The boom in around the world racing for all

There is something of a boom currently in around the world racing, with six new pro-am events set to bring the ultimate sailing feat within affordable reach. Elaine Bunting investigates

Have you ever dreamed of sailing in an around the world race, passing Cape Horn or surfing down the face of a breaking wave deep in the Southern Ocean? In your imagination you’ve pictured yourself standing behind the wheel of a yacht racing under a spinnaker tight as a snare drum, hosed by spray and wearing a rictus grin of fear and exhilaration.

In real life? No chance. But now, maybe you could, even if only for that one, giant-slaying leg.

From 2022 a clutch of new round the world events are set to start that open up big ocean racing possibilities at costs that align with private yacht ownership. There are double-handed races, solo races, non-stop and stopping, through the Tropics and deep into the Southern Ocean.

Some mix professionals with experienced amateurs and offer a chance to race against the pros, or hire pros to race alongside you. Several are specifically tailored to older yachts and in the process are remaking a ready market for well-found evergreen cruiser-racers.

Compared to pinnacle races such as the Vendée Globe or the Ocean Race, each with a ticket price of €10-15 million to reach the podium, a variety of epic events are now taking off with very different entry costs.

Golden Globe goes again

Next year will see the second edition of the Golden Globe Race. The ‘retro’ solo event set up by Australian sailor and adventurer Don McIntyre may initially have been seen as a one-off celebration of the 50th anniversary of the famous 1968/69 race, but it proved to be a hit worldwide, earning a mass audience and producing a queue of sailors wishing to take part and experience around the world racing.

With a home in Les Sables d’Olonne, where this race alternates with the Vendée Globe, the Golden Globe is now set up to be a perennial of the racing calendar. While it is not an event aspired to by elite professionals, it is a raw and relatively affordable around the world race for the everyman sailor.

Finnish skipper Tapio Lehtinen and his Gaia 36 Asteria pass Hobart during the 2018/19 Golden Globe Race. Photo: Jessie Martin/PPL/GGR

Being slow by nature of its eligible pre-1988 long keel designs, the GGR replicates the exact ‘lonely race for madmen’ experience that initially ignited our enduring fascination for around the world racing.

Stripped of modern technology, from autopilots to communications to weather routing, and with no stops, it is comparatively inexpensive. Jean-Luc Van Den Heede’s winning yacht in 2019 was a Rustler 36, of which secondhand models change hands for around £80-100,000. “You can’t win the race with money, as boats and equipment are restricted,” says Don McIntyre.

There is already a strong line-up for the 2022 race. “The [next] edition is going to have a different feel,” says McIntyre. “Those entering this one know what to expect and there are three distinct groups: the ones who are passionate about winning, others with a wholesome attitude focussed on doing as well as they can, and a third group who just want to get round.

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