Monday, September 20, 2021
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OSTAR postponement and the Global Solo Challenge

I was saddened to read that COV has forced the Royal Western Yacht Club to postpone the OSTAR to 2022.

All participants preparing for the race must have been taken aback by yet another knock-on effect of the ongoing pandemic. The announcement read: “Following an update on COV compliance and revised restrictions from the Newport Yacht Club, the Royal Western Yacht Club have made the very reluctant decision to postpone the OSTAR & TWOSTAR races.” At first I felt demoralized, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be always moving further away. Then, suddenly I realized there could be something positive in this. Please bear with me, and find out why.

In recent days the UK has celebrated its first day with zero Covid related deaths and there are high hopes for all for the ongoing vaccination programmes worldwide. Yet, we need to remain vigilant and cautious and we fully understand the decision forced upon the RWYC.

My grandmother, a very wise woman that lived through two world wars and the Spanish flu, always had a bright spin even in the most discouraging of situations. “There is always something positive in everything negative,” she used to say. So what could I make of her advice today?

I thought hard then it all struck me and I saw the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle coming together. Participants in the Global Solo Challenge need to test their boats and build meaningful miles if they are to succeed in completing a solo circumnavigation by the three great capes. This, in turn, could be an opportunity for the RWYC to receive more enquiries and entries from GSC participants needing to train in earnest.

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Two paths to conquering the Global Solo Challenge
With this postponement there are now two separate and challenging paths to take into consideration by a participant in preparing for the GSC. One would be suited for the more experienced skippers, the second for those in need of more miles to build confidence. Let’s see how this would work and why.

Path 1: OSTAR 2022
The postponement of the OSTAR to 2022 now represents the perfect shakedown event for experienced skippers wanting to participate in the GSC and needing to test their boats and equipment before any final refit to be carried out in the winter of 2022. The 2023 pre-start season could then be spent concentrating on final preparations, training, and the delivery of their boats to La Coruña. Having qualified and having sailed some serious miles they would probably feel quite confident and could enjoy the pre-start camaraderie and parties.

There aren’t many alternatives for serious training in other transatlantic events in 2022. You could take part in the Route du Rhum 2022, assuming you can enter in any of their classes. Sailing downwind in the trades is however an altogether different proposition, more pleasant perhaps, but certainly not providing the same challenge as an OSTAR. When you smell ice on the Banks of Newfoundland you’ll never forget that smell, and when you’ll be down in the South you will recognise it instantly!

Path 2: RB&I 2022 + RIR 2023
There is a second route: some skippers may need a longer path to glory, more miles and more preparation. For these, launching in a single-handed transatlantic race next year may feel daunting. First of all you could start by sailing the Lonely Rock Race scheduled for 4th July this year and other single-handed and double-handed events during the season. Look at RORC, RSYC and SORC events for example.

Then, the following season they may feel ready for a bigger challenge, moving on to competing in the double-handed Round Britain & Ireland 2022, a perfect further stepping stone. It certainly was for me in 2010, a year before setting off for the Global Ocean Race 2011-2012. It is a fantastic race and an excellent miles builder with the added safety of a second person on board to help in sticky situations.

After the Round Britain and Ireland 2022 you could follow it up with a summer single-handed passage of 500 miles or more to give you some solo training and to help you write down a to-do list of winter jobs.

Winter 2022 would be the time to review and refine anything that didn’t quite go right during the 2022 season all in preparation of taking part in the RWYC’s Round Iceland Race in 2023. This would allow to qualify and to go on a serious shakedown passage before the summer light winds.

Finding opportunities in problems
This new event provides an excellent opportunity to feel cold, wet and miserable (just kidding) early in the season as well as to complete the mileage needed to qualify for the GSC. Should anything go wrong, it also still leaves plenty of time to plan for an alternative qualifier. For those that succeed, a summer cruise from Plymouth to La Coruña would be a pleasant last step towards the start line of the big show: the Global Solo Challenge.

The mix of opportunities that the OSTAR, RB&I and RIR provide for a GSC participant wanting serious training is excellent. Plenty of time for fine-tuning the boat, getting and feeling ready.

Just a clarification though: these paths to prepare for the GSC are just ideas and suggestions. The GSC does not require that a qualifier for the event is completed during any race. The qualifier can be any pre-approved passage of at least 2000 miles, single-handed, on the boat entered in the event. Qualifying or building miles in an RWYC event just adds to the camaraderie and fun.

GSC and RWYC: A partnership in spirit
“There is always something positive rising from the ashes of anything negative,” and the postponement due to Covid of the OSTAR could be the opportunity for GSC entries participate in the OSTAR 2022 or, indeed, decide to participate in other iconic events organised by the Royal Western Yacht Club.

Few realise how much world sailing owes to the pioneering spirit of those that sailed the first OSTAR and the incredible work that the RWYC has done over decades to allow this sport to develop further. Many races exist today, many are spin-offs of the Original STAR and RB&I, that’s for sure, and no one can deny the roots and legacy that began from that first legendary Observer Single-handed Transatlantic Race in 1960.

The world has changed in many ways, ocean racing has become a professional discipline, the budgets have ballooned to incredible amounts. In some cases we feel something of the original spirit has been lost. The Global Solo Challenge organisers are proud to be partners with the RWYC, as we share the same passion for Ocean sailing and aim at providing the opportunities for each to find their personal sailing challenge in a friend and affordable context.

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