Gaurav Shinde has a proven track record in offshore racing in small boats. He shares how he is preparing for the Golden Globe Race 2022, which he sees as 'a culmination of a lifetime of preparation'
Gaurav Shinde is all about the racing, and is very much looking to win the 2022 Golden Globe Race.
When asked about his cruising experience, he told Yachting Monthly: ‘What is cruising? People like me only get on a boat to race.’
The 35-year-old Indian-Canadian sailor has over 20,000 miles of ocean racing experience, having taken part in the 2013-14 Clipper Round the World Race, and winning two consecutive offshore championships in India.
He was awarded the Admiral Ramdas Trophy for offshore sailing from the Yachting Association of India in 2013, the first civilian to win the award.
Previously winners include circumnavigators Dilip Donde and fellow Golden Globe Race 2022 skipper Abhilash Tomy.
Gaurav Shinde started sailing aged 11 with the Sea Cadets Corps in an Optimist before moving onto the Lightening Class and then Seabirds, racing in the Arabian Sea.
He describes Sea Cadets as ‘truly the school of hard knocks.’
‘In a population like India chances are very hard to come by, especially for someone from an underprivileged background like me. At such times you endeavour to be the best at everything you do, because its not a matter of achieving or being the best. Being the best at what you do is survival in India. Sailing a Seabird half rater to the Laccadive Islands [off the coast of Kerala, India] was the first time sailing offshore. Aiming for a 2sqkm island in the middle of the Arabian Sea with no navigational aids other than a sextant isn’t for the faint hearted,’ he shared.
Gaurav Shinde says his most exciting sailing achievement to date was his first offshore race from Kochi to Kavaratti in a 20ft Seabird ‘that was in bad shape with a team of novices (two sailors and two non-sailors)’.
The crew beat seven Indian Navy teams in newer 24ft boat by 16 hours.
‘[It] was no mean feat,’ he recalled.
‘During a storm I went on deck to collect the spinnaker and I went flying off the deck luckily falling back on the deck. I have never been so scared, even in the middle of a crazy North Pacific depression.’
With enough solo offshore experience ‘to be dangerous’, Gaurav Shinde will certainly be pushing his Baba 35, Good Hope throughout the race.
He has certainly shown commitment, having sold his home to raise funds to take part.
Why enter the Golden Globe Race 2022?
Gaurav Shinde: In an ideal world I would have taken the normal route with the eventual goal of securing a place in the Vendee Globe.
I don’t have the finances or the support to climb the ladder by doing the Mini Transat or La Solitaire du Figaro to finally land a Vendee Globe gig.
The life of a normal kid in India is not very simple compared to many other sailors across the world.
We do not get sailing gigs by references because there aren’t many people we know and because most likely it will be impossible for us to get visas.
My home in India is smaller than the square footage of my Golden Globe Race boat, which tells you how much support I could have had to make a career in sailing.
I had no connection with the armed forces in India that sponsored sailors like Dilip Donde [first Indian to complete a solo, unassisted circumnavigation of the globe under sail], Abhilash Tomy [first Indian to complete a solo, non-stop circumnavigation of the world under sail], or the Trishna crew [the first Indians to circumnavigate the globe in 1985-87].
Every time I step on a boat, it is a hard-earned struggle.
I need a job to sustain not only myself but also my family.
I have only one shot at doing a solo round the world race and the Golden Globe Race was within reach with the resources I have.
This is my one shot at proving how good I am.
What did you learn from the 2018 Golden Globe Race?
Gaurav Shinde: People who finished were the ones who kept it simple.
Jean-Luc van den Heede [won the 2018 GGR] and Mark Slats [2nd in the 2018 GGR] were racers and maybe that is what got them through; that mindset is important – no stunts just hard racing and keeping the mast standing.
Gaining an advantage going south in the Atlantic matters, then it’s about going into preservation mode in the Southern Ocean to again slog it out to the start. Simple.
What storm tactics do you plan to use?
Gaurav Shinde: I will go into the race prepared to use most of the popular ones: Fore-reaching, sailing downwind fast, warps, maybe even a drogue.
I am not a big fan of heaving-to and I am never lying ahull.
My boat is only going to carry essentials and so tyres [to slow the boat down] etc. don’t fit into my plans.
No storm is going to be same, it’s always going to be mishmash of these tactics and going by the feel of the situation.
Understanding your strengths and that of the tools you have at hand will be important.
It’s all about doing whatever it takes to stay pointing in the right direction and towards the finish line.
Have you practised these storm tactics?
Gaurav Shinde: With the minimal resources I mostly had while sailing offshore it was always fore-reaching and running-off.
I have tried drogues and warps in calm water, so I am waiting to try them in my 2,000-mile qualifying transatlantic passage.
What did you learn from Jean-Luc Van Den Heede‘s win in the 2018 Golden Globe Race?
Gaurav Shinde: There is no substitute for experience and that is why I decided to keep it simple and get sails made from the same sailmaker Jean-Luc used.
My mast is also shorter than the original design like his [Jean-Luc’s boat Matmut had a modified keel-stepped mast, 1.5m shorter than standard which he believes prevented a dismasting after the yacht pitchpoled in the Southern Ocean].
Why did you choose a Baba 35 for the 2022 Golden Globe Race?
Gaurav Shinde: She is a great middle ground between performance and comfort.
I think among all the boats, the Baba 35 is going to be most forgiving on me as a person.
Good Hope also had great previous owners, a good story.
She is 42 years old in 2022 and the 42nd hull of the design.
The biggest factor was the availability of Robert Perry [US yacht designer] for consultations.
He has been very generous with his time and accepting of my modifications to the boat.
How are you preparing Good Hope for the 2022 race?
Gaurav Shinde: By immersing myself in her preparation. I have not outsourced a single job on the boat.
I subscribe to the Formula One mantra of preparing a race car: the car is made for the speed and then you find a spot for the driver.
I have removed every creature comfort there was on that boat and done everything to make sailing as simple as it can be.
I’ve removed most of the beautiful teak on the outside and inside. The butterfly hatch and all the port lights are gone.
There is only one through hull below the waterline for engine water intake.
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Food will be freeze dried. There is no heating system, one small bunk, a composting toilet, and a small dodger for the bad days.
I have a new shorter, beefier double spreader mast; it still comes in at the same weight of the original mast.
I have fitted beefier chainplates and extra fibreglass on the bulkheads.
Good Hope has an all new electrical system with lead carbon AGM batteries that don’t need a lot of charging.
What will your sail plan be?
Gaurav Shinde: It’s going to surprise everyone.
Are you looking to win or get round?
Gaurav Shinde: To win!
In my world winning is survival. Winning is habit that I don’t intend to let go of this time.
That is where I think I will operate differently in the critical moments in the race and will have an edge over most of the competition.
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?
Gaurav Shinde: If the rules are applied consistently for every skipper and in every situation, you just accept them and make the most of what you get.
It’s a celebration of racing like its 1968-69 so not much to complain about when a lot of our comms equipment has been updated.
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 the same?
Gaurav Shinde: Yes. I have been working on this for some time and now and we will be working with a team in the lead up to the race.
For years I have literally typed every word of books by Jean-Yves Bernot into Google Translate to get into his head, watched videos of Marcel Van Triest from his time working with the skippers of the Barcelona World Race.
I have followed every round the world ocean race since 2007 and have notes on almost all of them.
I am not kidding when I say this is a culmination of a lifetime of preparation.
How is your celestial navigation going?
Gaurav Shinde: I haven’t had much time to really work on it again and the last time I used it was probably 10 years ago.
I am good at it, after all I found a 2sqkm island in middle of the Arabian Sea with it. I will practice more on the transatlantic passage.
Have you finished your 2,000-mile qualifying passage?
Gaurav Shinde: I plan to sail Nova Scotia to France in June-July 2022.
What self-steering set up are you planning on using?
Gaurav Shinde: I am perhaps the only skipper not using the three suggested windvane self-steering systems recommended in the Notice of Race.
I applied to use the Cape Horn windvane made by Yves Gelinas in Quebec.
It had to submit a report on all the circumnavigations that have used the Cape Horn windvane. Yves himself is a circumnavigator.
Pierre Huglo the first boat home in La Longue Route 2018 used a Cape Horn and Donna Lange used it for her two solo circumnavigations.
It’s a servo pendulum windvane system. The paddle, when it falls off, hangs on by a shock chord and is easy to replace.
All the working systems of the windvane are in the lazarette, so it’s protected from the elements as well.
Also, why do the same as everyone?
The Cape Horn can give me an edge as I won’t have to jump into the water when the paddle falls off or change safety tubes.
It’s simple, robust, and proven.
What antifouling will you be using?
Gaurav Shinde: I am going with Coppercoat and I am hoping it works.
Are you confident you will be on the start line for 2022?
Gaurav Shinde: Yes, no doubt. We have sold our home and put everything into it over the past four years.
The COVID-19 pandemic set me back a lot but the desire to see this through will get me to the finish line.
You have plenty of sailing miles. How do you think you will cope sailing solo around the world?
Gaurav Shinde: I joke sometimes that I am an only child so its easy for me to live in my own company.
What will keep me sane is the desire to lift the Golden Globe Race trophy in Les Sables d’Olonne.
Is coping with isolation an issue?
Gaurav Shinde: No. The only issue will be not having access to fresh food.
I am a bit of a foodie and that is one thing I will have to be wary off.
I am trying to get into a habit of eating simply right now.
How do you handle challenges while alone at sea?
Gaurav Shinde: First and foremost it is going to be about keeping the focus squarely on winning.
The primary task of winning is finishing, and then making sure you finish first.
Secondly you draw into your experiences from the past.
As I have said earlier, I learned sailing and come from a world of scarcity.
Some of the systems on the boat that people will look at as essential are a luxury to me in this race, and hence the challenges I might face will be faced unemotionally.
What will you miss while taking part in the race?
Gaurav Shinde: Family and food.
What treat will you be taking?
Gaurav Shinde: A few packs of cup noodles, a Snickers bar a week and a few bottles of soda for the odd occasions. I am not taking on extra weight.
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?
Gaurav Shinde: I don’t go into this race with any romantic ideas of a solo circumnavigation.
It’s a race, it’s competition and I am in it for the win.
I love Bernard but I live in the very matter of fact ways of Sir Robin.
Maybe its because both of their solo circumnavigation stories began in Bombay.
Suhaili and I were born in Bombay, and I feel it’s on me to complete the circle and break the French dominance in singlehanded sailing.