Honouring the Finnish maritime heritage and going back to the roots of Ocean Racing.
Today’s around-the-world sailing races are paying tribute to the Great Grain Races from Australia to England, lasting from the 1920s to the late 1940s. They were informal races between sailing vessels transporting wheat via the last economically viable trade route for sail freight.
An interesting fact is that the Great Grain Races were dominated by Finnish sailing ships. A good, fast passage Australia-to-England via Cape Horn was considered anything under 100 days. The shortest was a passage of 83 days by the Finnish ship Parma in 1933, which is an impressive achievement. The fastest ship overall, with seven voyages averaging 99 days each, was the Passat, also from Finland.
The Whitbread Round The World Race 1973 was the first ever fully crewed yacht race around the world. It was won by a family crew with friends, sailing a standard production Swan 65 yacht, Sayula II, skippered by Mexican Ramón Carlin. For all the participating sailors, it was a challenge, an adventure, and an experience of a lifetime.
Over the years, the races have evolved into a purely professional sport utilising the latest technology. In the latest edition of the Ocean Race, the boats were so fast and sophisticated that they were 99.9% steered with an autopilot. It just did a better job. Helmsmen, who had played an important role in these races, were not needed anymore. The small crew controlled the boat with a keypad and a computer. Also, the budgets of these projects have skyrocketed, and they have been called the formula1 of offshore sailing, leaving ordinary sailors only with the role of the spectator.
The Ocean Globe Race is turning back time, bringing ocean racing back to its roots, and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Whitbread.
Ordinary people with ordinary boats, using only traditional methods and equipment, are back! Only one-third of the crew is allowed to be professionals, the crew has to be mixed-gender, and at least one crew member has to be under 24 years at the race start. Our team of twelve has three women, and the average age of the 9 youngest team members is 26, with the youngest one being 20.
The boats are classic offshore yachts from the era of the first Whitbread races. They are strongly built, seaworthy and heavy – which makes them also much slower than the modern racers, but we’re not trying to break speed records – or break anything else, for that matter.
No digital technology like GPS, computers or internet weather forecasts is allowed. Navigation is done with a sextant, paper charts, sight reduction tables, paper, and pencil. Weather forecasts are made by listening to the radio and looking at weather fax prints and the horizon. Strategic decisions are made by the crew onboard based on this limited information. Remote assistance is strictly forbidden.
With all of this, the budget of our project is a fraction of the ones of modern racing teams. You don’t have to be a millionaire to do this. But as none of us is, and some money is still needed, we are humbly grateful to our partners like Quuppa. We are proudly waving the Quuppa flag on our voyage around the globe!
Oh, and no phones are allowed. So we will be isolated from news, emails, social media, Netflix and Spotify for several weeks. Music can only be played from C-cassettes. Luckily, live music is allowed, so I brought my guitar. And a couple of books.
It will be an exploration in many ways. As the German philosopher Hermann von Keyserling wrote way back in 1919: “The shortest path to oneself leads around the world.”