Solo sailor Istvan Kopar has circumnavigated the world twice without GPS, most recently in the 2018 Golden Globe Race. He shares his storm tactics and experiences of ocean storms

More comfortable in storms than becalmed, 2018 Golden Globe Race skipper Istvan Kopar tended to sail his Tradewind 35 cutter, Puffin with his try sail and storm jib to ride out heavy weather.

He also developed a ‘heave to-to go’ set up, where if his heading was good, he would centre the rudder with a slightly backing jib so he could still sail, but in a more cautious way.

A Tradewind 35 sailng

After a knockdown which drenched the inside of Puffin, Istvan Kopar struggled to keep the black mould at bay which had an impact on his health during the race. Credit: Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR

During the 11 or so 50 knot storms he experienced, Kopar never used warps and only used a drogue once but found retrieving it difficult, especially because of the amount of equipment on his transom, such as his windvane and hyrdogenerator.

His frustration with his windvane is well documented, although he didn’t want to comment on it during his interview with Yachting Monthly.

Golden Globe Race skipper Istvan Kopar on his Tradewind 35

Istvan Kopar would use his try sail and storm jib during heavy weather. Credit: Jessie Martin/PPL/GGR

After a knockdown off Cape Agulhas, Istvan Kopar was unable to transmit on his radio and was only able to receive one channel ‘a HAM operator in Hungry with zero sailing knowledge’ and another sailor.

‘They assumed my heading and gave me weather for that. I never got a synopsis with lows and highs so this was a disadvantaged,’ he noted.

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Occasionally he would talk to the crew of a commercial ship via VHF, although this was few and far between in the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties.

Like other race skippers, he found it was rare that shipping was responsive to his hailing.

Istvan Kopar climbing the rigging

Istvan Kopar finished the race in 264 days. Credit: GGR/PPL

Kopar said that if he had had the time and money, he would have invested in a better communication network.

Comparing the race with his previous circumnavigation in 1990-91, which he did without GPS, Kopar felt generally weather has become more unstable, and changed more frequently.

‘The storms didn’t last so long. In 1990-91 storms were 7-10 days long, this time they were 3-4 days, but the changes are frequent. It changes the currents. I sailed between Falklands and the Argentine coastline to try and catch Uku Randmaa, and I found messy seas, with waves coming from every direction and no wind. I was stuck there and trapped. That drove me crazy,’ he said.

Istvan Kopar on his Puffin

Istvan Kopar experienced 11 50-knot plus storms during the race. Credit:Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR

Kopar came fourth in the Golden Globe Race, finishing in 264 days, 1 hour, 38 minutes.

Read the full report Storm Tactics From The Golden Globe Race in the Summer 2019 issue of Yachting Monthly – Available here: