Golden Globe Challenge 2018 Starts

July 1st 2018 – Les Sables d’Olonne, France. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston fires the canon from the deck of his historic yacht Suhaili. The 2018 Golden Globe solo non-stop around the world yacht race is underway as the fleet jostle for an early lead.

First to cross the start line at noon was the Frenchman Philippe Peche on his Rustler 36 PRB.

She is one of the lightest of the yachts and was carrying a huge lightweight genoa as she gained a 100 metre lead within minutes of the start.

Next to cross the line was Frenchman Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, the oldest skipper in the race at 73. He already holds five previous circumnavigations.

Tapio Lehtinen in his Finnish yacht Asteria appeared to tangle with Van Den Heede and an hour after the start they were joined in a three way battle for third place by the Dutchman Mark Slats in Ohpen Maverick.  Meanwhile Russia’s Igor Zaretskiy in his Endurance 35, Esmeralda, had quietly slipped into 2nd place.

Not too far behind were Are Wiig from Norway in his 32ft Norwegian double-ender Olleanna and Indian Navy pilot Abhilash Tomy sailing a wooden replica of Sir Robin’s Suhaili.

 a wooden replica of Sir Robin’s Suhaili

By Thomas Keyser [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Britain’s Sue Goodall raised the biggest send off from the dock as she sailed her Rustler 36 DHL Starlight well clear of the other boats and got a good position mid-fleet, along with Istvan Kopar’s American yacht Puffin, fellow Brit Ertan Bescardes in Lazy Otter and Antoine Cousot’s French Biscay 36 Metier Interim.

The last group were led by Ireland’s Gregor McGuckin sailing his Biscay 36 Hanley Energy Endurance, followed closely by Frenchman Loic Lepage and the two Australian entrants Kevin Farebrother in the Tradewind 35 Sagarmatha, and Mark Sinclair in his Lello 34 Coconut.

One of the last boats to cross the start line was Nabil Amra in his Palestinian flagged Biscay 36 Liberty II. Maybe he’ll turn out to be the dark horse though as during the first night of the race he was flying through the fleet at 4.6 knots compared with around 4.2 knots for the leaders. Like Zaretskiy he was taking a more southerly route towards Cape Finistere, while the others headed well out into the Bay of Biscay in the hope of finding stronger winds.

Just like the original Golden Globe Race in 1968 it has been a race against time to get the boats ready for the start, pass the safety inspection and complete 3 days of solo sailing trials. Italy’s Francesco Cappelletti failed to get his Endurance 35 007 ready in time for the July 1st start and has just one week to remedy this otherwise he will be disqualified before he even begins.

The race will have several “Gates” along the way to hand across film and letters. The first of these is just off Lanzarote in the Canaries around 11th July.

Watch this space for news and highlights of the race during the 9-10 months the competitors are likely to take in order to complete the 30,000 mile circumnavigation of the globe. You can also read about the history of the race and the preparations for this year’s race in my 26 June and 27 March articles.

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