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Celebrations and drama on the high seas in the Global Solo Challenge

by Marco Nannini / Global Solo Challenge 5 Dec 2023 10:25 GMT 5 December 2023
Andrea Mura crossing the equator on Vento di Sardegna © Andrea Mura

It's been another fantastic week of sailing at the Global Solo Challenge, a week full of achievements for many skippers and drama for some.

The relentless pace of the southern Atlantic and Indian Oceans has tried and tested the skippers mentally and put to the test the resistance of boats and equipment in the face of wind, waves, humidity, cold temperatures, squalls, and many other challenges.

Of the 16 boats that started from A Coruna so far, 15 are still in the game, Juan Merediz on Sorolla is the only boat to have formally retired due to autopilot failure on November 6. Of these, all but one have crossed the equator leaving only Kevin Le Poidevin in the north hemisphere. Having started nearly a whole month late due to a back injury and some technical issues, the skipper of Roaring Forty has seen his determination and patience put to the test. Instead of finding fast sailing conditions on his approach to the Canaries, his Atlantic descent has first seen him unexpectedly beat his way south in unseasonal southwesterly winds. Then, just as he thought he had sailed past the area influenced by North Atlantic low pressure systems, the Australian sailor stopped in his tracks in a massive ridge of windless high pressure, recording the lowest ever 24h mileage by any skipper in the Global Solo Challenge so far, 12 Nautical Miles, effectively just drifting, hardly something you'd be longing for with 25000 miles to go and whilst trying to catch up with the fleet ahead of you.

Only two boats are still scheduled to set off from A Coruna. Curt Morlock with his ex-IMOCA 6 Lazy K was due to start on December 9, he will certainly not be able to make that date and is now looking at the feasibility of a late start within the timeframe allowed by the event. His determination and resolve are intact despite the grains of sand in his hourglass becoming fewer and fewer, he's not intending to throw in the towel until the last grain has fallen. We wish Curt all the best in his attempt to remain in the event. Volkan Kaan Yemlihaoglu skipper of the Open 70 Black Betty, not due to start until January 6, has had to come to terms with the lack of sponsorship or funding adequate to prepare a boat of that size. Therefore, he communicated to the organisers that he'll be continuing with his preparations to be in a condition to take the start in 2027, having had the time to campaign the boat and adapt it for a solo circumnavigation.

Of the 16 starters, the latest boat to cross the equator was that of Andrea Mura, Vento di Sardegna, who staged a little ceremony with an encounter with Neptune, with a trident, crown, white beard, and all, that he dedicated to his two children, 3 and 5, who are following the adventures of their dad from home. Unlike Kevin Le Poidevin, Andrea had found excellent conditions on his way to the doldrums and has so far recorded the best 24h mileage with nearly 300 miles, the boat is likely to break his own 24h best repeatedly in the south when wind and waves will align. Vento di Sardegna is the fastest boat in the event, so it is to be expected. The relentless high pace kept by the Italian skipper had seen him very quickly climb the rankings in terms of expected finish time. The doldrums slowed him down until he negotiated a passage through the equatorial calms and resumed sailing at speed due south.

Andrea was not the only one to be celebrating personal milestones this week. Ari Känsäkoski, Pavlin Nadvorni, Ronnie Simpson, Cole Brower, William McBrien, and Riccardo Tosetto all sailed past the Greenwich Meridian where the longitudes switch from West to East until the Antimeridian, 180 degrees degrees of longitude due east ahead of them in the Pacific Ocean. Soon to cross 0 degrees longitude is David Linger, whose progress has been hampered by the influence of several southern Atlantic high pressures that have repeatedly slowed him down.

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