The first Global Solo Challenge 2023-24 aims to be a budget-friendly, non-stop solo race around the world. For boats 32-55ft with an IRC rating below 1,370, an 11-week pursuit start will begin in A Coruña, Spain, with the first boat to return being declared the winner.
In this report by Dave Proctor, he highlights some of the heroes of the solo sailing world:
When I previously shared my list of heroes from the world of solo circumnavigation and who would be in my own Hall of Fame, the first person to read it before posting it was GSC founder and organizer Marco Nannini.
“You haven’t even mentioned my childhood hero. Yves Parlier, for example,” he said.
Of course not, he wasn’t one of my top five heroes and that list was my Hall of Fame.
“Okay,” I replied immediately, “so who would you nominate?”
Now I should explain that Marco is himself an experienced and successful offshore racer having completed a crewed circumnavigation in the 2011-12 Global Ocean Race. This was a five stop race for Class40 yachts and his yacht Financial Crisis finished 2nd overall.
He has also completed the Route du Rhum, finished second in the Round Britain and Ireland Race and won the 2009 OSTAR for solo sailing in the IRC3 class. In 2012 Marco was awarded the prestigious Italian Sailor of the Year award and received the Italian Medal of Merit.
Given that Marco has the experience and I’m merely a sailing enthusiast and journalist I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the names he has suggested for his own Hall of Fame.
In France and in the world of offshore racing, Parlier is considered a hero and earned the nickname “The Extra-Terrestrial” for his exploits and skills that are considered to be out of this world!
As a measure of how well regarded he is in France, he was made Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur and previously won the coveted French Sports Personality of the Year award.
His sailing achievements span the years 1985 to 2006 where he teamed up to win the Mini Transat, Solitaire du Figaro, Transat British, Route du Café, Route du Rhum, Transat Jacques Vabre with E. Tabarly, the Route de l’Or, the Course de l’Europe as a team. He competed in 3 Vendée Globe and became the record holder for the 24-hour individual distance in 2006.
There is also the remarkable story when his mast fell in strong winds during his third Vendée race. He managed to land on a secluded beach and after ten days managed to put his mast back in place and finish the race despite having minimal food supplies.
But he is so much more than just a sailor, he is also an acclaimed and innovative naval architect specializing in the development and use of new composite materials and is currently heavily involved in the development of yachts powered by natural energy, solar energy integrate and use kites as opposed to fixed sails.
Frenchman Desjoueaux is the only man to have won the Vendee Globe solo round the world twice, once in 2000-01 and then again in 2008-09. He has also won a number of solo transatlantic races, as well as the Route de Rhum and several editions of the Solitaire de Figaro, a race around the infamous Bay of Biscay. He was also successful in various multi-crew races.
Another Frenchman, Joyon is not only a successful offshore regatta sailor, having won races such as the Route de Rhum, various transatlantic races and others, he has also been spectacularly successful in setting long-distance sailing records.
In 2004, Joyon set the world record for the solo non-stop circumnavigation of just under 73 days. The next year British sailor Ellen Macarthur beat his record, but Joyon regained the record in 2008 by completing the circumnavigation in just over 57.5 days (he later lost the record to one of my “heroes” François Gabart) .
He and his crew are also the current holders of the Jules Verne Trophy for fastest crewed circumnavigation. He won that trophy for completing the course in just under 41 days, cutting the previous record by a full five days.
To see this sailor’s list of current and previous speed records, he must be ranked as one of the fastest and most competitive sailors of all time.
In 2009, Frenchman Le Cam was competing in the Vendée Globe solo circumnavigation of the world when his yacht capsized. He was about 200 miles from Cape Horn and was trapped under his boat. Another competitor in the race, Vincent Riou, came to his rescue on his yacht PRB and Le Cam was rescued after being trapped in his overturned yacht for 16 hours.
Of course, such an incident did not deter Le Cam and he has competed in three other Vendée Globes and also won the Barcelona World Race, a non-stop circumnavigation for crews of two (Le Cam had Spaniard Bruno García with him).
Twelve years later, another sailor, Kevin Escoffier, has bisected his boat during the Vendée Globe 2020/2021. Jean Le Cam immediately went to help. Coincidentally, Escoffier also sailed a boat called the PRB. Le Cam was subsequently also awarded the Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur.
To date, Le Cam has completed six circumnavigations in organized races and numerous transatlantic races.
Not another Frenchman this time, but a British sailor. Thomson’s interest in offshore racing was sparked under the mentorship of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and businessman Sir Keith Mills (who was behind Britain’s successful Olympic bid and then founded Britain’s Americas Cup team).
Thomson turned professional at a young age, and in 1999 at the age of 24, while skippering, won the Clipper Round the World Regatta (a stage race with opportunities for amateur sailors to join as crew). Thomson still holds the record for the youngest skipper to win a circumnavigation.
Thomson struck a long-term sponsorship deal with fashion giant Hugo Boss, and its subsequent boats were named after the fashion brand and featured its distinctive black background.
He then competed in five Vendée Globes (finishing two of them) and two more circumnavigations of the world, as well as a number of transatlantic races.
Thomson is known as a fearless sailor and although his risks sometimes backfired and he lost boats, he always gave it his all.
He was also admired by many sailors for his weather routing, sometimes bold, sometimes daring and often pure genius.