Fourteen teams, racing on iconic yachts such as Maiden and Pen Duick VI, start the crewed ‘retro’ around the world race, the Ocean Globe Race

Amost exactly 50 years to the day since the first Whitbread Round the World Race, the latest ‘retro’ race, the Ocean Globe Race, set off today from Cowes, UK.

Fourteen teams racing in three classes set off on a single start from the famous Royal Yacht Squadron line, with fluky conditions in the Solent granting the fleet a brief window of 10-15 knot breezes to get over the line and make for spectacular scenes, though shortly after the breeze faded to zephyrs as the fleet made their way west.

The Ocean Globe Race fleet, with Pen Duick VI nearest camera, shortly after starting from the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes

The Ocean Globe Race is the latest ‘retro’ race to pay homage to the ground-breaking ocean and offshore races of yesteryear, this one a crewed around the world with-stops, which is intended to capture the spirit of the first Whitbread Round the World Race, and is organised by Don McIntyre, who is also the man behind the Golden Globe Race modern editions.

This week marked the 50th anniversary of the Whitbread Round the World Race, which first set out from Portsmouth, UK on 8 September 1973.

Thanks to an anonymous donor, the support of MDL Marinas, and a lot of tireless work behind the scenes, the Ocean Globe Race (unlike the Golden Globe Race, which moved to France for its reincarnation) started once again from the Solent, with the race village hosted in Ocean Village, Southampton, before the fleet set off from the Royal Yacht Squadron line off Cowes today.


A busy pre-start for the Ocean Globe Race fleet leaving Cowes, UK

Despite some unforcast rain shortly before the start, an impressive and eclectic spectator flotilla gathered to see the fleet off, with a slightly authentic Whitbread-era air of chaos as the 14 race yachts milled around pre-start amongst RIBS, race yachts, classics, spectator ferries, and a vintage steam ship.

Nevertheless, all fourteen got away cleanly without incident and were swiftly demonstrating some old-school boat handling skills: Galiana WithSecure hoisting her blooper sail shortly after the downwind start, while L’Esprit d’Équipe demonstrated a twin-pole gybe.

Iconic Ocean Globe Race entries

The Ocean Globe Race has attracted some truly legendary yachts. Most famous on this side of the Channel – and certainly attracting the greatest spectator flotilla – is Tracy EdwardsMaiden. The Bruce Farr-designed 58-footer, which twice competed in the Whitbread Round the World Race, is the only all-female team in the race, repeating the history of Tracy Edwards’ famous 1989 race, and is skippered by Heather Thomas.

After falling into near total disrepair, Maiden was rescued by Edwards and had a major refit in 2017/18 ahead of a world tour to raise funds and awareness for girls’ education. In order to bring her back into race trim additional bunks have been added, as Maiden will race with a crew of 12, a new sail wardrobe, additional heating for the Southern Ocean stages.

Thomas said: “We’ve really pitched her towards winning the race, performance wise we’ve got four different headsails, four different spinnakers, so we’re really going to be pushing her to her limit to try and beat Marie [Taberly] and Pen Duick, and Neptune and Translated and all of them! So we’re really trying to push as hard as we can.”

Whilst Maiden has broken many glass ceilings, an all-female team has never won a crewed around the world race, so that is the team’s ultimate goal.

The iconic Ocean Globe Race yacht Pen Duick VI, skippered by Marie Tabarly, is one of the hardest raced entrants in recent years, here competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race. Credit: Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

Maiden is racing in the highly competitive Flyer class, which also includes the iconic French yacht Pen Duick VI, led by Marie Taberly, daughter of French sailing legend, Éric Tabarly. Like Maiden, Pen Duick VI had been on a world tour, the Elemen’Terre project, raising awareness of environmental and social issues through activities including art and performance.

At 73ft Pen Duick VI was designed by André Mauric and built for the 1973/4 Whitbread Round the World Race and had a major refit ahead in 2011/12 as well as updates for her round the world project. It has retained many of its original features, including industrial hatches, coffee grinders, and twin cockpits.

Also in the Flyer class is another Mauric design, the 1977 Neptune, which raced in the 1977-78 Whitbread Race to 8th place. The French team includes Bertrand Delhom, who aims to become the first sailor with Parkinson’s disease to race around the world.

Translated 9, previously raced in the 1977 Whitbread Round the World Race as ADC Accutrac by British skipper, Clare Francis, training ahead of the 2023 Ocean Globe Race.

Another famous British woman skipper’s yacht is now racing as Translated 9 in the Flyer class, having originally sailed as ADC Accutrac, skippered by Clare Francis, to 5th place in the 1977/78 Whitbread Round the World Race.

Translated is a Swan 65 which has been impressively refitted with a lengthy build up campaign to the race, and is likely to be a strong contender. The crew is primarily made up of amateur sailors who applied to take part, but includes experienced Italian skipper/owner Marco Trombetti and his son Nico as First Mate. It also includes 2022 Golden Globe Race veteran, Simon Curwen, who took line honours in the race and was first in the Chichester Class.

The fifth boat to make up the Flyer class is another Whitbread class winner, the Briand-designed L’Esprit d’Équipe, which won class in the 1985/86 edition of the race. L’Esprit d’Équipe is skippered by pro racer and boat builder Lionel Regnier.

The 14 Ocean Globe Race yachts, including seven former Whitbread entrants, assembled in Ocean Village, Southampton. Credit: Aida Valceanu / OGR2023

Adventurous entrants

Nine other teams are competing in the Adventure Class (for yachts 47ft-56ft) and Sayula class (56-66ft). They include the Baltic 55, Outlaw, another Whitbread Race veteran, having raced in the 1985-86 edition as Equity and Law; the sole American entry, a Swan 51, Godspeed, which is crewed by US military veterans; the Olin Stephens designed Explorer, which is skippered by by 2018 and 2022 Golden Globe Race veteran, Australian Mark Sinclair; and Evrika, the Swan 65 formerly owned by Pink Floyd’s Rick Wright. Evrika is now skippered by French sailor and boat builder Dominique Dubois after the yacht he originally entered, a Swan 651 called Futuro, was blown from its cradle during Storm Gérard in February this year and written off.

The smallest yacht in the fleet is Galiana, the 1970 Swan 55 skippered by Golden Globe Race veteran Tapio Lehtinen. Lehtinen has a young crew that he carefully selected over several years of trials, as one of his key goals is to bring on young Finnish sailors, having himself competed in the 1981-82 Whitbread Race at the age of 23.

Lehtinen is well known as a classic yacht aficionado and Galiana has been lovingly restored, but was dismasted at the start of this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race. The team worked swiftly to preserve all the sails and hardware, and Galiana has a fully repaired – though less aesthetically pleasing – rig.

The Ocean Globe Race fleet heading west out of the Solent, Galiana (far right) flying a blooper downwind.

Down below the refit for the Ocean Globe Race took inspiration from yachts such as Kialoa 3, with classic white panelling where new bunks have been added, and practical touches including air-dryers for wet kit and boots. The aft companionway was also closed off to create a drier entranceway to the living quarters and nav station, while the main saloon now has a smaller table from Lehtinen’s previous boat, his Gaia 36 Asteria – which famously sank in the Southern Indian Ocean last November.

However, it’s Galiana’s sail plan which is most remarkable, including a traditional blooper. Lehtinen admits that while it might not help her rating, he had to choose an authentic sail wardrobe from the ‘70s “Because I’m a romantic.”

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