By Margherita Pelaschier / Global Solo Challenge
At noon on Sunday, October 29th, the creator and organizer of the Global Solo Challenge, Marco Nannini announced on the skippers’ chat: “Ladies and gentlemen, the show is on!” wishing good winds to the seven sailors who just departed from A Coruña.
From Saturday at 3:00 PM local time (1:00 PM UTC), the starting line was “virtually” open. From the time set by the organization, based on the boat’s performance, the competitors could leave the Galician port at any time. However, the skippers decided to wait due to particularly unfavorable weather conditions to begin a round-the-world trip smoothly. Off A Coruña, winds were recorded gusting over 40 knots and waves were being measured at 5-7 meters.
The first to leave A Coruña, as the depression moved westward, was Cole Brauer, the American sailor on the Class40 First Light. A quiet departure, still shrouded in the darkness of the night, shared only with her crew. Her team accompanied her the first few miles at sea toward her dream, following her on a dinghy. At 5:38 local time, she crossed the starting line, officially beginning her round-the-world journey.
The other skippers preferred to wait for the early hours of the morning, with Sunday’s dawn arriving an hour early, as the clocks rolled back to standard time this weekend. Marina Coruña came to life, and the piers filled: many family members and friends gathered around the sailors’ boats to bid them farewell and witness this moment resulting from years of preparation and sacrifice. A Babel of languages between Spanish, English, French, and Italian, but emotional glances were enough to clarify everyone’s feelings.
Juan Merediz, the only Spanish skipper on the Class40 Sorolla, was the first to leave the port, greeted and celebrated by many local supporters and his family, who could not hide their emotion. His sponsors were present in support of his campaign to promote offshore sailing in Spain. At 8:56 local time, he crossed the starting line.
Then it was the turn of the Italian skipper Riccardo Tosetto on the Class40 Obportus 3. A small Italian community of about twenty people had kept him company in recent days. Not everyone was able to postpone their return home by a day, but there were hugs, kisses, and tears. Especially a kiss from Valeria, his girlfriend who has been supporting him throughout this adventure and has left a piece of her heart onboard to support Riccardo and give him the strength to face the many challenges he will encounter. At 9:00 local time, he crossed the starting line. After a heavy downpour, a rainbow appeared, a sign of good luck as if to crown the extraordinary feat of his and all the GSC skippers.
Ronnie Simpson was the third to cast off. In the days leading up to the departure, the American sailor always seemed tense and focused on final preparations. This morning, when he said goodbye to his loved ones, his team, and Whitall Stokes, the benefactor who donated Shipyard Brewing (formerly Sparrow), his Open 50’, he finally seemed relaxed. Looking towards the horizon, happy to find his sense of freedom at sea. At 9:09 local time, he crossed the starting line.
Aboard the ULDB 65′, Aspra, white like the crests of the Atlantic waves, skipper Alessandro Tosetti left after greeting and hugging his twin daughters Bianca and Giorgia, Raffaella, and his family members. The Italian had endeared himself to all participants. In the days leading up to the start, he had hosted each team for coffee or dinner, embodying the renowned Italian hospitality and sociability. The sea greeted him spectacularly, and a group of dolphins accompanied him on his first sea miles. At 9:13 local time, he crossed the starting line.
About an hour later, Francois Gouin, greeted by his large OKeania team – over forty people, including family, friends, and event and work partners – left Marina Coruña aboard his Class40, Kawan3. His twin daughters, Jade and Lou, who had traveled from Tahiti to see him depart, unfortunately, did not witness this moment as they had a flight to catch. However, in recent days, they had worked tirelessly to help their father, cleaning the hull of the boat and running errands around the entire city for the last needed items. They brought their joy and smiles as the greatest gift, both for François setting off and to support their mother Nanou during the separation from her husband for several months. At 10:25 local time, he crossed the starting line.
David Linger, an American skipper aboard the Class40 Koloa Maoli, was the last of the group to leave Marina Coruna. His girlfriend, Lilly Miller Kuehl, also an avid sailor, stood by him until the last moment. She helped him hoist the mainsail in the harbor waters and gave him one last hug and kiss before jumping onto Brauer’s team dinghy. Onboard with him remained a special companion, “Flat George”, their virtual cat. To know his unique story, follow the event’s social channels. At 10:45 local time, he crossed the starting line.