The world has witnessed two absolutely unbelievable feats of sailing prowess with two key sailing records smashed within days of each other - that being the Jules Verne fully crewed record and the Vendee Globe singlehanded round the world record.
Etch this time in your brain as it is a round the world record that is likely to stand for a long time to come. It is:
40 days 23 hours, 30 minutes and 30 seconds!
That is the time it took Frances Joyon and his crew aboard IDEC Sport to circumnavigate the globe under sail alone via the three Capes - Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn - and ultimately take the Jules Verne Trophy.
It was not that many years ago that Commodore Explorer broke the 80 day barrier, and we all thought that record, set in 1993 by Bruno Peyron of 79 days and 6 hours was super-fast and a record hard to beat, but over time that has been whittled down to a shade over 40 days. Going under 40 days will simply be phenomenal.
Few appreciate the speeds these guys sailed at to achieve that 40 day record - as they averaged 26.85 knots ALL the way around the world. Few readers can, I am sure, say they have ever gone that fast on a yacht - even on a single surf!
And then came Armel Le Cléac’h who smashed the Vendee Globe record by over 3 days when he finished in a time of 74 days, 3 hours and 35 minutes.
Not to be outdone, Alex Thomson smashed the world record for the greatest distance sailed solo in 24 hours during the closing stages of the Vendee Globe, notching up 536.8 miles on Hugo Boss. That’s an average speed of 22.4 knots!
All quite remarkable stuff - and with modern technology two great events which I followed closely.
In contrast, following the Cape 2 Rio Race (presented by Maserati) was like watching paint dry as there was simply too little useful information forthcoming from the tracker and other resources to keep one coming back for more. It’s sad as this is an iconic race for this country, and one which our landlubber brethren as well as our yachties follow equally closely. It was this race, way back in 1971, which captivated the citizens of this country, resulting in a massive boom for the sport and home-built boats.
My biggest gripe though is that the official results simply show the name of a boat - no owner or skipper’s name! Boats are sailed by people - and it is the owners who dig deep to provide the boats and give crew wonderful opportunities who should be getting their names highlighted. What an opportunity lost!
Finally, SAS has shown little leadership or knowledge of the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) in their handling of the Rule 69 Investigation.
It is unacceptable to many that there were so many flaws when they presented their findings in the document dated 25 October 2016 - especially recommending sanction without a hearing after stating that there was a ‘gross breech of a rule’. Since then, on 1 February, they have reviewed their findings - suddenly determining that there was NOT a gross breach!
All the constituents of SAS want is transparency, consistency and a COMPLETE understanding of the RRS by those who administer the sport on our behalf. Such is the concern and anger in terms of this matter that there are some calling for the heads of our administrators. I have always said, and firmly believe, that a strong National Body translates to a strong and vibrant sport. The hierarchy of SAS have in recent times shown some strong leadership with good decision making, but so far not in terms of this investigation.
To those administering the sport and involved in this matter, please be transparent and do what is right for the sport in terms of your mandate with World Sailing - which is to ensure that the ISAF (NOW World Sailing) sailing regulations are enforced.
The comments above regarding the Rule 69 investigation are not intended as a witch-hunt, nor a crusade to punish those who may have infringed the RRS, but merely a call for the actions of those handling the matter to please do so in a seamanlike manner in terms of the RRS.