By now, hopefully everyone who is engaged by personal challenges, long distance offshore sailing, and helping foster more women in sailing are among the 323,000 followers (as of 1 February) of Cole Brauer on Instagram ( If not, ya outta be.

The development – and considerable success of – solo around the world non-stop for the everyman and woman races, like The Golden Globe Redux and Global Solo Challenge (Cole’s race), are starting to crack the American view of solo sailing as nuts.

And congratulations to Kirsten Neuschafer, for winning the third Golden Globe Race. Not to mention she stopped to pick up a fellow competitor whose boat had sunk under him, in the southern Indian Ocean. For which she was awarded the Cruising Club of America’s Rod Stephens Seamanship Trophy.

I have this kind of goofy visual of Fred and Wilma Monkey hanging in the family tree years ago. Fred decides he wants to climb down and see what is on the other side of the forest. Wilma goes off at him—Yer mad, crazy, you’ll die, get eaten by dragons, get hit on the head by a falling tree, fall into a swamp, DON’T DO IT, it’s too dangerous! And so on.

Well, fast forward a few hundred million years and Blondie Hasler is met with the same, er, arguments, as he embarks on organizing the transatlantic race that became known as the O.S.T.A.R, the grandfather of every single-handed ocean race since.

It is quite possible that such races are attended, particularly the “retro” races, precisely because of the concerns Wilma voiced when Fred was getting ready to push off the familial tree.

Sailing is the only experience left on the planet where us descendants of Fred and Wilma can go and do what Fred did: Head out and explore, not so much the geography (OK, oceanography) of the planet, but our inner selves. To see if we are really as good as our view of ourselves tells us we are.

To find out for certain if that tough yacht skipper staring back at you in the mirror in the morning as he adjusts his tie on the way to the train to work in the morning really has The Right Stuff.

It all, well at least the sailing part of this quest for self-knowledge, started with Hasler, and the O.S.T.A.R. This experience fired up Francis Chichester, knighted for his effort, in 1966, to circumnavigate the Blue Marble with one stop, in Sydney, Oz as it turns out. Where your humble correspondent was the 11-year-old kid fascinated by a real live solo sailor. I sailed a Sabot alone, so I could relate. I would spend hours glued to the wire mesh fence surrounding the boat yard where the boat was overhauled on her stop in Sydney. I still have all the news clipping my dad cut out of the papers, following this great adventure.

Not to be outdone was Robin Knox-Johnston, also knighted for his accomplishment of sailing around the world alone, nonstop. This of course being the first Golden Globe. With this history and the continuing adventure of the O.S.T.A.R. and expense of same, the Mini Transat was created, by an Englishman, Bob Salomon.

The history of the O.S.T.A.R. begat the BOC in the early 1980s. But not before the Bermuda 1-2 and the Single handed Transpac, San Francisco to Hawaii, had been launched in June and July of 1977, respectively. The two oldest solo races in the U.S.

My memory of the Lore (and I am willing to stand corrected as circumstances dictate) of the BOC is it was conceived in the Marina Pub on Goat Island after the 1980, or 1984 O.S.T.A.R. As the Lore goes, it happened a few of the lads were sitting around the bar shooting the breeze and the idea of a race, solo, around the world was raised. One assumes there was rum involved, and well, look what happened.


Pictured at the start, French sailor Charles Caudrelier is lighting up the racetrack in the ARKEA ULTIM CHALLENGE-Brest. Courtesy


Speaking of rum, sailors and sailboat racing, the genesis of the latest addition to the Calendar of DH and solo races in the Northeast, the Bermuda Short Handed Return Race, starting the morning after the awards presentation for the Newport Bermuda Race, was born the same way, but with only two guys. Peter Becker and I were sitting around in the apartment the Beckers had rented for their stay during the 2021 Bermuda 1-2. I was in Bermuda to sail back in the DH return leg with Phil Haydon.

Becker and I got on to the topic of the boats getting back from BDA to their home ports. Anecdotally, there is more strife on the return passage than during the race. One can speculate on the reasons, but the return race gives folks the opportunity to get the boat back and to see just how good they are, without ten crew sitting on the rail.

The missing ten crew not only impacts the stability of the boat; there is a dearth of immediate help on board in the event the seaweed hits the air conditioning. One of the appealing aspects of solo and DH sailing is the problem solving and solutions making up on the fly. One of my mantras over the years for the acceptance of solo and DH sailing, racing, is this is how most people actually sail. Look around in the bay any weekend in summer. Outside of the 12-person race boats, most boats on the water have Fred and Wilma (OK, their descendants) and the kid or the dog or a couple mates, likely non-sailors, on board. One of the lessons we learn one way or another when sailing is planning and preparation. A list of good answers to the What if X happens? Not a bad set of skills to assemble for life, as I tell my high school sailors.

One of the great reasons we all sail is to go out (away from the normal routine of life and the rodent race) and have an experience, with nature, with family and or your mates, to see other places. You can go to The Oar only so often.

Ms. Neuschafer remarked after finishing the GGR that she felt like she could just keep sailing. This is a not unusual sensation remarked on by other solo sailors, particularly circumnavigators.

Well, after sailing around the world with four stops, what else is left? Nonstop. The brainchild of Frenchman Philippe Jeantot. He sailed in the first and third BOC regattas, winning both times. It likely wasn’t rum this time, more likely Pernod. After all, the maker of Pernod, Paul Ricard, was sponsoring solo race boats by this time.

The result of this Boys at the Bar session was the ultimate challenge (again). An around the world race, solo, nonstop and without assistance. The title of Rich Wilson’s book of his adventures is France to France, Antarctica to Starboard. The Vendee Globe was born. First run in 1988-89, The Vendee set the standard for circumnavigations, at least solo.

The French, always on the prowl for a bigger, better adventure founded, in 1993, the Trophy Jules Verne. This race was the brainchild of the sadly now, late Florence Arthaud, winner of the French version of the O.S.T.A.R, the Route du Rhumb, in 1990 and a fellow French solo sailor, Titouan Lamazou, was to be awarded for the fastest circumnavigation of the planet. Starting with beating 80 days, hence the name. Lamazou is, I note, an artist and writer by trade, coming to sailing after meeting Eric Tabarly and then winning the first Vendee Globe…

In the first event held in 1993 the 87-foot cat Commodore Explorer, under the command of Bruno Peyron and uniquely with American Cam Lewis aboard, just made it: 79 days, 6 hours and change. Fully crewed yes, but wait, there is more.

The following is likely to cancel all the previous words on the normalcy and the OK-ness of solo racing, deep offshore.

On Sunday 07 Jan, 2024, six boats took off from Brest bound around the world, nonstop, solo. No, not the Vendee Globe – something even more audacious. Not 32-foot Colin Archer boats, not a 57-foot ketch, nor even IMOCA 60s. Rather, what the French call, with no irony, Ultimes.

These trimarans are roughly 100 feet LOA by 100 feet on the beam. Such a boat is certainly a handful just based on these two parameters. Yet, falling under the heading of just how hard we can push these things, all six of them are foil borne boats.

Remember The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe’s book and later the movie of the same name? Only the best pilots have the right stuff, that mystical element which keeps them in the air? And out of trouble? I gotta think much the same sixth (and seventh, eighth and ninth) sense follow these guys around like a hungry dog sniffing your hot dog.

The leader, a day or two out, one Charles Caudrelier, is reported to have said when asked “How’s it going?” “Well, 45 knots is probably a bit fast for the first couple days of an around the world race.” And this from a guy whose list of victories in every major French solo event goes back to 1999. This performance is interrupted by a third in the Volvo Ocean Race in 2014 and third in the latest Transat Jacques Vabre. Doublehanded on a 100-foot tri…Just a warm up. It is worth noting that the current solo, nonstop lap record is 42 days, 2 hours, in one of these tris. Meanwhile, the Trophy Jules Verne’s speed record for crewed boats, to date, is 40 days, 16 hours. Meh, only a day and a half longer, without all the other guys on board. Oh, and this one, MACIF, on which the record was set in 2015, has only regular daggerboards, with only a slight curve at the tip.

Crazy? Maybe. The answer to the question from the morning mirror: Am I as good as I think I am? Even Wilma would have to agree with this. ■


Australian born, Joe ‘Coop’ Cooper stayed in the U.S. after the 1980 America’s Cup where he was the boat captain and sailed as Grinder/Sewer-man on Australia. His whole career has focused on sailing, especially the short-handed aspects of it. He lives in Middletown, RI where he coaches, consults and writes on his blog,, when not paying attention to his wife, dog and several, mainly small, boats.

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