There will be sixteen solo racers, including 4 returning for a second go, setting off on Sunday for a solo race around the world which was first contested four years ago by the Australian adventurer Don McIntyre, who was eager to offer a race which mirrored the early pioneering philosophies of mythical Golden Globe of 1968. So there 16 compared with 18 on the first edition. “If Covid did not exist we would have had about 26 entrants. Travel restrictions and other issues killed it. We are very happy, the quality is high and the characters are grand! So we are very healthy, with many also lining up for 2026”, explains Don McIntyre.
The organizer has made some changes to the rules compared to the previous edition: “The most important was moving the start date back two months which “may” give less or softer storms in the Southern Ocean. An extra 2000 mile qualifying voyage in the entered GGR yacht was added, making 4000 solo and 8000 ocean miles minimum. Most have much more than that”, says Don McIntyre. Another notable change is a ban on amateur radio : “The last time, it allowed participants to have information to which they should not have had access”, the race director, the Frenchman Sebastien Delasnerie explains.
But there is an objective bring the race to much more to life than in 2018 and so the sailors will be able to send text messages via their Yellow Brick tracker, these being transformed into daily tweets, “without any filter from the organization”, specifies the race director, while the course now has two additional gates at Cape Town and Punta del Este (in addition to the Canary Islands and Hobart), where sailors will deposit SD cards containing the images they have taken at sea and “for media organisations, we allow twice a week an exclusive 20 minute interview with every entrant” adds Don McIntyre.
The ambitions of Les Sables d’Olonne
For this second edition, the contribution of local partners, who take care of everything that is official village and entertainment, has gone up: “We are starting on a budget of 1.3 million,” confirms Moreau. “The Vendée department, the Pays de la Loire region and a pool of private partners are helping us with 500,000 euros, the net cost for the city and the area agglomeration (district) is 800,000 euros where the last time it was was around 400,000 euros.”
With the Vendée Globe, the Golden Globe Race and the Mini Transat, the city of Les Sables – which also hosts the Solo Maître CoQ, Les Sables-Les Açores-Les Açores (Mini and Class40), the 1,000 Milles des Sables, the Vendée Arctic and New York-Vendée – is now seen to be positioned, according to its mayor, as “the capital of around the world and solo offshore racing”.
The objective is to strengthen the widespread appeal of a municipality whose “tourist activity represents a turnover of 400 million euros per year”. The city does not intend to stop here: last year it launched a strategic nautical development plan targeting three supports, the Optimist, the Mini 6.50 and the Imoca, with in particular the ambition to accommodate several Imoca 60-footers year round. “We are neither Port-la-Forêt nor Lorient, but we will play our card. We have mobilized 10 hectares around the port to extend the space on land, we imagine being able to properly accommodate six Imoca teams in Les Sables d’Olonne.”
“Jean-Luc’s record seems safe”
Arnaud Gaist, one of the two Frenchmen at the start, speaks of “100,000 euros, without the boat, a Barbican 33, which I bought for 30,000.” That is a budget which he finances from his savings – he worked for six years as independent trainer in eco-built houses before stopping last November -, crowfunding and small partnerships, in particular with the town of La Tranche-sur-Mer which makes it “the local stage.” For his part, Damien Guillou (see the interview in French on our site), evokes “a big budget for Figaro” (around 300,000 euros), including his Rustler 36, found in Venice, having cost 80,000 euros.
With the support of PRB, the former preparateur/boat captain of Kevin Escoffier is one of the favorites for this second Golden Globe Race. “He has an exceptional level of preparation and a really strong attention to detail”, confirms the race director. Sébastien Delasnerie also quotes the Briton Simon Curwen who “prepared his boat well and has a long experience of solo sailing, in particular the Mini Transat”, the South African Kirsten Neuschäfer, the only woman in the race, “who has a very powerful boat and is really accustomed to long-distance sailing”, and two ‘repeaters’, the Indian Abhilash Tomy (retired in 2018) and the Finn Tapio Lehtinen (4th).
And Sébastien Delasnerie adds: “The level of preparation has really gone up a notch compared to 2018, so we think we will have more boats than last time past Good Hope and probably on arrival at Les Sables.” Will the 212 days of Jean-Luc Van den Heede be beaten? “I don’t think so, we added a course mark off Brazil which lengthens the course, we’re reckoning on more on 220 days for the first one. Jean-Luc’s record seems safe.”
The race is still not recognized by the FFVoile. As per four years ago, the French Sailing Federation and World Sailing refused to give their approval to the Golden Globe Race. “I am very respectful of the human adventure and the feat represents such a race, and we are aware that Don McIntyre and his team have made great efforts to ensure the safety of the sailors. They don’t do anything, but they don’t respect the OSR 0 rules that apply to solo offshore racing,” explains Corinne Migraine, vice-president of the FFVoile. “It is a race that starts in France so it’s subject to these rules, if Don had called it Golden Globe Route or Rally, that wouldn’t have been a problem, but here, even if Don says it’s not really a race, they constantly refer to a ranking. Don McIntyre replies: “We are investigating together the issues of category 0, which is written for large, fully crewed yachts, built for speed at all cost and impossible for us to comply with. We are completely different. We do everything we can to make the GGR as safe as possible, but risk will always be there.”