GSC – Technical skills or mental strength?

By Margherita Pelaschier  / Global Solo Challenge

Challenges are the order of the day for the fifteen competitors still in the Global Solo Challenge. The attrition that took place even before crossing the starting line has been relentless. Ffrom a list of almost 60 initial candidates, these few chosen ones have seen their projects set sail through a meticulous and challenging preparation. Now, finally in the thick of the action, the struggle to defend and realize their dream is not over. The factors that influence the success of a solo, non-stop circumnavigation are numerous and sometimes unpredictable. All the skippers are experienced sailors with years, or even decades, of sea experience, although not all have sailed in the Southern Seas. Their boats are equipped to face the toughest oceans whilst sailing solo within the stringent framework of the regulations to comply with to participate in the event. However, there are many uncontrollable variables, including weather conditions, which are predictable but not always easy to manage. Another important aspect to consider is the ability to anticipate all possible technical issues  and the ability to cope with every single unforeseen event once at sea. However, the availability of financial resources during the boat preparation phase, which was not equal for everyone, inevitably also affects the availability of spare parts and redundant systems to manage the inevitable breakdown of equipment after departure.

Technical stops are allowed by the regulations with the aim of not putting skippers in the difficult position of having to take unnecessary risks just to avoid being disqualified or excluded from the final ranking. Each stop is subject to a significant time penalty to maintain the sporting aspect of the event fair, but without creating an absolute “in-out” obstacle with respect to the entire project, leaving a glimmer of hope even in the face of the unforeseeable.

Two days ago, Dafydd Hughes, aboard his Bendigedig, was forced to make a stop in Hobart due to problems with an autopilot sensor, which could not be resolved at sea. Dafydd demonstrated great seafaring skills, which allowed him to navigate halfway around the world, covering 12,500 miles on his 34-foot Sparkman & Stephens. His positive attitude and strong determination helped him overcome all the challenges encountered. These qualities were crucial in staying calm and making the difficult decision to steer his boat towards a safe port, the only choice possible following the failure of the primary means of self-steering.

Ari Känsäkoski on ZEROChallenge, in turn, had to reach Cape Town after losing his solent at sea during a violent squall, one of the essential head sails for safe navigation on a Class40. During the stop, he will make other small repairs to the equipment that was put to the test in the first depressions of the Southern Seas. Édouard De Keyser, on the other hand, had to make three stops during his journey due to technical problems, and now he is stationed in Cape Town waiting for favorable weather conditions to set off again. All of them made the wise choice of prioritizing their own and the boat’s safety, but this led them to give up the goal of completing the challenge non-stop. However, they are not “out” and disqualified, just delayed.

One might wonder what is more crucial to complete the enormous feat of circumnavigating the world solo and non-stop: the ability to tackle technical problems or the mental strength necessary to maintain determination in the face of continuous trials and extreme living conditions. We asked this question to several skippers, asking them which of the two they believe is the key element to unlocking the door to success.

Many believe it is essential to find a balance between the two. Riccardo Tosetto, on Obportus3, with a solid background as a professional skipper on pleasure boats in the Mediterranean, believes that both mental strength and technical skills are necessary for a circumnavigation. This is because the boat will inevitably encounter problems during the journey, often of an electronic nature or related to wear and tear and failures, such as breakages of components, rudders, or sails. At the same time, it is vital to maintain calm and concentration to quickly and safely resolve each issue. Riccardo has already had to deal with a fault in one of the two wind sensors, which he is still trying to repair. On the other hand, he found the solution to a problem with one of his hydrogenerators, and keeps the second one as a spare. “It is essential to have respect for the boat, considering the many miles to be covered. Pushing too hard can be counterproductive. Breaking a sail a quarter or halfway through the journey could compromise the entire endeavor.”


Continue to the GSC website…

Latest Rankings

RankBoatSkipperEst. FinishTime Diff.
1MowgliPhilippe Delamare19/02/24 14.30 
2First LightCole Brauer29/02/24 02.15+ 9d 11:45
3Shipyard BrewingRonnie Simpson05/03/24 19.15+ 15d 04:45
4Vento di SardegnaAndrea Mura15/03/24 19.27+ 25d 04:56
5BendigedigDafydd Hughes19/03/24 22.13+ 29d 07:43
6ObportusRiccardo Tosetto20/03/24 07.15+ 29d 16:44
7Kawan 3 – UnicancerFrançois Gouin24/03/24 22.10+ 34d 07:40
8Espresso MartiniPavlin Nadvorni01/04/24 13.59+ 41d 23:28
9Koloa MaoliDavid Linger04/04/24 13.47+ 44d 23:17
10ZEROchallengeAri Känsäkoski07/04/24 20.43+ 48d 06:12
11PhoenixWilliam MacBrien11/04/24 04.02+ 51d 13:32
12AspraAlessandro Tosetti22/05/24 00.41+ 92d 10:11
13Le Souffle de la Mer IIILouis Robein24/05/24 16.00+ 95d 01:30
14SolarWindÉdouard De Keyser07/07/24 05.20+ 138d 14:50
15Roaring FortyKevin Le Poidevin30/07/24 08.22+ 161d 17:52
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