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Global Solo Challenge: Extraordinary tales of extraordinary people with a dream

by Global Solo Challenge 12 May 15:52 BST
GSC entry Jamie Young from Ireland © Global Solo Challenge

Many of us look up to the extraordinary feats of professional sailors racing at the Vendée Globe. We admire them, we look up to them, we can't say we can always relate to them, but part of us sailors would like to feel the same emotions they live through.

What we often forget is that those who even make it to put together a Vendée campaign have made it as part of the smallest of elites of the world's top sailors we can dream of.

They are not just extraordinary achievers and extraordinary sailors, they have also put together all the exceptional circumstances that are needed to pull off a Vendée Globe campaign. We can spend our lives feeling envy or jealousy, or simply wearing out our sailor armchair and flood social media with our not-so-expert comments. Others have decided they will achieve the extraordinary, perhaps with different financial means, but with the same drive, ambition and determination.

The Global Solo Challenge

When we launched the Global Solo Challenge we were approached by these very individuals. All-round incredible people who never gave up their drive to achieve the uncommon: to dream, commit and conquer. They signed up for an event that follows the same course as the Vendée Globe. Single-handed, non-stop, without assistance, by the three great capes. They can do so on their boat, and thus won't require a multi-million budget to get onto an IMOCA.

Manu and his need to return to the South Seas

The youngest of them all is the french Manu Wattecamps-Etienne. He refers to his boat Céleste as a gentle old lady as she was launched in 1968, well before he was born. The pair has already sailed around the world in the 2018 La Longue Route. An event that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first solo circumnavigation by Moitessier and the winner of the Golden Globe Race, Robin Knox-Johnston.

Unfortunately, Manu had to make a stop in Argentina to repair his rudder and wishes to return to the magic of the South to conquer his non-stop dream. His soul has already gathered the depth of those who have sailed through the great southern oceans. "It is quite simply who I am... I have to go back there, to the South Seas, to sail better and travel further than the previous time."

Pavlin and his crazy autumn sail

Pavlin Nadvorni from Bulgaria runs a boatyard in Varna and learnt sailing on the Danube. His passion for sailing has lived in his blood since childhood. He recalls using a bowl filled with oil to practice using the sextant. In 1991 in what he defines as a "crazy autumn sail" he took a 9-meter boat with no engine from the Black Sea to Malta and Gibraltar with emigration in mind. Fate led him to his first paid job and a career in yachting.

Jamie turns his back to a proper job

Jamie Young from Ireland always had itchy feet and started disappointing his family from a young age, refusing to follow the steps towards a proper job. He has been attracted to all sorts of marine activities, from sea kayaking to kite surfing, small and large boat sailing voyages in demanding water in the Arctic and Antarctic. He raced single-handed for the first time in the 1976 OSTAR, yes, the very famous edition where Alain Colas showed up on a 234 ft monohull called Club Mediteranée!

Dafydd has dreamt and committed, now he'll conquer

The first time Dafydd Hugues landed on the Global Solo Challenge website and read through the race format, with no hesitation thought "I have to do this." He is now going through the complete refit of an S&S 34, stripped open, a blank canvas. He is the painter of his dream and his is the expression I quoted earlier "Dream, commit, conquer".

Laurence revives a dream of 16 years ago

Laurence Warner bought his boat to sail solo around the world 16 years ago! However, not long after, he met his future wife and had children. He put his dream on hold as it would have been irresponsible to give up his job and financially commit to such a major project, until now!

Extraordinary people with a dream

As of now, there are 19 confirmed entries in the Global Solo Challenge. In each story, each person, you can feel the vitality of their character. None of them is an ordinary person, by any stretch of the imagination. I will tell you more about this extraordinary group of people forming around the event. Their ability to expand the envelope has made me feel emotional at times. I feel a sense of responsibility towards their dream.

In a series of articles followed by interviews and videos we will start to get to know the entrants in the Global Solo Challenge. This small selection is of stories will continue with more extraordinary tales. One participant just returned from Patagonia. Another attempted a circumnavigation on a boat of less than 6 metres. The first woman to sign up is determined to show a little girl power in this world which she defines "of brutes".

We know the power of these stories, because each one of us will be able to identify with several of the participants. These are not extra terrestrial super human top sailing professionals. They are special people in their right, extraordinary in all respects, but leaving in a world where image and appearance has taken over, forgetting the blood and tears that it takes to commit to a single-handed circumnavigation.

You can do it too. You can be part of it. The Global Solo Challenge tries to be as inclusive as possible, it has allowed some old boats to come to a new life. It has allowed old dreams to be felt strong again instead of forgotten.

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