Crew of Explorer AU (28) slip lines for 1,500nm race qualifier. One crew spot available on Leg 1 Southampton to Cape Town. (OGR2023 Sayula Class Entry) Photo Credit: Don McIntyre/ OGR2023

Crew of Explorer AU (28) slip lines for 1,500nm race qualifier. One crew spot available on Leg 1 Southampton to Cape Town. (OGR2023 Sayula Class Entry) Photo Credit: Don McIntyre/ OGR2023

Ocean Globe Race 65 Days: the pressure is on


07/07/2023 - 06:56

Most would regard sailing 30,000 miles around the world via the three great capes, an epic, life-changing achievement in itself.

But the 160 adventurers who've embraced the OGR are now acutely aware getting to the start line on September 10th is a challenge as daunting as the race itself. Thousands of hours of refits, training, qualifying passages and safety courses are being completed across the 14-strong fleet.

The race is in keeping with the spirit of the 1973 Whitbread, where 'ordinary' sailors competed with sextants and paper charts, but without phenomenal budgets, foils and super-high tech computers. A return to non-GPS days of real people, real adventures and a real chance to witness what determination and grit can achieve.

Dominique Dubois, owner and skipper of Evrika FR (07) is displaying epic quantities of endurance to get his 1982 Swan 65 Ketch to the start line. His previous boat entered in the OGR, Futuro, sustained damage earlier in the year when storm Gérard blew her off her cradle in the boat yard. Dominique found and acquired Evrika and kept his dream alive of sailing around the world like it's 1973.

"The biggest challenge is having to redo everything in just four months instead of two years. I'm racing to the race. Changing the boat from a British flag to a French flag was a nightmare. So much to do and plans keep changing every day," said Dominique.

Mark Sinclair, aka 'Captain Coconut' of Golden Globe fame, is skipper of Explorer AU (28), a Nautor Swan 57 owned by OGR founder and Race Director, Don McIntyre. He lists what has been achieved in the last week onboard just in time for slipping lines in Les Sable D'Olonne for their 1,500nm race qualifier.

"We've been extremely busy, refitting lifelines, exhausts, installing new life rafts, examining all our sails. We installed, tested and carried out training with our defibrillator, fitted our hydrovane... There is a very, very long list,"
Another Australian entrant, Outlaw AU (08), a beautiful Baltic 55, was out of the water for over 10 years and needed a complete refit before crossing the Atlantic to come 'home'.

"It was serendipitous to bring Outlaw back to Hamble in the UK. Although already planned, we found out that in 1985 Equity & Law, as Outlaw was then known, prepared for the Whitbread based at Hamble Point and the crew stayed at the RAFYC (The Royal Air Force Yacht Club). We are again berthed at Hamble Point and I'm a member of the RAFYC," said crew member and part-owner Lucy Frost.

But getting the boat ready for the epic oceans is not enough. Teams need the right crew with enough passion, skill, grit and finances to make the cut, Lucy explained.

"The biggest challenge to finding a new crew is to find a sailor that also has the finances to invest in our project. We are an owners' collective, each owning one share per leg of the race and have bought and refitted the boat and are now preparing for the race. When the race is finished, we plan to sell Outlaw, hopefully to a team who wants to do the next OGR, and we'll split any profits accordingly. I reckon it will be a wrench to sell her though."

Stylish Swan 51, Godspeed USA (01), and her Skeleton Crew are expecting huge crowds for their send-off from Portsmouth Pier on the USA East coast on July 12th. Skeleton Crew Sailing, a non-profit founded in 2016 by US Navy veteran Taylor Grieger, provides adventure therapy to military service members and veterans through sailing expeditions. They assembled a crew with representatives from all US military services and First Responders.

"Why are we doing the OGR? There's not an American boat in the race and we think there should be. We feel it's a good platform for talking about what we are doing for veteran suicide and how Adventure Therapy works to prevent suicide and help heal both physical and invisible wounds,"
said skipper Taylor Grieger.

Godspeed team manager Bartholomew J. Timm believes the OGR is the perfect fit to support their mission.

"In a race like this, the keys are endurance and survival. You need to endure the storms and all they bring in order to survive. Sailing shows there is a way through, you outlast the storms. The parallels to those dealing with PTSD are stark. It's what they do every day," he said.

The crew of Translated 9 ITL (09) gathered for a night of celebration in Rome recently. Marco Trombetti is owner and skipper of the Swan 65, previously known as ADC Accutrac when it was skippered by Clare Francis, the first woman to lead a team in the Whitbread Race. Marco spoke passionately about his team:

"We have sailed 25,000 miles with our crew so far, and we are proud to see the growth and progress in everyone. One thing is for sure, this will not be the last party before the race."

Galiana WithSecure FI (06) had a breath-taking departure from South/Central Harbour of Helsinki. With two Finnish entries, Spirit of Helsinki FI (71) being the other, there's enormous interest in the OGR in Finland.

The much respected sailor, owner and skipper of Galiana WithSecure, Tapio Lehtinen, made international news earlier in the year after a dramatic rescue in the Southern Indian Ocean during the Golden Globe Race. South African, Kirsten Neuschäfer, who went on to win the GGR, diverted course to take him aboard Minnehaha after his Gaia 36 masthead sloop, Asteria, suddenly started taking on water and sinking. Tapio returned home and began working tirelessly to continue with his ambition to compete in the OGR.

Tapio explained what the departure meant to him:

"According to the old cliché, the most difficult part of a circumnavigation is casting off the lines. Well, this time, for our part, this was the best day of the project so far. After the cocktail party and farewell concert, we left the Harbour, made a flag salute with a signal cannon to the club flag, answered by the big club flag & ancient HSS signal cannon. From HSS, Galiana WithSecure was escorted by a fleet of over hundred boats through the South/Central Harbour of Helsinki, past the City Hall and Presidential Palace.

"On our way past the Suomenlinna fortress, a Unesco World Heritage Site and towards the Harmaja lighthouse, we were first able to hoist the mizzen staysail and at the lighthouse the A2 spinnaker with the logo of City of Rauma. More than 10 years ago, I scattered the ashes of my late father, born in Rauma, into the sea SE of Harmaja. Now we passed the lighthouse on our way to sail around the globe. I could see him smiling. A great adventure has begun!"

Tracy Edwards MBE, owner of the much-loved Maiden UK (03) a 58 Bruce Farr Design, skippered the first all-female crew in the 1989 Whitbread. She was happy to welcome GGR winner Kirsten Neuschäfer to speak with Maiden's crew.

"Final preparations are well underway with the crew taking various courses and preparing both minds and bodies for the rigours of the OGR race, focusing on endurance and strength. The crew were delighted to meet with Kirsten and hear about her amazing experience. She was very generous with her knowledge, even advising the crew on the things she wished she had taken with her on the race," said Tracy.

MDL marinas is hosting a press conference on July 18th to welcome Whitbread veterans, media and race teams, Don McIntyre and Race Manager Georgie Vintner, as they reveal their much-anticipated plans for Race Village in Ocean Village Marina, Southampton, UK.

Boats will start arriving in Ocean Village Marina from August 22nd in preparation for the official opening of the village on August 29th.

A strong turnout is expected on September 5th for a Whitbread Veteran Reunion. While supporters have the opportunity to get up close and personal to the race start, 1pm on September 10th, by boarding the steamship Shieldhall for a day on the water and the perfect vantage point. Details to follow.

Everyone knows the old saying "there's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing".
Thankfully, that will not be an issue for the sailors of the OGR as ZHIK are announced as the official clothing partner for the OGR.

Host ports, Cape Town, Auckland and Punta Del Este continue to work on plans to welcome crews, family and friends. Including a Whitbread Alumni reunion, rum race and New Years Eve party.

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