Golden Globe Race Preview

There’s a sense of controlled urgency on the pontoon at Les Sables d’Olonne as 16 competitors make last minute preparations before the Golden Globe Race 2022 starts.

When the horn is sounded at 4.00pm local time on Sunday September 4th, 15 men and one woman will head out into the Bay of Biscay to begin a 30,000 mile non-stop race around the world in small yachts, 32 – 36ft (9.75 – 10.97m), and with no modern aids to navigation.

That’s because the race recreates the golden age of solo yacht racing. If the high tech Vendée Globe round the world solo race (from the same pontoon in Les Sables d’Olonne) represents Formula 1 Grand prix racing, then the Golden Globe Race (GGR) is vintage car racing!

Where a Vendée Globe sailor might make it home in 80 days. These GGR sailors may take around 280 days.

The first Golden Globe round-the-world solo yacht race was organised by the Sunday Times newspaper in 1968. Robin Knox-Johnston, now Sir Robin, took 313 days to win the race.

Not only did he win it, he was the only competitor out of nine, to finish. As the current GGR website bluntly puts it, “The rest either sank, retired or committed suicide.”

golden globe race

Fifty years later, the Golden Globe Race was resurrected, and to the original standards. Competitors can only use equipment that would have been available to Sir Robin on board his boat, Suhaili. That means no GPS, no digital equipment, no kevlar sails or carbon fibre hulls, no mobile phone. If a competitor wants to listen to music, it’ll have to be on cassette!

Navigation is by trailing log, RDF signals (if you can find a beacon!), and sextant. Position lines have to worked manually from sight reduction tables. Scientific calculators are banned. This IS ‘old school’ sailing.

On the pre-GGR race from Gijon in northern Spain to Les Sables d’Olonne, GGR skipper Guy Waites told Superyacht News, he was able to get a position fix from an old RDF beacon and by tuning to BBC R4 and listening for the null spot in the signal. His advantage was that he knew the transmitter was at Droitwich!

While the skippers will be sailing in a digital blackout, they still have to file daily reports with the race HQ and are being tracked and filmed on state of the art systems. So we can watch the news, locations & dramas updated every four hours.

The Golden Globe Race starts tomorrow and we can watch it unfold on the GGR website