Yorkshire yachtsman Guy Waites is setting off from Scarborough this summer to compete in the third edition of the legendary Golden Globe Race with the aim of sailing solo and non-stop around the world.
When the race begins in September, it will mark the end of one campaign and the beginning of a whole new adventure – it has already been a long journey for Guy simply to get to the startline.
Having held onto a dream of sailing around the world over many years, and then having to remain patient through the Covid pandemic and lockdowns, it was getting on for Autumn 2020 when he was finally able to fly out to Panama in South America to pick up his yacht for the challenge – a previous Golden Globe entrant called Sagarmatha.
After preparing the Tradewind 35 for the Transatlantic crossing to bring her back, then waiting for the hurricane season to blow through, it was late November when he finally set sail and as he explains: “That meant I was sailing Sagarmatha back over winter and I got knocked down in a storm in the Atlantic, which damaged the mast so I had to stop at the Azores to repair it, which I managed to sort out just well enough to get me home.”
The knockdown saw Guy having to sail with a ‘banana-shaped’ mast for 300 miles to reach the Azores and his account can be found in Practical Boat Owner magazine here.
Hopping home via Plymouth, Gosport, Ramsgate, Lowestoft and Scarborough, Guy wrote a refit plan on the way and managed to finally get Sagarmatha back and out of the water at Whitby in May 2021. Although it had been “the right boat, at the right time, at the right price” – the race was now on to renovate her for the 2022-23 Golden Globe Race.
As a professional sailor, Guy had previously been doing sail training work for The Clipper Race and was due to skipper Dare to Lead in 2019 until the pandemic hit. He ended up instead freelancing predominantly with the Tall Ships Youth Trust in Portsmouth to keep the funds coming in and his hopes of competing in the Golden Globe Race alive.
Generating sponsorship in earnest and working on Sagarmatha full-time could only then began in earnest around Christmas 2021. Guy has since been working seven days a week on an impressively long list of jobs to bring her up to the standard he feels necessary to withstand the full range of conditions he expects to encounter sailing around the world.
“It’s just everything,” says Guy. “Many layers of antifoul have come off and there’s been a lot of grinding and sanding and fibre glassing, plus work on the engine and new electrics… and there isn’t a single part of the standing rigging where I haven’t changed the chain plates. Basically, there’s hardly anything I haven’t touched at some point or that doesn’t need to be done.
“I know through my experience of sailing, not just singlehanded but with Clipper and down in the southern hemisphere, your typical cruising boat isn’t usually well enough appointed, and I know that the boat has to be right, so it was always going to be a challenge just to get to the startline.
“Although the boat was entered in the 2018 Golden Globe Race, helm Kevin Farebrother retired fairly early on, and if I’m doing a circumnavigation and the Southern Ocean, I want everything to be right, or as close to right as I can make it. Your boat is everything.”
This month, July 2022, Guy is sailing down the east coast for an appointment with Z Spars just outside Ipswich to collect a new mast and standing rigging before heading to Lymington on the south coast to pick up new sails from Peter Sanders. “I’m literally piecing the boat together as I make my way to the startline,” he says.
With the aim of giving Guy the very best chance of success with his adventure, Scarborough Yacht Club has become his major supporter and sponsor.
The club held a launch weekend in May 2022 to give him a ‘big send-off’, which included a talk by Guy, sponsors reception, sail signing and celebration flotilla. Guy has a fundraising GoFundMe target of £50,000 and other sponsors include Agecko, Salcombe Brewery, Scarborough Business Ambassadors, BTS Software Solutions, Heroes Welcome, Whitby Seafoods, Castle Group, OOH Hula Hoop, Smailes Goldie Group and Maverick Sewn Solutions.
Born and raised in Yorkshire, Guy moved away for a number of years with work and on returning, raced from Royal Yorkshire YC at Bridlington before moving to just outside Pickering and joining Scarborough YC, where he and his wife Julie are now honorary members.
“The whole launch weekend was fantastic and Scarborough Yacht Club have been very generous,” says Guy. “There have also been quite a few club members who’ve been very helpful, particularly on the jobs that require two people.”
Soon it will be just Guy, sailing solo, managing every job on board. Combined with his many sea miles and extensive experience of singlehanded sailing – including having now sailed solo across the Atlantic five times - what he is hoping will give him a good chance of completing the race is that compared to other entrants, he has sailed more miles in Sagarmatha and has a better understanding than most of his boat.
When the first Golden Globe Race took place in 1968, Robin Knox-Johnston was the only person to finish out of nine entrants, completing his circumnavigation in 312 days aboard the 32ft yacht Suhaili and becoming the first person to sail singlehanded and non-stop around the world.
The second Golden Globe Race took place in in 2018 to mark the 50th anniversary and out of 18 starters, only five finished, with winner Jean-Luc Van Den Heede taking 211 days. Out of 32 entries for the latest edition, 10 have already retired.
Currently Guy is one of only 22 entrants on course to begin the race on 4th September 2022 from Les Sables-d'Olonne in France and the fleet is expected to reduce further as a number of GGR entrants are struggling to make the start.
The aim for those that do make it will be to sail solo, non-stop around the world via the five Great Capes - using similar yachts and equipment to that available to Sir Robin in the original Sunday Times event. Competitors will race without modern technology or satellite navigation aids – relying on the stars and a sextant, compass, timepiece, radio, paper charts and hand-written logs.
There will be a race tracker on each boat - but race followers will have more of a clue about Guy’s exact whereabouts since competitors will not have access to the information.
With limited space it will be a diet based on canned and freeze-dried food, and with desalinators not allowed, water also has to be onboard with rainwater captured along the way.
Less than 200 people have ever singlehanded non-stop around the world – more people have been into space and more people climb to the top of Everest each year.
It takes a special kind of dedication to sail a solo circumnavigation and for Guy it has been a long-held ambition since first becoming involved with the sport at the age of 25, after a friend invited him to go sailing on a charter boat one weekend on the Solent.
Now aged 54 , Guy recalls: “I happened to be living in East Kent at the time and friends there, who had just bought a boat, heard I’d been sailing and asked if I wanted to go sailing and racing out of Ramsgate with them and that was it then, I was just hooked.”
Guy joined the RYA and started doing night school classes, gradually working his way through Day Skipper, Coastal and Ocean Yachtmaster qualifications and associated certificates.
Losing enthusiasm for his day job as a photographer in advertising and marketing, he became a part-time postman to fund his Atlantic crossings and after joining The Clipper Race 2017-18 as a first mate became “more of a sailor for a living than anything else”.
Explaining his decision to now compete in the Golden Globe Race, he says: “It’s been my aspiration for years to sail around the world singlehanded, it’s been a dream. Ever since I was a child, I was prone to wandering off on my own without a care in the world and as soon as I got into sailing, I was intrigued and fascinated by the stories of those who’d sailed around the world.”
He is now determined to make the startline and complete the challenge and adds: “Just for my own peace of mind I can’t afford to contemplate anything else quite frankly.”
As Robin Knox-Johnson sums up when sharing his thoughts on the Golden Globe Race: “Why dream of it and never do it. This is a challenge that has been created to achieve that dream.”