One of the questions I’m asked most often is “why on earth do you want to do a race like that?”
It’s a very valid question, especially if one is totally objective about the race itself:
- It’s sailed in small, old fashioned boats that even if sailed to their best potential cannot hope to cover the course distance in less than 210 days and more realistically, 250.
- A large portion of this time will be spent in the Southern Ocean (yes, it’s officially a separate, named ocean now) where it is cold, windy, wet, uncomfortable and dangerous.
- It is a solo race. The skipper will have no physical contact with another human for the duration of the race.
- It is unassisted. The skipper will have no communication with anyone in the outside world except for the Race Organizers and other seafarers and competitors.
- It is non-stop. The skipper may not disembark anywhere for the duration of the race. Not for replenishment of supplies, not for repairs. One must be totally self sufficient.
- It is the longest test of human endurance in any sport.
- No modern technology can be used by competitors. No GPS, no radar, no AIS, no email, no iPod, no Kindle. Only paper charts, sextants and mechanical timepieces.
On the face of it, right there are seven good reasons to not do it! So why am I doing it?
- It’s not “something I’ve always wanted to do”. I was only vaguely aware of the original race won by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in 1968. I had never read any of his books until recently. My only knowledge of that first race was gleaned from movies about ‘the Donald Crowhurst story’. I had no ‘burning desire’ to sail around the world and was in fact slightly contemptuous of people who stated that as their goal, especially those that decided to do it non stop! I mean, what was the point of that?
- Then along came the 2018 recreation of the original event and I began to take notice. I watched as the race became topical when participants stopped in at Cape Town for one reason or another, and then I followed the demolition derby across the Indian Ocean and the incredible rescues and the human stories that ensued. Somewhere in my subconscious, something must have lodged and taken hold?
- This race is about people. Ordinary people who pit themselves against the elements and each other to see if they can stay the distance, physically and mentally.
- There can only be one winner. It is the skipper who, having adhered to all the rules of the race, sails his or her boat across the finish line before any of the other competitors.
- Along the way friendships will be made and friendly rivalries established and those will bond the individuals into a collective in the way that few other sports could hope to achieve?
- I want to be part of that experience. Growing up, although I had the interest and the ability, I never seemed to make the time to dedicate myself to the sport of sailing. I always managed to find a distraction (be it studying, working, raising a family and generally just surviving in this tough world) and as such I could only ever regard myself as a part time enthusiast. Now I have the time and I am working on getting all the resources in place but most importantly, I have the interest, the focus and the will to succeed.