Pen Duick VI is taking the long way home back to Lorient, through the Caribbean and a visit to Newport R.I. Photo Martin Keruzoré
The Ocean Globe Race seven months out
On September 8, 1973, the first ever Whitbread Race around the world set out. 17 teams, virtually all amateur, in a mix of production boats and dedicated racing machines faced the unknown in this world's first fully crewed challenge around the globe. Sadly some were lost at sea and many retired with broken masts and boats.
Over the years it became the Volvo Race for elite sailors and now The Ocean Race in foiIing IMOCAs. In just seven months, 18 yachts will step back to 1973 and set out in the Ocean Globe Race celebrating the 50th Anniversary of that original Whitbread, using similar yachts on a similar course under similar retro conditions of the 1970's.
Many entrants are still in the shed for refit. Pre-registration entry details must be submitted on 1st April. There is a long list of requirements to be met including: safety and medical training, crew qualifications and the use of the retro gear including radio direction finders, sextant and collecting cassette music tapes.
A critical piece of retro equipment is the HF SSB radio and Weather fax, replacing the usual satellite gear now banned, which are needed for long-distance ship to ship/shore communications and to receive up to date meteorological information.
Many entrants have faced challenges making the start. Some found their refit longer, harder and more expensive than originally planned. One severely damaged his yacht while setting out on crew training. For others their personal situation changed over the years. Of the remaining 18 entrants, half have not started sailing their qualifiers, while the most advanced teams are already on the water, building mileage, breaking stuff, testing systems, even sometimes bringing silverware home!
Pen Duick and l'Esprit d'Equipe have been quite good at that game, adding thousands of miles to their 2022 mileage with the RORC Transatlantic in January and later this month the RORC Caribbean 600 before heading to New York and crossing back to France. Mileage is the best way to test all systems, validating technical choices while qualifying crew for the upcoming round the world adventure. The Pen Duick VI crew also plans to pay a visit to a faraway location that built the black boat's legend: Newport Rhode Island.
"We're very happy with the boat and I'm delighted with the crew. The choice was hard with so many candidates and a few chosen ones, but we now have a really strong team. Between the Caribbean 600 and New York we are taking Pen Duick to Newport where she has not returned since her victory in the 1976 OSTAR. Ken Read, the North Sails President graciously offered to organise an event with the legendary New York Yacht Club to celebrate her return and drum-up interest in this retro round the world race." Marie Tabarly, Pen Duick VI
Others have chosen another ocean classic favourite to cross the Atlantic while testing boats and crew in the Southern Atlantic: the Cap 2 Rio race. The Swan 65 entry Translated 9 (previously ADC Accutrac, Clare Francis, Whitbread 1977) led by Marco Trombetti (ITA) and the Malingri family finished at a respectable 6th place and the Swan 53 of Gerrit Louw (ZAF) "Allspice Yachting'' had an eventful crossing, finishing 10th, breaking quite a few things on board, learning valuable lessons in the process.
"We broke nearly every piece of modern equipment, the fridge and freezer broke on day two, then the rebuilt hydraulic vang on day three, the sat phone on day five with no weather info, before the electronics including loch, wind, speed went dark right after that. We sailed like 1973 with very limited information: sextant, barometer, HF radio and a lot of observation and it worked well.
I am very satisfied with the experience, we broke what had to, we tested the crew in tough conditions and have built considerable experience on the boat. I am very happy we had this race on the program, it forced us out of the shed into the water. Refits are never fully done and at some point you need to go sailing!" Gerrit Louw, Swan 53 Allspice Yachting (ZAF)
Others did not have the time to cross an ocean and back, so instead went into winter storms to test the boat and themselves in race-like conditions. Such was 2023 for White Shadow, just back from their qualifier, taking the Swan 57 out of the Med into the Atlantic, with some serious heavy weather experience in the process.
"We did not have time to cross the full Atlantic and back, and we wanted to sail in adverse conditions both upwind and downwind. Our main goal was to test the boat and crew in total isolation, and everything worked for crew shifts, to desalination and the use of the retro gear. We did all this in very adverse conditions which enabled us to test the boat and crew to the limit." Jean Christophe Petit, Swan 57 White Shadow (ESP)
Setbacks and comebacks...
Meanwhile Team Futuro, one of the first entries into the OGR led by Dominique Dubois (FRA) suffered a serious setback, but has not thrown in the towel. Dominique who built the world's fastest racing yachts in his yard Carboman Multiplast was one of the first teams ready, carefully planning his campaign and exit from the yard to focus fully on his round the world dream.
He chose the Swan 651 for her offshore pedigree and large accommodations, and had an extensive refit done at the yard after sailing her back from the Caribbean. The boat was ready, the crew had gone through their qualifiers, the boat was on the hard for some comfort improvement when earlier this year the storm Gérard, blew the yacht off her cradle crashing hard onto the concrete..
The clock is ticking and repairing the 651 proved a double challenge financially, as the repairs cost a lot more than the value of the boat, and in terms of agenda, as the boat may not be ready in time. The skipper has also been looking at other yachts to replace his broken dream and finally found a Swan 65 on the other side of the channel, "Evrika" from previous UK OGR entry Richard Little.
"I know the Swan 65 well, having owned one for several years, my crew and I have a lot of mileage on this yacht. I came across Evrika in Antigua in 2008 and was lucky enough to visit her. She is to me the best one there is in the world, and I am delighted that Richard and myself could come to an agreement. Team Futuro is back on Evrika!" Dominique Dubois, Team Futuro
Newcomers in the starting blocks.
Another French entry is driving the numbers up, Project Triana led by the French media entrepreneur Jean d'Arthuys (FRA) is the latest entry in Adventure Classe with a Swan 53. Jean, who has a busy career from television to vineyards is no stranger to sailing having crewed with multihull expert and Jules Vernes guru Olivier de Kersauzon but felt this was the right opportunity to revive his dream to race around the world.
"It's hard to explain the call of the sea, it takes hold of you with a mixture of fear and irrepressible attraction. It's also an old dream from my youth. I had already set up a project 30 years ago, but it didn't work out due to a lack of sponsors. Don's idea of returning to the original format, mixing ocean racing and human adventure, makes the race accessible again and creates a strong interest in this next edition. This format slows down time and the madness of technology, creates the framework for an extraordinary human adventure, in one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, the ocean." Jean d'Arthuys, Swan 53 Triana
Jean brings plenty of round the world experience on board and in his shore team. First mate Sébastien Audigane is well known in the professional French sailing community, with many ocean miles and a Jules Vernes round the world record under his belt.
A recruitment campaign for crew is underway looking for crew, cooks, doctors, inspired media men and women to make a film of the race, all talents are welcome. Motivation, personality and commitment to the project will be the main criteria for the selection of team members, although some experience and speaking French is required. See the OGR website for entrant details and contact Triana Team Maria to apply.