2018 GGR Entrants Conference

Well it has been a very busy last few months of 2015. Happy New Year to all

There are now 26 confirmed provisional entries in the Golden Globe Race. We still hold four SPECIAL INVITATIONS yet to be offered and we currently have five paid up ‘wait listed’ sailors hopeful of an entry.

Emails from interested sailors continue to flow in as stories of the GGR filter into all corners of the globe. Those who cannot sleep after hearing of the race finally succumb and make contact!

Entries are now officially closed – all a bit irrelevant as the 25 offered spots filled quickly. We will now take up to 15 on the waitlist which remains open until filled. The remaining special invitations may be issued at any time.

Fortunately, we have Susie Goodall as a female entry who will be eligible for the ‘Blackmores First Lady Trophy’, but sadly she is our only woman. We would love to see more enter. Personally I support women in sailing and SPECIAL consideration would be given to any who are still considering signing on to be part of history!

The Little Ship Club in central London right on the Thames was the perfect venue for this first GGR Entrants’ Conference. The single most exciting aspect of it was actually bringing the Golden Globe to life for the first time in 48 years. It now has character again and the feel is unique. The vibe in the room with 14 entrants who flew in from around the world was simply electric, fantastic, warm and fun! There is a tremendous sense of purpose and adventure yet to come. A real sense of family, young, old, experienced and amateur, all joined now from this very first meeting.

Unfortunately Sir Robin Knox-Johnston was unable to be with us. He had to fly to Australia the day before to race with the Clipper yachts in the upcoming Sydney to Hobart. He kindly offered us a video message instead to wish all entrants the very best and advise them to duck when he fires the start cannon on board Suhaili in Falmouth, as it may be loaded with a golf ball!

I have known Sir Robin since 1982, but after all these years I have never seen, let alone set foot on board Suhaili. Robin organised a special rendezvous on board Suhaili to film that video… wow! For me it was simply spine tingling to be on the boat I had so often admired and studied hard in all the pictures of his book since it was first published. I still do today! It was quite literally surreal to stand on the foredeck and look at that anchor winch, and sit in the cockpit, and look down the companion way… unbelievable… an inspiration that again made me question my decision to NOT now sail in the Golden Globe Race.

The race itself has rapidly grown to become a major international event by any measure. It is currently one of only two solo around the world events, the other being the Vendee Globe. Entries are oversubscribed 2.5 years before the start. Its size and scope is bigger than I and everyone ever anticipated. The impact it will have on sailing and inspiring others will, I believe, be immense. Personally, I have great passion and purpose to encourage adventure in all things, as it is good for human kind and bureaucracy often attempts to squash that. So now my heart is with the 2018 Golden Globe Race itself, as an event and the incredible responsibility I have to the entrants participating.

To manage this professionally and effectively requires my total commitment. If I set sail in this second edition, my head would be in the wrong space for the great south when life is a challenge. So instead of a dream to sail this grand adventure, fate delivers a dream for me to make it the greatest experience, first for the entrants, then the men women and children around the world who will follow it, and finally the sponsors and media who will reap their rewards.

Our management team grows. I am now the Race Chairman. Jane Zhou (my partner) is Admin and Finance. Annette Pfeffer is Digital Director and Barry Pickthall is our Media Manager.

For the GGR we have a full time northern and southern hemisphere race office operating simultaneously to give all yachts and media 24hr coverage. The UK race office will be based in Portsmouth, UK. The southern hemisphere race director will be Margie McIntyre and that office based in Hobart. I will appoint the Golden Globe Race Director (to be based in the UK), early in 2017. If you think you may be this special person, email me.

It is exciting to have signed Canadian company Eggplant as our frontline executive production team responsible for the official cinematic documentary – a 15-part international TV series and 40 online weekly video updates.

Cale Tompkins and Christian Hurst flew in to London with a film crew to start filming and interviewing entrants that day. Plans are to release a short official GGR trailer in February.

A big new addition to the GGR is the introduction of Eggplant on-board digital cameras and tethered drones that will only be with a select few entrants. A decision will be made in the last six weeks before the start to place systems on up to 10 boats. These will be state of the art and the vision captured on them will never be released to any news outlet, or TV network anywhere in the world. It will only ever be seen on the official Eggplant productions distributed worldwide and online at the official race website. We call these the ‘big brother’ cameras. The individual entrants cannot use this footage, so they will still be shooting their own 35mm film pictures and super 8 movies.

The big question on everyone’s mind is who gets these cameras… and the answer is simple. We do not know yet and no one will, until 6 weeks out. A decision will only be made then.

There were smiles all round when I announced that the GGR will be run under the auspices of the Royal Nomuka Yacht Club which will become forever more, the host club for the Golden Globe Race. The Island of Nomuka in the Kingdom of Tonga has strong links to the UK and sailing. It was the site where William Bligh’s Mutiny on the Bounty actually took place and the island that Captain Cook visited on his last two circumnavigations and where a twist of fate only just saved him and his men from being killed by Tongan warriors.

Most Britons remember Tonga’s Queen Salote in London at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. She refused a hood while others covered up and she rode through the pouring rain in an open carriage to wave to the crowds, endearing herself to all on the day.

Indeed when I told Sir Robin on board Suhaili about the Royal Nomuka Yacht Club connection, he (with a huge smile) immediately burst boldly into song ‘We love Queen Salote’ etc. etc. He learnt it as a child. As a young boy he was in that crowd watching the coronation parade and remembers brave Queen Salote. I had never heard the song before! He expressed the hope that HRH the Crown Prince of Tonga and patron of the club may attend the start in Falmouth.

250 years ago, Tongans basically ruled the Pacific with their giant shunting Kalias and Vaka voyaging canoes that impressed even Captain Cook with their ability to sail to windward. Now no one sails Vakas in Tonga.

With great ceremony on October 22nd 2015, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Tupouto’a Ulukalala presented me the beautiful uninhabited island of Nomuka IKI and raised the burgee of the RNYC for the first time. I am now commodore of the world’s youngest Royal Club and Jane and I will build our home and the Yacht Club on this spectacular tropical paradise island. Through the RNYC partnership with the GGR, we hope to highlight climate change issues and also increase the Tonga brand to build tourism. Just maybe it is a link to Bernard Moitessier and his allure of the Pacific.

All GGR entrants will sail under the burgee of the RNYC and hold honorary membership. Those who finish the race will become life members gaining special privileges on the Island of Nomuka IKI which includes swimming with our humpback whales and spinner dolphins! It was an honour to have the acting Tongan High Commissioner for the UK Mr Sione Sonata Tupou CQS attend the conference. We look forward to working with him leading up to the start in Falmouth and on festivities planed at the start.

Bad weather on the day stopped a few from attending. Adrian Jones and Nick Offord from Rustler Yachts in Falmouth got caught without a plane and sent last minute apologies. We are now working with them on plans to help all entrants at the start and finish through their comprehensive and excellent logistics base and hard stand in Falmouth. Some media were equally affected, but have all be updated.

Fortunately, John Hick representing the Falmouth organising committee made the day. He gave a wonderful presentation on the beauty of and commitment from Falmouth for the start and finish activities. I followed this up with my first visit to Falmouth a few days later. A round of meetings with key stake holders including the National Maritime Museum (Cornwall) and lunch at the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club left me with no doubt about their commitment to the Race. The clear impression I have is that Falmouth is a classic spot for the start. I can certainly say for those non-entrants following this… you should make a date to be there, or you may miss something quite special. It will be a fun few weeks in this colourful coastal village steeped in nautical history going back hundreds of years.

Annette gave us an insight into the new image and branding for the Golden Globe Race and explained the design and features of our new website which will be launched in June 2016.

In the morning session of the conference, I was able to give short presentations to the media about those entrants unable to make it. That was followed by entrants in the room giving their own 2 minute (Hmm?? Ok some a little longer) presentations. All of a sudden we saw the diverse characters as themselves right before our eyes. It was obvious we were all in special company. It was real entertainment at its living best, lots of laughs and ooh’s and ahh’s hearing those stories and philosophies on love, life and the ocean. Passion was the order of the day followed closely by concern for our environment and the living oceans.

Why are they there? Each has their reason, none are really the same, all are happy for the chance, some are organised, others not, a few still learning, many are not. You had to be there to feel this and it is impossible for me to give you that in this one dimensional brief… for me it was superb!

Over lunch it was time for selfies and official photos, singularly, as a group, as nations and with the Tonga High Commissioner. After lunch it was time for the real fun to begin!

With the media gone it was just family and friends of the race. Eggplant pulled entrants out one at a time all afternoon for studio interviews on the meaning of life and the GGR! I started a discussion and encouraged a forum about everything and anything on the race. We discussed the plans at the start and finish, how to find sponsors and handle media, specifics on rules and regulations. Together I attempted to define, or explain the relatively simple rules.

I tried hard not to make them any more complicated by giving wrong answers to any of the questions. I had to think on my feet more than once to curly questions, like what about electric razors? All accompanied by silly comments and jokes of course, as happens with any family.

The multi-cultural mix and diverse humour became somewhat of an Irish stew, or well blended port depending on your own point of view. For those in the room that day, without exception, it was worth the considerable effort to be there. For some the end came all too fast. I think most wanted to keep living this special moment and while the time to prepare is appreciated, the sense of wanting this race now was obvious.

Later that night, entrants and partners boarded the good ship Symphony for a dinner cruise down the Thames passing all the classic sights you can only see lit up in London. After dinner, Lizzy Forman, the young British sailor McIntyre Adventure supported in the recent Mini Transat, gave a stirring fun insight into racing a 6.5m Class Mini solo across the Atlantic. Thanks Lizzy!

It was a cold brisk night out on deck. There were stars in the sky and yes it was just the Thames river, but if you let your imagination run wild, you could close your eyes and think ahead to June 14th 2018… and being out there!

There was loud conversation that night, some about boats but mostly not. Strong friendships formed and plenty of male bonding went down. The lingering hugs and promises of not missing next year’s GGR Entrants Conference went on and around in circles. Finally it was over.

Jane and I had a fantastic time and I think everyone else did too.

The venue for next year’s GGR Entrants’ Conference will be decided in June 2016 and may be in Paris. Hope to see you all then. To those entrants who made the effort to come, thanks for your support and making this such a great day and night.