After 263 days alone at sea, American-Hungarian Golden Globe Race skipper, Istvan Kopar has crossed the finish line

66-year-old solo sailor Istvan Kopar has arrived back in Les Sables d’Olonne, France and taken fourth place in the Golden Globe Race.

The American-Hungarian skipper was greeted by a flotilla of boats as he sailed towards the French port late this morning in his Tradewind 35, Puffin. 

Once his wife, Eva, was transferred onboard, Kopar navigated Puffin up Les Sables d’Olonne’s famous channel to the quayside, which was lined by wellwishers.

Amongst them was fellow Golden Globe Race skipper, Frenchman Loïc Lepage, whose GGR dream ended early when his Nicholson 32 MK X dismasted and began taking on water some 600 miles south west of Perth, Australia.

Kopar finished the race 51 days behind the winner, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede. He  will have two time penalties added to his finish time – one for  24-hours for using his satellite phone when he stopped in the Cape Verde Islands to repair his self-steering and another for 6 hours 40-minutes for entering the Southern Ocean NO GO zone.

A 6-hour credit will also be added to his finishing time after he went to the aid of Swedish solo skipper Kjell Litwin in the southern Indian Ocean.

Litwin, who was on a solo, non-stop circumnavigation in his 32ft Vagabond 31 Selene, had only 10 litres of water left onboard, and Kopar handed over some of his vital supplies  on 27 September.

Throughout his 263 days alone at sea, Kopar has endured continued problems with his self-steering gear, health issues, black mould on his boat, contaminated water, several Southern Ocean storms and a rogue wave that washed out much his electronics and books, and flooded the main cabin of Puffin with 300 litres of water.

Istvan Kopar arriving in Les Sables

Istvan Kopar has previously circumnavigated the world without the aid of GPS. Credit: GGR/PPL

The US Coast Guard-licenced captain previously solo circumnavigated the world, with one stop, without the aid of GPS in 1990-1991 in a 31ft boat he built himself. He  relied on a sextant, manual chart plotting, and weather forecasts broadcast in Morse code.

Kopar has admitted that he didn’t prepare adequately for the Golden Globe Race.

When he passed through the race’s compulsory Hobart gate on 5 November 2018, he didn’t have a working radio, direction finder nor an accurate idea of time.

‘Right now, I’m more attracted to gardening than offshore sailing,’ he said at the time,  later admitting that he hadn’t even flown Puffin’s spinnaker before the race start.He also hadn’t checked the fresh water tanks which were mould ridden by Australia, as was the rest of his boat.

At this stage in the race, the mould was also beginning to affect his hands – with his nails turning back and separating from his flesh.

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Despite this he was determined to catch British skipper Susie Goodall, until a Southern Ocean storm left her Rustler 36, DHL Starlight rolled and dismasted, and Goodall needing rescue.

Kopar, who endured several Southern Ocean storm, rounded Cape Horn at approximately 1900 UTC on 1 January 2019 and sailed up into the Atlantic, focussed on chasing down Estonian Uku Randmaa.

Istvan Kopar waving aboard his yacht during the Golden Globe Race

Istvan Kopar has admitted not preparing well enough for the Golden Globe Race. Credit: Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR

At times the race was tight, but Randmaa kept out ahead and finished the race on 10 March, claiming the race’s last podium position.

Kopar said his biggest reward during the race was ‘solving all the problems en-route.”

With his arrival back in Les Sables d’Olonne there is now one skipper left actively racing in the event.

Tapio Lehtinen is expected to cross the finish line in his Gaia 36, Asteria in mid May.

Position of skippers at 1500 UTC 21 March 2019


1 Jean- Luc VDH (FRA) Rustler 36 Matmut
2 Mark Slats (NED) Rustler 36 Ohpen Maverick
3 Uku Randmaa (EST) Rustler 36 One and All
4 Istvan Kopar (USA) Tradewind 35 Puffin

5 Tapio Lehtinen (FIN) Gaia 36 Asteria

Chichester Class (No time limit)

Igor Zaretskiy (RUS) Endurance 35 Esmeralda (plans to restart from Australia in October 2019)


Ertan Beskardes (GBR) Rustler 36 Lazy Otter
Kevin Farebrother (AUS) Tradewind 35 Sagarmatha
Nabil Amra (PAL) Biscay 36 Liberty II
Philippe Péché (FRA) Rustler 36 PRB
Antoine Cousot (FRA) Biscay 36 Métier Intérim
Are Wiig (NOR) OE32 Olleanna
Abhilash Tomy (IND) Suhaili replica Thuriya
Gregor McGuckin (IRE) Biscay 36 Hanley Energy Endurance
Francesco Cappelletti (ITA) Endurance 35 007
Loïc Lepage (FRA) Nicholson 32 Laaland
Susie Goodall (GBR) Rustler 36 DHL Starlight
Mark Sinclair (AUS) Lello 34 Coconut