Hundreds of spectator boats cheered the start of the Ocean Globe Race on Sunday, as 14 iconic yachts raced through the line off Cowes, heading off on a 27,000-mile global circumnavigation in the spirit of the original Whitbread Round the World Race.
A flotilla of well-wishers, including Britain’s largest working steamship, Shieldhall, waved and clapped the Ocean Globe Race fleet to the starting line opposite the Royal Yacht Squadron on the Isle of Wight where Sir Chay Blyth, a fellow circumnavigator, fired the starting gun.
The race celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first Whitbread Round the World Race which means forsaking modern technology, using no computers, satellites, GPS, or high-tech materials for navigational aids. For eight months, they’ll take on the world’s toughest oceans – all in the name of adventure, sailing like it’s 1973!
Explorer AU (28) was first over the line in light winds, followed by Spirit of Helsinki FI (71) and Translated 9 IT (09). The only British entry, Maiden (03) was on the other side of the line in fourth position and sailing well. Explorer soon dropped back leaving those three sharing the lead with Pen Duick VI FR (14) looking menacing behind.
The tactical and sailing skills of Spirit of Helsinki and Maiden were certainly impressive and Translated9 simply looked like a well-organised, well-handled beautiful yacht. This is only the start, however, and there are still 27000 miles to go.
“What an amazing sight to witness 14 teams recreating history, stepping back in time and setting off around the world on a grand adventure in the spirit of the original 1973 Whitbread,” said Don McIntyre, Ocean Globe Race Founder and Sponsor.
Six of the boats competing have taken part in one or more of the past Whitbread races: Maiden, Pen Duick VI, Esprit d’Équipe FR (85), Neptune FR (56) and Translated 9, formerly ADC Accutrac skippered to 5th place by Clare Francis in the 1977 Whitbread.
It was an emotional sight to see skipper Marie Tabarly at the helm of Pen Duick VI following the same route as her father 50 years ago on the same yacht. Pen Duick VI was dismasted twice in the 1973 Whitbread when skippered by Marie’s father, Éric Tabarly.
One of the most notable teams is the Farr 58 Maiden. In 1990, Tracy Edwards, now MBE, triumphantly brought home the first ever all-female Whitbread crew onboard Maiden to Ocean Village Marina, Southampton. At the time, it was estimated that almost 50,000 people came to witness this momentous event, which helped to turn the tide on women’s participation in sailing.
In this edition, Maiden again set sail with an all-female crew under skipper Heather Thomas, but with a new purpose – to highlight the work of The Maiden Factor Foundation, a charity started by Tracy to support communities to enable girls into education, helping them to reach their full potential and create better futures for all.
The eight-month adventure is split into four legs, sailing around the three great Capes, Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, Australia’s Cape Leeuwin, and South America’s notorious Cape Horn. The course follows the original Clipper route, stopovers will include: Cape Town, Auckland and Punta del Este.
The sailors, 65 women and 153 men ranging from 17 to 73 years in age, come from 23 different countries and are united by a passion to live a life less ordinary.
The yachts are split into three classes: the Adventure Class 46-55ft, Sayula Class 56-65ft and Flyer Class, comprising ex-Whitbread yachts from the first three editions.
Boats sailing in The Ocean Globe Race
Adventure Class (47-55ft/ 14-17m): Galiana WithSecure (Tapio Lehtinen), FIN, Swan 55; Triana (Jean D’Arthuis) FRA, Swan 53; Outlaw (Campbell Mackie) AUS, Baltic 55; Sterna (Allspice Yachting, Rufus Brand) ZAF, Swan 53; Godspeed (Skeleton Crew Sailing, Taylor Grieger) USA, Swan 51
Sayula Class (56-66 ft /17-20m): Evrika (Dominique Dubois) FRA Swan 65; Explorer (Mark Sinclair) AUS, Swan 57; Spirit of Helsinki (Jussi Paavoseppa) FIN, Swan 651; White Shadow (Jean-Christophe Petite) ESP Swan 57
Flyer Class (Former Whitbread Race Boats): L’Esprit d’Equipe (Lionel Regnier) FRA Whitbread 1981; Translated 9 ITA, Whitbread 1977, then ADC Accutrac; Pen Duick VI (Marie Tabarly) FRA Whitbread 1973; Neptune (Tanneguy Raffray) FRA, Whitbread 1977; Maiden (Heather Thomas) GBR, Whitbread 1989.
The crews are expected to finish between the 1st and 10th April 2024.
For more information on the race visit www.oceangloberace.com
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