Retro-style circumnavigation of the globe.
SPAIN’S BRAVE SKIPPER ALEIX SELLES STARTS THE CHALLENGE ON 4TH SEPTEMBER 2022
When I was asked to interview Aleix Selles and write this article, I have to admit I had never heard of the Golden Globe Race, but once I started looking into it, I was absolutely in awe of the challenge these courageous contestants are taking on. Not least, Aleix himself, as he will be the second-youngest competitor at 34 years old.
This race hails back to 1967 when Francis Chichester returned home to the UK from his solo sail to Australia and back on the Gypsy Moth via the five Great Capes. The journey took him 226 days (excluding a 48-day stopover in Sydney) and set the record for the fastest voyage around the world on a small boat. The Sunday Times provided exclusive coverage of his journey and he was subsequently knighted by Queen Elizabeth II making him a true British hero, but he also unwittingly set the scene for the only remaining challenge – to sail solo NON-STOP around the globe! Hence, The Sunday Times Golden Globe Race was announced in March 1968 with no entry fee or qualification requirements, but the victor would receive a trophy and the handsome sum of £5000! There were just 9 participants in this first-ever GGR and rather sadly, only Robin Knox-Johnston sailing ‘Suhaili’ finished, as the others either sank, retired or committed suicide! Robin admirably donated the prize money to the family of Donald Crowhurst, the competitor who committed suicide, and then went on to receive a knighthood in 1955.
The Race in 2022
Now, the race is being replicated in the same retro-style with no electronic instruments allowed which means no GPS, chart plotters, wind instruments, autopilots, electronic logs, satellite phones, computers, digital cameras, nor music players – not even electronic watches or a water maker! However, the competitors will be tracked 24/7 by satellite as there will be a sealed safety box on-board containing a GPS and satellite phone strictly for emergency use only. If the seal of the box is broken, the competitor will automatically be retired from the race and relegated to the Chichester Class, as if they had made a stop. People joining the race from home will have access to a 24/7 tracker via the website, following the skippers around this big adventure. We will all know where they are except them!
The Design / Specification Rules
There are also very strict rules to ensure the yacht specifications are comparable to Robin Knox-Johnston’s ‘Suhaili’, which was a 32ft ketch designed using plans by William Atkin and built in Bombay, India in 1963. With a net tonnage of 6.29 and a beam of 3.37 metres, the competitors’ vessels must adhere to the following approved designs:
Westsail 32 • Tradewind 35 • Saga 34 • Saltram 36 • Vancouver 32 & 34 • OE 32 • Eric (sister ship to Suhaili) • Aries 32 • Baba 35 • Biscay 36 • Bowman 36 • Cape Dory 36 • Nicholson 32 MKX-XI • Rustler 36 • Endurance 35 • Gaia 36 • Hans Christian 33T • Tashiba 36 • Cabo Rico 34 • Hinckley Pilot 35 • Lello 34 • Gale Force 34.
The following general specifications must also be adhered to:
Must be of fibre-reinforced plastic • Designed prior to 1988 with a minimum series of 20 yachts built from one mould • Hull length of between 32ft and 36ft (Bowsprits, wind vanes, outboard rudders, boomkins, pushpits and pulpits are not measured) • Full-length keels with rudders attached to trailing edge • Minimum design displacement of 6,200kg • no paddlewheel • no exotic materials such as Kevlar, carbon, titanium, etc.
So, with all of this information, it is easy to understand why I was fascinated to talk with Aleix to find out more about this intrepid young sailor and his zest for an adventure of this magnitude. We spoke via video as he is currently in Croatia working hard to get his closest companion for the next 8 months, ready for the journey of their lives. Onsoro (the Bodhisattva) is a Rustler ’36 designed in 1984 by Holman & Pye with an overall length of 10.77 metres and a beam of 3.35 metres.
- Tell me more about you and your experience with yachts and the sea?
“I discovered sailing at a very young age and started racing at 14 years old and loved how it pushed me to learn more about the wind and sea. I started offshore sailing when I was 16 years old and gradually got into it. I then went on to become a Naval Architect and worked with Juan K for the past 7 years creating some of the most radical yacht designs. It has been a dream of mine to sail around the world and now I am going to be making the dream a reality. I have been involved in a few sailing projects from inshore where you have direct contact with the skipper many times a day, monitoring the weather and route, and you know everything about the boat and the skipper. But the GGR is quite different as there is nothing – just the skippers themselves and the boat to speak and discuss with.”
- Would you consider yourself to be a ‘solitario’ because it takes a certain type of person to embark on a journey such as this?
“I enjoy being social and attending social events like anyone else, but I don’t have a problem being by myself. I have never been alone for such a long time – I think the longest was about 2 weeks. Although I am happy in my own company, I find this interesting as I am going to get to know myself on a different level.”
- Do you have a partner, children or close family and how do they feel about you embarking on this challenge?
“Yes, I have my partner, Ariadna who is also a Naval Architect and has just opened a new office with Niels Jeppesen, the founder of X-Yachts, which is really exciting for her. I am lucky that she is very understanding and supportive of my dreams and why I want to do this. My family is also supporting me and maybe because they are not related to the sailing industry, they understand a little less what this project means to me, but I know I have their full support.”
- Have you been doing any physical training in preparation for what lies ahead?
“So far, I have never trained specifically for a long off-shore experience like this. I realise that the legs and all the muscles will not be used in the same way as normal due to being in a really small space for so long. I have been told by a Vendee Globe skipper that by the time you reach Cape Horn it can be challenging to reach the bow as it might take 2-3 months to get there. But actually, when I arrive there, it’s going to be approximately 5 months so I don’t really know how it’s going to be. When I decided to do this, I connected with Iker Martinez. He is a well-known Spanish sailor with lots of off-shore experience and is coaching me and believes I am quite fit. I can run 25-30kms no problem and I am quite active [I climb, ski, paraglide and play many other outdoor sports]. I may not be a super-athlete, but I’m in good condition and the sailing training I will be doing over the next few months will get me the remaining fitness I need”
- What about mental strength training as this race will require a lot of it?
“I have been receiving a lot of mentoring not just from Iker but also from Mark Slats, who came second in the 2018 GGR. In discussions with Mark regarding this issue, it’s not something you can really work on in half a year – it requires time. But because of my character and what I have been doing for many years with sports, sailing and then with my career as well, I think that gives me the mental strength I need. I can tell you right now that just getting ready to reach the start is a challenge in itself. Mentally it is really hard sometimes as there are so many things to get ready and the deadlines cannot be moved, so this is a form of mental endurance training in itself!”
- Do you have a strategy for staying sane and passing the approximate 6000 hours on your own?
“I am sure that once I am out there sailing, I will have my moments but that is all part of the experience. I have to remind myself why I am there and my reasons for doing this. I think I am going to be very busy because with no electronics and the limited information I will have regarding weather, my day is going to be a lot of running around when I am using the sextant and doing celestial navigation. That will be required 2-3 times a day for half an hour, at a certain hour to get the best position of where I am. Regarding meteorology, I will be receiving weather fax which is what was available in 1968. It is a big box that automatically prints some really basic meteorological data like in the old newspapers where you had the simple maps with the isobars. From this, I will need to set my strategy for that day and the following days. On top of that, I need to take care of the boat and of myself. If I get some free time, then it’s about racing, sailing and making sure I keep going fast!”
- What will be your sleeping strategy?
“Well, this is a complicated issue. Right now I am experimenting and trying different patterns to see how it feels. Polyphasic sleeping can be done in many different ways so I have to find one to suit me. I have been experimenting with trying a certain way and then trying another. Maybe I can sleep for 2-3 hours but during that time I will have to get up and check everything is ok and then go back to sleep. It really depends on where you are and the weather but it certainly won’t be a full 3 hours sleep!”
- What kind of food/drink will you have on-board and what is your daily ration?
“This is something else I am experimenting with right now but the bottom line is that whatever you take to eat, you must really like it. When you are both very busy and tired, it is easy to skip a meal so it is important to bring meals that I really like and are easy to prepare. I am planning to go with freeze-dried food just because it is simple, rich in nutrients and can be healthy. It is also lightweight compared to canned food, which is a very important factor. The downside is that there is no water-maker so it is a strategic decision on how much weight you add by taking water with you, or estimating how much you can pick up from the rain. These sorts of things that are normally so simple in normal life are proving to be big challenges to think about. Preparation for both the boat and myself is so important.”
- What is the one food you have to absolutely take with you to maintain endorphin release?
“I am definitely taking chocolate and coffee but I will also take some Spanish ham as I really like it, and hopefully these things will cheer me up when I most need it.”
- What contact or assistance is there if you encounter any real problems?
“For safety, it is really good because obviously when we are sailing we have no modern advantages and are limited to 20 minutes per week of satellite phone just to speak to the organisers and other key people so that they know we are ok and you can explain to them a bit of how everything is going. I have a good life raft, an EPIRB and an emergency grab bag full of safety items but obviously, if I use any of those I am automatically out of the race.”
- Do you have a particular item, mantra or ritual to help keep you safe or bring you luck?
“Not right now but I will probably have a very different answer for that when I return!”
- What do you think you will miss the most?
“First of all Ariadna, of course, and my family. Fresh food, especially fruit and vegetables which I really like. I know I will miss having a hot freshwater shower as this is one of the commodities that we take for granted these days and don’t really appreciate as much as we should.”
- What is the first thing you will probably want to do when you arrive back on dry land?
“Enjoy a huge hug from Ariadna and my family, enjoy a hot shower and a wonderful fresh salad!”
I would like to add that I found interviewing Aleix a very humbling experience and feel so excited for his endeavour to achieve this incredible feat. I am sure you will join me in wishing Aleix a safe and amazing journey around the globe and may he arrive back safely in Les Sables d’Olonne by 14th June 2023. Hopefully, he will be happy to do another interview, once recovered of course, so we can hear all about his amazing experience!
Please follow this link to view Aleix’s promo video: http://venturiprojects.xyz/en/sailing-team/
Written by: firstname.lastname@example.org