You may not be aware of this (and it wouldn’t surprise me at all), but there is a solo, round-the-world race starting this weekend. It’s the Velux 5 Oceans race (formerly Around Alone, formerly BOC). It bills itself as “The Ultimate Solo Challenge,” which is highly arguable (Vendee Globe, anyone?). But even if the Velux can make that claim, it’s hard to get too excited about a fleet of just 5 skippers (which could shrink to four). Sorry, but this event feels dated, dying, done.
It’s a shame, because the race has a storied and dramatic history.
But as we’ve seen with the America’s Cup, sailing and the sailing public’s taste evolves. The Velux 5 Oceans will no doubt produce some interesting, even exciting, moments. Sailors racing solo around the world tend to have some tough and interesting times. And I always love following American Brad Van Liew, whose campaign is—appropriately—called “The Lazarus Project.”
As we saw during the 2002-’03 Around Alone, Brad is a master of sharing his experience online, and will be fun to follow. But even Brad can’t raise this event from the dead. The small starting field was reduced by one when Christophe Bullens was dismasted on his way to the start.
On his website, Brad has a nice rundown on his competition. And Bullens is now scrambling to find a replacement boat. But even if he does, how competitive can it really be? Add in the fact that there will inevitably be some fleet attrition over the 30,000 miles of ocean ahead, and you could end up with a race that isn’t really even a race. Yawn. I’m feeing sleepy.
Okay, so I’m slashing and burning. Do I have a better idea, you ask? Well, as it happens, yes. The Vendee Globe is, and always will be, the headline event of solo RTW racing. It’s got a hardcore following from sailors, sponsors, and international audiences. It can live on. I mean, how can you argue with this:
But the Velux 5 Oceans needs to move on and reinvent itself. How? Here’s how: Just as the America’s Cup tossed monohulls aside, the 5 Oceans should do the same. The Volvo Ocean Race, which is also looking at a pretty dismal lack of competitors, might pay attention here, too.
Yep, it’s time to go multihull, baby! A Jules Verne record attempt (both solo and crewed) is an awesome event to behold. Yet, save for Bruno Peyron’s The Race, we never get multihulls lining up bows to bows. What if we were to take this out onto the globe’s oceans?
It could be solo, and it could be crewed. It could be nonstop, and it could be with stops. I don’t really care. It just needs to be fast, competitive, and adrenalized. There are lots of formats and configurations. But they all have one thing in common: they would inject something new and exciting into the monotonous, monohull, RTW concept. And that, my friends, is painfully overdue.