As the excitement for the 2023-2024 Global Solo Challenge (GSC) builds, the sea’s call has enticed a varied and impressive group of sailors from around the world. Among them are four American skippers, each with their unique stories and compelling motivations for tackling the demanding circumnavigation. From the strength and perseverance of a combat-wounded Marine Corps veteran to the passion of a lifelong sailing enthusiast; from the childhood dream of a seasoned sailor to the adventurous spirit of an investment manager turned marine voyager, these four Americans bring a rich variety of experiences and determination to the event.
These four Americans not only reflect the spirit of the GSC but also the diverse paths that have led each of them to this prestigious sailing competition. Read on to explore their unique journeys and aspirations for this challenging solo voyage around the globe.
Ronnie Simpson, an American, combat-wounded and retired Marine Corps veteran, is a prominent figure in the sailing world and decided to enter the Global Solo Challenge (GSC) whilst supporting US Patriot Sailing, a veterans’ sailing non-profit organisation. Simpson experienced a life-changing event during his service in Iraq when he suffered severe injuries, including the loss of half of his lung in an explosion. After his military retirement, he faced personal struggles until he discovered sailing.
Immediately taken by the sport, Simpson sold his house, bought a boat, and immersed himself in the sailing industry. Despite vision problems due to his injuries, he has accomplished much in his sailing career, including 130,000 nautical miles of sailing, 19 crossings between Hawaii and mainland USA, and participation in the Sydney to Hobart race.
For the GSC, Simpson was loaned an Open 50 yacht, ‘Sparrow,’ by Californian sailor and businessman, Whitall Stokes. Stokes has now donated ‘Sparrow’ to US Patriot Sailing, providing the organization with a vessel for its programs after Simpson completes the GSC. In preparation for the race, Simpson and his team are refitting ‘Sparrow’ in Beaufort, North Carolina.
With a strong belief in the therapeutic power of sailing, Simpson is using the GSC to raise awareness and funds for US Patriot Sailing. He said, “Sailing, literally, saved my life,” highlighting the transformative power of the sport in his life after the military.
David Linger, a 60-year-old American and lifelong sailing enthusiast, is an entrant in the Global Solo Challenge (GSC). He was raised by the sea in Seattle, where he gained extensive knowledge of boatbuilding, repairs, rigging, and detailing. With his passion for sailing and inspiration from notable sailors such as Sir Frances Chichester, Eric Tabarly, Alain Colas, and Claire Francis, Linger always dreamt of completing a solo circumnavigation.
Upon retirement, Linger found that the GSC fell at an ideal time in his life. He purchased a 2006 Class 40 yacht, previously named Bolland Mills, designed by Owen Clarke Designs, and renamed it Koloa Maoli in honor of his parents’ yacht. The yacht, which had completed the 2006 Route de Rhum and ranked 3rd in its class, was built to comply with World Sailing’s Offshore Special Regulations Category 0, thus needing little renovation to meet the GSC standards.
Currently, refits are being carried out at the Maine Yacht Center, and Linger is preparing for sea trials and his qualifying 2,000-mile solo sail. He plans to start from A Coruña in late October and expects to be at sea for about 150 days. His strategy involves preserving the yacht condition for the final Atlantic stretch where these challenges and races are often decided.
Linger is not a professional sailor but found the GSC an appealing personal challenge. He appreciates the community spirit among the entrants and is excited to meet his fellow competitors in Spain. Aware of the risks, particularly in the Southern Ocean, Linger’s comprehensive boat knowledge and repair skills equip him well to handle potential issues during the challenge.
Curt Morlock, a 64-year-old American, will be participating in the first edition of the Global Solo Challenge (GSC), starting from A Coruña, Spain in December. Aboard his Open 60 sailboat (ex-IMOCA), named 6 Lazy K, Morlock will be among the last to set off due to the staggered start times according to boat performance. His sailboat is a proven competitor, having participated in several races, including the Vendée Globe and the Around Alone. It was built in 1999 by Thierry Dubois and carries a track record of impressive performance.
Morlock, originally from South Florida and now living in Colorado, has always been drawn to the sea. He began sailing on his father’s 36-foot sloop at 10 years old. His childhood dream of sailing around the world has been revived in retirement, prompting him to acquire 6 Lazy K in 2021. The boat, known for its safety features, including 15 watertight compartments and a rear edge designed for easy reboarding, was renamed in reference to his Colorado ranch.
Despite living far from the ocean, Morlock dedicates his time to prepare 6 Lazy K for the challenge. He has been residing at the V1D2 shipyard in Normandy, France, where his boat is located, working daily on necessary modifications. These preparations, in addition to the safety-conscious ethos of the GSC, provide comfort for Morlock’s family as they support his dream. Morlock, a seasoned hunter, is confident about the solitude and sustenance challenges of the voyage.
Morlock expects his circumnavigation to last between 100 and 120 days, depending on weather conditions. He plans to complete his qualifying passage in July before attempting a transatlantic round trip. Inspired by Jean de la Fontaine’s fable “The Hare and the Tortoise,” Morlock is enthusiastic about the GSC’s format and eager to take to the water, hopeful that, in this instance, the “hare” will prevail.
Peter Bourke, an American entrant in the Global Solo Challenge (GSC), has acquired a second-hand Finot-Conq designed Open 40 yacht named ‘Imagine’ for the challenge. The yacht, predominantly built of carbon composites and renowned for performance and reliability, was previously used as a liveaboard for a couple and their three children. It is anticipated that ‘Imagine’ will set off from A Coruña, Spain, in October due to its high anticipated performance in the staggered start format of the GSC.
Bourke was born in England before his family moved to the USA, where he later served in the American Marine Corps in Vietnam. His career in investment management enabled him to own an Outbound 44, which he raced and cruised over 33,000 nautical miles, including a class win in the Bermuda 1-2. Bourke also participated in the 2009 OSTAR (Solo Transatlantic race) against the GSC founder Marco Nannini, where he encountered several challenges that he believes will be beneficial learning experiences for the GSC.
In addition to his sailing exploits, Bourke has authored a book titled ‘Sea Trials’, documenting his experiences and personal reflections on life at sea. All profits from the book are donated to the Semper Fi fund, an organization supporting injured Veterans and their families.
Bourke purchased ‘Imagine’ while it was in Trinidad and recently sailed her up to Charleston, South Carolina, for a refit. After finishing the refit by May’s end, he plans to complete the required 2,000 mile solo qualifying sail by crossing the Atlantic to Spain. Upon arrival, he anticipates finishing any minor projects before the challenge commences in October, while also enjoying some relaxation time in Spain.