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Ovington 2021 - ILCA 2 - LEADERBOARD

The Great Gig in the Sea

by Mark Jardine 26 Jul 2023 20:00 BST
Whitbread Race legend Sayula II, winner of the 1973 edition sailing alongside Translated9 former ADC Accutrac of the 1977 edition and entrant in the 2023 Ocean Globe race © Carlo Borlenghi

We're suffering from an embarrassment of riches in offshore sailing at the moment. Not that it's a bad thing, but it does make keeping up with everything that's happening in the yacht racing world a bit of a struggle.

The Rolex Fastnet Race continues after the brutal start in winds of up to 50 knots. Huge congratulations to Max Klink's team on the Botin 52 Caro who have been crowned overall winners to lift the Fastnet Challenge Cup.

We saw an outstanding performance from François Gabart and his team on the giant 32m flying trimaran SVR Lazartigue; they smashed the outright record, completing the course in 1 day 8 hours 38 minutes 27 seconds. Charlie Dalin and Pascal Bidegorry on MACIF Santé Prévoyance (the brand-new IMOCA which we have talked about in the past couple of months in both 'The Next Generation' and 'Can you still judge a boat by its lines?') secured monohull line honours.

On the horizon is the Ocean Globe Race, the next brainchild of Don McIntyre, the founder and Race Chairman of the Golden Globe Race, and it has attracted fourteen yachts to the start line.

The Ocean Globe Race very much goes back to the routes of the original 1973 Whitbread Round the World Race and marks the 50th anniversary of the original event. The race will depart from Southampton on Sunday 10th September, and we spoke to Don to find out more...

Mark Jardine: You've got 14 teams, and whilst it could have been 30-40 teams, you must be extremely pleased.

Don McIntyre: Yes, I am. I mean, when you look back at the original race, I think it was 17 teams. This is an inaugural race, so there's an unknown element there, which is the meaning of a true adventure: the outcome is unknown. That's what we're trying to achieve, and bring it back to ordinary people, ordinary boats.

The market for potential entrants is huge, because this is ordinary sailors in yacht clubs that think, yes, they're doing a Sydney-Hobart, they're doing a Fastnet, then what's the next step? To race through the Southern Ocean around Cape Horn and do a circumnavigation; and every sailor dreams about that. Well now it's game on, there's no excuses, you can get together with your mates, get out there, buy a little boat, medium boat, big boat, and just do it.

The other key element is that it's not about speed and money. For example, we've done what we can to keep a cap on the number of sails on board, whether it's a production boat or ex-Whitbread boat. It's about the adventure, it's sailing well, and it's just got all the elements.

Mark: Just like with the Golden Globe, though slightly modified, you have made it so that the technology is limited on these yachts.

Don: Exactly. It's easy to shut off the GPS side of it. But the simple reality is that I know every boat will totally enjoy using a sextant and paper charts; they will enjoy the idea of having to think about weather, learn about weather, read barometers and get their weather faxes when they can, and actually get a forecast off VHF radio (which is possible, it's not perfect, but it's okay).

It's taking it back to those real skills of a seaman, and the best thing about it: we don't compromise on safety. We've got the world's best safety levels across everything. All the electronics are there, but they're undercover. So if something goes wrong, you just pull the covers off. It's a beautiful way to sail because you actually experience this feeling of wholesomeness; you're having to use your own body and senses to work out what's going on. And that's enjoyable.

Mark: There are some boats with incredible heritage taking part: ex-Whitbread boats, and other yachts which have a storied history. Which one are you most excited about?

Don: That's one of the real elements to it as well: giving all these boats a second life. When I was sailing, and I followed all the Whitbreads; Conny van Rietschoten was one of my heroes. The day I got the video in the mail about 'Flyer' it was just electric! To see Pen Duick VI out there, even ADC Accutrac - I remember it so well, all these different times. We're going to relive a lot of that fun. It's nice now to look back at the history and say, "Wow, we got a race winner as well".

Then you go to look at Tapio Lehtinen - I mean, Tapio is just crazy. He had a beautiful boat and then he just rebuilt it! It's just pristine. It's like the most pristine vintage car you've ever seen in your life. You'll be gobsmacked. They are just beautiful, stunning boats, and they are going to race them hard around the world.

Note: Sadly Tapio Lehtinen's Swan 57 Galiana WithSecure was dismasted in the Rolex Fastnet Race so the clock is ticking for him to get to the Ocean Globe Race start line.

Mark: Like taking a classic Aston Martin rally driving?

Don: Absolutely. It's just nuts. As you know, we've got our own boat, a Swan 57 which was a beautiful boat - to own a Swan is just fantastic. I felt really bad doing some of the things I had to do to get it ready for the race! We took the cabin soles out - kept the good ones, put plywood down. There's just this sense of having production boats that are real classics. I've got a real reason to own a Swan now, you know, for the first time in my life, and it's like, oh, wow, it's a Swan, and it's going to race around the world, which is what they're designed to do so. So a lot of exciting fun stuff going on. And the other part of this is that at the end of the race, you can actually sell your boat. The biggest expense is to buy the boat, and the refit, but it's not a wasted racing refit. You're just reconditioning beautiful boats. And so at the end when you sell your boat, the cost of doing the race is not as big as what people are thinking.

Mark: The Whitbread had a huge association with Ocean Village and Southampton. So having the race start here must be a huge boost for you. Plus, with Maiden taking part, the connection, and the appeal to the British public to come along for the start, must be massive.

Don: I'm putting it out there loud and clear. Listen, guys, I'm talking to everyone in the UK: get behind this! As you know, the history hasn't been strong, with the UK losing events recently. Fair enough, the whole world's depressed with the economy and stuff but you don't need money to come and watch the start. We want to see millions out at the start, and to the sailing community: we want to see you get behind it. You know, fly the flags, all that stuff. It took us a long time to get the original course going - to get Cape Town and get Auckland and get Punta - so to have Southampton and MDL here supporting us in Ocean Village is fantastic.

Mark: Having Maiden involved must be another massive plus for the event when it looked unlikely.

Don: It's great. I mean, we needed an English entry. We're so excited to have all the women of Maiden involved with the race and I can't wait to see who's going to win it. There's a lot of things going on in the background in the Flyer class, let alone the whole event, and Maiden is a hot boat. It's going to be such a great race!

So there it is, mark your calendar for 10th September and be sure to watch The Ocean Race start. If you're in the area then why not visit the Race Village in Southampton? This is a fantastic race to get behind and follow.

Some may be wondering as to the title of this newsletter, and those who've listened to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album will see the link to the song The Great Gig in the Sky immediately. This track was written by the late, great Richard Wright, who owned the Swan 65 Evrika, which has been acquired by French sailor Dominique Dubois and will be competing in the Ocean Globe Race. As a massive Pink Floyd fan, I cannot wait to see this yacht racing. and are both bursting to the seams with news at the moment, from the leviathan Ultim trimarans, down to the smallest of dinghies, so be sure to check in regularly to keep up to date with all that's going on. Please do also keep us posted with your event news via!

Mark Jardine and Managing Editor

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