Which are the differences between the Golden Globe Race, Vendée Globe and Global Solo Challenge?
The second edition of the Golden Globe Race started from Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on 4th September 2022. With 15 yachts, manned by some incredible skippers, crossing the start line.
Thousands of people lined the quays, together with a flotilla of yachts who watched the start of this event, and details of the event were reported around the world.
The International Association of Cape Horners, inaugurated a Cape Horn Hall of Fame, in the Golden Globe Race village at the port on 31st August 2022, to honour the names of famous Cape Horners past and present. The annual awards won long-term sponsorship from the French port, and this inauguration meant that many famous names, like Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Sir Chay Blyth and many others were present for the start of the Golden Globe Race, which added to the profile of this start. The International Association of Cape Horners is also a partner of the Global Solo Challenge.
Indeed, Sir Robin was asked if he was going to take part, but claimed that he was ‘too busy.’
All in all, a good start to a race. The port of Les Sables d’Olonne, had really pulled the stops out to create a great occasion.
Now the Golden Globe Race is termed a “retro” race in that, it is meant to be a re-creation of the famous 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, famously won by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on board Suhaili, who, in being the only person to finish the course, became the first man to circumnavigate the World solo and non-stop.
The ethos of the current race is, that the skippers should only have the equipment that Sir Robin had available then, and that they should rely on the traditional seafaring skills as to navigation and any ‘modern’ equipment should not be available to them.
The Golden Globe Race (GGR) is an open non-handicap event limited to designated pre-1988 designed yachts and entry is by invitation only.
The list of admissible yachts is detailed as:
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.
Currently there are only three sailing events that challenge sailors to sail single-handed around the world, unassisted, non-stop, by the three great capes, namely the Golden Globe Race, Vendée Globe and the Global Solo Challenge, so we’ll try to further understand the different nature of each event.
The Vendée Globe (VG) is a one-class race for IMOCA ’60s, which are high-tech multi-million euro racing machines, and the race is only open to professional teams that have access to a high level of sponsorship.
The Global Solo Challenge (GSC) has been created to fill a gap between the VG and the GGR. The yachts allowed to enter span from 32ft to 55ft, with no age specifications and also open to one-off Open designs and other racing boats such as Class 40s and Open 50s. This will give more freedom of choice to participants in deciding on their ride.
The GSC will, uniquely for such a global event, apply a form of a handicap system that will be applied at the start of the event, with the yachts departing in groups, with the slowest leaving first.
Skippers will not know which exact group they will be in until closer to the start, so they are discouraged to spend budget to optimise their boat to a rule, organisers aim at keeping the event and their starts fair.
Once at sea, this will then become an open race and, should the calculations be correct, the finish should be more exciting than the start and every sailor will have the chance of crossing the line first.
So the Golden Globe Race, the Global Solo Challenge and the Vendée Globe are effectively quite different from one another. The GGR is a one-class event for “retro” boats, the VG is the pinnacle of professional offshore solo sailing events for IMOCA class boats. The GSC on the other hand is open to many type of entrants, those who simply wish to fulfil a dream but also those who want to show their skills and ability with the bigger goal of later putting together a Vendée campaign.
The events differ in their approach to safety, the VG only allows IMOCA class compliant boats, a class recognised by World Sailing, and hence it is a race which applies World Sailing rules which, for example, include Offshore special regulations for different types of events thus providing a framework.
The purpose of the Offshore Special Regulations (OSR) is to establish uniform minimum design, equipment, accommodation and training standards for monohulls and multihulls (excluding proa) boats and their crews whilst racing offshore.
There are specific regulations for sailors who intend to spend extended periods in remote colder climes, and such events are called Category Zero events.
The Global Solo Challenge does not fall under the direct framework of World Sailing recognised events due to its more open nature and peculiar format. However, the organisers have effectively applied the same Offshore Special Regulations as the Vendée Globe. These regulations represent, at present, the best known practices when it comes to safety.
The organisers of the Golden Globe Race, on the other hand, have devised an own set of rules as the “retro” concept would not make it possible to apply OSRs category Zero in full, some of the equipment part of these rules did not exist back in 1968, for example.
The “retro” element is not the only reason, some rules differ most probably due to small size of the boats involved in the GGR. One rule is that although a watertight collision bulkhead must be fitted within 15% of the LOA from the bow and abaft the forward end of the water line, further watertight compartments or foam flotation are recommended but not compulsory. This is in contrast to OSR Cat Zero recommendations that require a boat to be subdivided into 5 separate watertight sections with further transverse, watertight bulkheads.
The Global Solo Challenge is not a race per se, but the organisers have decided to adhere to the OSR framework, with only a few minor alterations to match the circumstances of their event.
The Global Solo Challenge encourages the use of pre-owned yachts and have admitted a vast array of design of yachts, but entrants must comply with the rules and boats must be modified accordingly. The addition of watertight bulkheads may be more of a challenge on some boats, but there is no dispensation from this rule.
Given the complexity of these events, all set of rules, whether within the World Sailing framework or a custom framework, are bound to be lengthy and cover many subjects.
Some may argue that some of the rules are difficult to police in practice. In the Vendée Globe weather routing is not allowed, but skippers are in constant communication with their shore teams and are allowed any sort of advice, for example if they need assistance in fixing an issue on the boat. Some have even questioned whether this hinders the purity of the definition of “without assistance”. The engines for VG boats carry a seal which if broken can result in disqualification, however this would not in practice be very difficult to circumvent and just like for weather routing a lot is deferred to the sportsmanship of sailors.
The rules of the GGR are even stricter, especially when it comes to communication, in an attempt to recreate the feel of the original 1968 event. However, in the 2022 edition of the GGR all skippers have a satellite phone on board which they “should” only use for comms with race headquarters. I presume this is another point left to the honesty of skippers as monitoring incoming and outgoing comms from any satphone is not realistically feasible unless, as I read somewhere, the are some special arrangements with Satellite Communications operators.
I spoke to Global Solo Challenge’s organiser Marco Nannini, who explained that in the GSC the choice has been taken not to impose restrictions which could not be monitored and could not be easily verified, so for example weather routing is allowed, because if you have a satphone or radios on board it is not possible to verify that a skipper is not given such information, the fewer rules there are, the fewer rules can be broken, except of course for those rules that are mandated for the design, equipment, and characteristics of a boat that can be signed off before the start.
Some have argued that the Golden Globe Race, has somewhat strayed from the purity of its ethos with an array of modern equipment, including Solar panels, gel batteries, satellite telephones, EPIRBs, echo sounders etc. The reality is that most “modern additions” have only been allowed to increase the safety of skippers, which seams reasonable, and perhaps we have to accept that what Sir Robin achieved by launching towards the unknown in 1968 cannot truly be recreated more than 50 years hence. Regardless of any of these discussions, setting off on a 32-36 long keel footer with an expected circumnavigation time in excess of 200 days is extraordinary and no debate or discussion should ever stray from recognising the incredible feat that a circumnavigation without (most) modern technology really means.
The Golden Globe Race 2022 is underway at the time of writing, the next Vendée Globe race will take place in 2024.
The Global Solo Challenge will start from the Spanish port of La Coruña. The first yachts will start on 2nd September 2023 and then, at periods after this, until the final yachts depart on 19th November 2023.
For further information regarding the Global Solo Challenge go to www.globalsolochallenge.com
In the meantime, I will be following the Golden Globe Race with interest