Solent Gaffers


Marion Shirley joins the send off to the Golden Globe Competitors

My passage to the west country was fast .... for me! With an easterly breeze for East Breeze, we were down there after Yarmouth Gaffers in five hops: Weymouth, West Bay (it got me round the Bill late in the day. I would have gone to Lyme but not in an easterly ), Dartmouth, Newton Ferrers on the River Yealm and, finally, an eight hour straight line all the way to Falmouth.

I called the Yacht Haven, doubtful they could fit me in because the Golden Globe Race boats were gathering there. EB is small and draws less than a metre so she fitted a shallow, weedy corner. Thus, I was able to join the fun.

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East Breeze

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Golden Globe Race boats

One boat had already sailed from New York. One skipper was Palestinian; another was Russian. The boats had to match those from the original race in age. 

They were not to use modern technology .... no GPS, no shoreside weather routing.

Skippers and crew bustled up and down the pontoon festooned in chain and (despite the technology ruling) quantities of electrical wiring. New sails and dodgers were unrolled and bent on. Families visited. Supplies were loaded.

The crowds were out as Suhaili, skippered by Robin Knox-Johnston, the only finishers in the original race, moored alongside. They were followed the next morning by Gipsy Moth IV. I was thrilled that East Breeze was on the same pontoon as two such iconic single handed craft. Lively Lady had also been due to come.

Moving on and off the boat now meant avoiding press interviews, invariably taking place in the middle of the pontoon which was also open to guided tours.

“You’re not going round the world are you?”

“No, I don’t need to go that far to get just as much excitement.”

Non-sailing friends thought the boats shockingly small. Although rather longer, Gipsy Moth IV is only just over two feet wider than East Breeze.

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The Golden Globe Race

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The Golden Globe Feeder Race

On departure day, overcast and quite breezy, the local ferry ran a special trip. The skipper thrust us right in to all the action; alongside Suhaili and Gipsy as they cast off to lead the “Parade of Sail” across Carrick Roads to St Mawes, alongside each competitor as they raised their mainsails and prepared for the off. We saw and smelt the cordite as R K-J fired the starting canon from Suhaili and we raced out of the bay alongside the competitors.

Finally, there was Suhaili under sail with Robin Knox-Johnston alone on the helm, just as he had been at the same time fifty years ago.

We know the shocking story of the original race. I trust that all of the 2018 skippers will fare better. It is thought that they will finish sooner although they may spend eight months at sea. This race is a “feeder” to Les Sables d’Olonne. The main one starts on July 1 with prize giving in April 2019.


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