Ertan Beskardes has gained more offshore, heavy weather experience in preparation for the 2022 Golden Globe Race, and is now ready to sail non-stop around the world
Ertan Beskardes was one of the last skippers to sign up for the 2018 Golden Globe Race and quickly realised that he wasn’t ready to take part in a solo, non-stop round the world yacht race.
After retiring, he made the decision to enter the 2022 race aboard his Rustler 36 Masthead sloop, Lazy Otter, and began gaining heavy weather experience, taking part in the 2021 NOSTAR where his boat was knocked down multiple times in 70 knot winds in the Atlantic, leaving the boat without windvane steering. He sailed to the Azores, where he made repairs, meeting up with fellow Golden Globe Race skipper, Guy Waites.
‘I had never experienced weather like that before; 60-70 knot winds and 10m waves for many days. After surviving that I feel I am ready for most things and I can tolerate a lot of things,’ said Beskardes, 60.
A family man, Beskardes is also more prepared for the solitude of the race, part of the reason why he decided to retire in 2018 after five days.
‘I never feel wonderful about being away from my family but I will have to bury it inside of me and carry on. These feelings will come in, days and weeks later and I am sure I will have those days, but I feel very strong to go, stronger than last time,’ he told Yachting Monthly.
Beskardes, who has extensive solo experience in the waters around the UK, Europe and the Mediterranean, began sailing as a teenager on the Bosphorous strait in Turkey, where he lived until moving to England and settling in Bournemouth, where he runs a military tailoring and regalia business with his wife, Arzu.
The couple built their first boat in the back garden of their home, sailing out of Christchurch. They then bought a succession of boats – a Drascombe Cruiser Longboard, a Parker 235 and a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 33 – before Beskardes purchased the Rustler 36, Lazy Otter, which he found in Sardinia in 2017.
He based Lazy Otter in Les Sables d’Olonne in France ahead of the start of the 2022 race, sailing Biscay over the winter of 2021.
Why do the 2022 Golden Globe Race?
Ertan Beskardes: I am someone who says yes to everything and, I am not someone who minds failing. I’ve always wanted to do the Golden Globe Race, and that hasn’t changed.
Yes, I failed on the first attempt [he retired from the 2018 race after five days], but it has taught me a great deal.
I bought Lazy Otter just six months before the 2018 race. It was asking quite a bit to prepare it sufficiently to go around the world. I also realised that I was not really ready for the race.
My radio didn’t work, my engine wasn’t working plus I had been away from my family for six months trying to get the boat ready.
Everything compounded together and it was not the time for me, so after five days I pulled into A Coruña as I was not enjoying it.
But I am so grateful to have had this experience because there are many things in life you can only learn by experience, not by reading books.
There was so much I learned from people like Jean Luc Van Den Heede and Mark Slats and Dick Koopmans [Mark’s race manager] so it was an education.
These are not things you can learn by observing; you have to be in it, to start racing, which I did so I am now going into the next phase with an entirely different outlook.
What did you learn by taking part in the 2018 race?
Ertan Beskardes: That everything that I was worrying about, I shouldn’t have worried about.
I’m not worrying about the boat anymore. I was worried about all the small bits and pieces I had to do and was trying to get everything 100% correct.
That is no longer the case, I will now just go along and make sure I meet the race specifications.
You were supposed to take part in the OSTAR but that got delayed in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19. You decided to do your own NOSTAR race in May 21, sailing across the Atlantic. What was your experiences and what did you learn from it?
Ertan Beskardes: I felt satisfied about the boat. I learned that after the third knockdown [Ertan was caught in 60 knot winds and heavy seas mid-Atlantic] which was very ferocious, the boat was listing, and really, I was perfectly happy and comfortable, and calm and it was just like another day sailing, even though the circumstances were quite severe at the time.
I was very happy about that.
I lost the self steering completely after the third lockdown. I had lost the top half in the first knockdown. It was floating quite a few metres behind the boat and banging into the other windvane so I had to cut it loose.
A few days before, in rough weather, I had lost the table in the saloon; that big Rustler table which is supposed to last 4,000 years.
It was very rough at the time, and I had to take it outside, it was very heavy, and throw it into the North Atlantic.
I wouldn’t recommend what I experienced to anyone, but it has made me more confident about how I would cope with heavy weather in the southern Atlantic and the Southern Ocean.
I wish I hadn’t lost so much [equipment], but I am much richer for the experience; you can only learn by having these experiences not by reading.
When you are in these kind of situations you really know whether this kind of sailing is for you or not, and it was for me.
What storm tactics do you plan to use?
Ertan Beskardes: I don’t like using drogues.
After the first knockdown [in the Atlantic] my ropes on both the jib and the staysail were so tangled that I couldn’t even heave-to. The ropes were so tangled that I lost the use of both front sails, so I need to make some changes to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
In the end I had to go forward and cut the lines to reposition the sails in 60 knots winds.
Even though there was wind and huge breaking waves, I was quite happy working on the deck; I just go on with it really.
The weather was not so bad that I didn’t want to go out [on deck]; I went out every time to check what was happening with the boat.
The third knockdown was so violent. The boat was listing for a long time and I thought I had lost the boat.
I was sitting on one of the windows and the boat still hadn’t come back up. I was concerned that losing the Hydrovane had left a hole in the back of the boat.
Fortunately the boat didn’t sink. I was very happy when eventually it righted itself.
What changes will you make to stop your lines getting tangled again?
Ertan Beskardes: When the wind is more than 35 knots you only need the inner stay to sail the boat, it gives plenty of speed and with my fourth reef, my boat will happily sail in even 50 knots of wind.
The problem with the cutter rig is that because of all the stays, you have to have two lines; one outside the stays and one inside, and these are the lines that tangled.
So I might have to only use one line and when I do need to make the sail bigger, then obviously hook another line and remove the other one, and this will probably stop it.
What did you learn from Jean Luc Van Den Heede’s win in the 2018 race?
Ertan Beskardes: Jean Luc is a god when it comes to sailing and his experience is beyond belief, and I will try and emulate him in the next race.
I really want to get ahead at the start of the race as quickly as possible. I don’t want to stay at the back or middle of the fleet, I want to be at the front in a competitive position.
These are the things I am thinking about right now. Before [ahead of the 2018 race], I was only thinking about surviving.
Are you looking to win in 2022 or do you just want to get around the world and finish the race?
Ertan Beskardes: I would like to be very competitive, and I would like to be very much at the front of the fleet.
Obviously you really need to look after the boat because there’s a long way to go, but I certainly don’t want to be left behind.
This race will be very different. There are a lot more competitors this time, people are a lot better prepared than last time and there are lots of professional and very experienced sailors [taking part] so it will be a very different race.
Following your Atlantic experiences, do you feel more confident about overcoming challenges now?
Ertan Beskardes: The experiences in the Atlantic has given me a huge amount of confidence. When things get tight, I am OK with it; that is what I learned.
It taught me a lot about myself.
For this race there will be no HAM radio transmissions allowed only registered, licensed maritime-approved HF Single Side Band (SSB) Radio, with discussions limited to the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) weather. Weather Fax will be allowed for the race. Some of the 2018 Golden Globe Race skippers raised concerns about picking up GMDSS in the Southern Ocean. Do you share these concerns?
Ertan Beskardes: If there is the most terrible weather, I’m fairly confident the race director will inform us.
What I have learned on my Atlantic trip is that when the weather is coming, it’s coming and you’re stuck with it.
While I was out there [mid Atlantic], I was getting messages from Robin Davie telling me I was getting 60 knots winds and that I couldn’t run away from it.
Unfortunately, it ended up being back-to-back storms, and he said to me that I had to just get on with it, and he was right.
I have a huge amount of historic weather information but ultimately, you can’t predict what’s gonna happen. I’ll just have to deal with it; our boats are not fast enough to run from anything.
Jean-Luc Van Den Heede consulted meteorologists and studied the weather to choose the best route which helped him make early gains in the 2018 race. Do you plan to do this?
Ertan Beskardes: I’m not really in that league; maybe in the 2026 Golden Globe Race!
I can only prepare for myself and do what is right for me, I am not really looking at the other entrants because each of them will look at things differently to me.
How is your celestial navigation going?
Ertan Beskardes: It’s okay, it’s not brilliant; I will never approach land at night time or anywhere dangerous, so I’ll always make sure that I’m 30-50 miles away.
What changes have you made to the boat for the 2022 race?
Ertan Beskardes: The biggest changes is the brand new mast and new sail plan. The cutter rig is wonderful.
Now I can have 50 knots of wind and I can adjust the inner headsail and make the boat go efficiently in a different direction, so the boat has become a lot more manageable in high winds, and that is the biggest difference.
I have put in a new engine and I’ve got a brand new High Frequency (HF) radio as the last one [in the 2018 race] didn’t work.
What self steering set up are you planning to use?
Ertan Beskardes: I have a new Hydrovane. What happened to my previous Hydrovane [in the mid Atlantic] was extraordinary, and I don’t expect that to happen again.
I went with the Hydrovane as it is immensely simple to use, you could teach your five year old to use it in five minutes.
It is a really good product, and it has a huge amount of power on its rudder and I think that is partly why I lost mine because when the waves were hitting the side of the boat, there was a huge amount of pressure which just ripped it off its castings.
It is a good product and I can’t really fault it.
Are you confident you will make the start?
Ertan Beskardes: Of course. I think, providing you have enough money, you can get ready in no time really. It all comes down to the willingness to do things, the money and the desire to do it; everything is possible in this world.
The boat is now in Les Sables d’Olonne so I just need to get the repairs finished.
I will then go out sailing into the Bay of Biscay to do some winter sailing.
Once the boat is ready and I am happy with it, I will just leave it alone from the start of the summer and wait for the race.
What antifouling will you be using?
Ertan Beskardes: I don’t know yet. I will use whatever is considered to be the best product. I will use a few layers of that and hope for the best really.
How will you cope with isolation during the race?
Ertan Beskardes: I will cope better than in the last race, and I have been preparing; recently I was away from the family for several months.
I am more mentally ready for the race now and I have much less to worry about in my private life and business; these things were perhaps not so well aligned last time.
So, I am not worried about all of those things.
Mentally, I am very comfortable. I’m enjoying myself, I’m doing wonderful things and if I’m not on Lazy Otter than I’m sailing in the Mediterranean.
My way of doing things is very different than it was for the 2018 race; I’ve learned a great deal.
Based on that, do you have advice for the other skippers?
There are two different kinds of people: those who get something from IKEA and try to fix it first without looking at the instructions, and those who look at the instructions first and then try to fix it. I am the first one.
Everyone is very different and they must do what is right for them.
All I can do is wish them the very best. I hope everybody turns up to race.
What one thing will you miss while racing?
I will miss talking to my family on the telephone. When I was in the Atlantic recently I had the YB Tracker and I could send instant messages from my phone, so that I will miss for sure.
I’m really close to my family and I will miss them so much. I will be thinking of everyone. It will be hard, but I think once I get going, after a couple of weeks, I will get into the swing of things.
What treat will you be taking to reward yourself?
As long as the boat is going well, it will be reward enough for me. I don’t really have attachments for things like that.
I’ll be more than happy if the boat is doing 140-160 miles a day so that will be reward in itself.
GGR 2018 was a celebration of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. The GGR 2022 is a celebration of Bernard Moitessier. What words of wisdom from Moitessier will you be following in the race?
I’ve read The Long Way; people don’t inspire me in that sort of way. I read about their adventures but really, ultimately this race is about me and only me.
I will do what is best for me. I will do my very best within my own capacity.