then find they need more than just floating around from place to place. They need a purpose. As budgets for research in Universities and government agencies get cut, supporting research projects through participation in citizen science is a real boon. Many cruisers end up in remote places where it would be hard to justify sending a research vessel. Having someone already there who can take some measurements or observations and report back via an app when signal is available is making a difference to the collective knowledge base about the earth and oceans.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Technology and sailing

Visibility decreasing as we enter the Bay of Biscay 

Not long ago, when people set sail to cross oceans, they set off with some charts, a sextant, sight reduction tables, pencils, dividers, parallel rules, a compass, a log to measure knots and a clock. If they knew the speed at which they were sailing, and how long they had sailed, they could determine where they were. They would back that up by taking sights on the stars and the sun and calculating their lat and long.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Yacht Sharing - the new trend among young boaters

An article in BoatUS magazine outlined rather nicely why Millennials participate in boating at similar rates to their parents, yet they're far less likely to actually own a boat. They are finding creative ways to get out on the water without breaking the bank. It seems to be the result of a larger societal shift in thinking away from ownership and toward minimalism. This could explain the rapid growth of boat sharing entities. Regardless of the reasons, it poses a challenge for all the clubs vying for a shrinking population of "boat owners." It calls for a change in thinking of who our members can be. If it's boating enthusiasts regardless of ownership, then all we have to do is change where we look for them and add a few basic benefits to the membership offerings.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The danger of slipways

We have been dropping boats into the water from trailers for a lifetime. We have two little boats right now that are forever being taken in and out of the sea. For years, I had a Hobie Cat that I trailered all over the east coast of the US. Typically, the car never came near the water. But in some places, where the slipway was gently sloping and more water was needed, the rear wheels sometimes came very close to or even entered the water. We have never really thought about the risk to the car and driver, until now. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Positive feedback

Today started out with this note from our friends Fred and Chris, who have just bought their dream cruising yacht, a catamaran called Sea Jay. They come from New York but they bought the boat in South Africa, and sailed her first to St. Helena. Not the typical first leg of a cruise. From St. Helena, they sent us this note:

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A death on the ocean

There are no roses on a sailor’s grave,
No lilies on an ocean wave.
The only tribute is the seagulls’ sweeps,
And the teardrops that a sweetheart weeps.
—German song

Another sailor has perished in the Clipper Around the World Ocean Race. Simon Speirs, a crew member on the yacht "Great Britain", was helping to change a sail at the bow of the 70-foot boat when he was knocked over the side in the Indian Ocean. He was clipped in and wearing a life jacket with AIS but somehow got separated from the yacht. He was recovered 36 minutes later but could not be revived. It will be important to learn why his tether did not keep him secured to the boat. Simon was buried at sea. RIP.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The rise of adventure yachting

I suppose it all started with yacht chartering. Being able to fly to the South Pacific and charter a yacht for a couple of weeks was adventurous at some point in time when it was first introduced. If you couldn't sail across oceans, you could at least explore the destinations.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Back to Galicia

Anchored in the Cies

In October, Alex and I had a chance to return to Galicia and go sailing for another week. We'd spent two months there in the Rias Baixas this summer.  The Ryanair flights from Dublin are only twice a week. We flew out on a Thursday morning and were on the boat before noon. It was a foggy, drizzly kind of day and we were wondering what to expect.

Nevertheless, we trudged up the hill from Punta Lagoa to town with our trusty cart and shopping bags to provision. The Froiz was open and the bakery still had one loaf of fresh bread. Yeah!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

European Congress of Nautical Tourism

Hosted by the Monte Real Club Nautico de Bayona
Baiona, 27-29 October 2017

In attendance on behalf of OCC:
Daria Blackwell, Rear Commodore
Alex Blackwell, Regional Rear Commodore, Ireland

Representatives from 24 yacht clubs and cruising associations from Britain, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal and Spain took part in a 2½ day conference on cruising in Galicia, Spain. Several specialist media representatives also participated. Representatives from ten marina and service organisations were in attendance as were members of the regional tourism and harbour development authorities.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

ex-Hurricane Ophelia batters Ireland

Storm track predicted by NOAA NWS
Hurricane Ophelia, the 15th named storm of 2017 and the 10th consecutive Atlantic hurricane, devastates on the 30th anniversary of the Great Storm of 1987. Ophelia lost tropical storm status as it came ashore in Cork, but retained hurricane force winds. It has caused three known deaths and cut power to 260,000 homes and businesses.