Dafydd Hughes @GlobalSoloChallenge
The flags of the Global Solo Challenge fly at Marina Coruña: the great adventure has begun. Today 26th August 2023, at 15:00 local time (13:00 UTC), the Welsh skipper Dafydd Hughes, aboard his S&S 34 Bendigedig, crossed the starting line, embarking on his solo, non-stop journey around the world. About fifteen knots of wind from the west-northwest and a blue sky, occasionally covered by rapidly passing gray clouds with some showers, accompanied the first among the GSC competitors to leave A Coruña.
Until yesterday, Dafydd was busy addressing last-minute issues, and he commented on his social media: “As everyone knows, on a boat, you always have to be ready for anything; sailing without hitches is impossible. I thought I would spend a quiet day with family and friends, but instead, I found myself dealing with a problem with the onboard computer systems. I could no longer send or receive emails. After hours on the phone with a Predictwind expert in the UK, by 20:00, fortunately, everything was back to working.”
This morning, the atmosphere was calm, although the excitement was palpable on the dock. Family, friends, sponsors, and sailing enthusiasts traveled to A Coruña from the UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy, and various cities in Spain to share this significant moment with Dafydd.
For several days, other GSC skippers have shown the strong camaraderie that has built over time amongst entrants sending messages of support, encouragement and affection to Dafydd, who has the honor and challenging task of inaugurating the race and paving the way for everyone to follow. Juan Merediz, the Spanish skipper of the Class40 Waypoint who is not due to start until late October, joined Dafydd in A Coruña to greet him in person, experiencing the immense joy he will experience himself in two months when it will be his turn to depart. “It’s finally starting! I’m excited and nervous! It’s fantastic! I didn’t want to miss Dafydd’s departure. I wanted to meet him in person and encourage him!”
From Dafydd’s profile page on the Global Solo Challenge website, a vast number of support messages have poured in from every corner of the world: his determination, tenacity, positive spirit, and humility have captured the imagination and respect of many people.
Chuny Bermúdez de Castro, a veteran of 7 editions of the Volvo Ocean Race and also the director of Marina Coruña, exchanged a few words on the dock with Dafydd, connecting as two seafarers, regardless of the type of vessels that have taken them across the seas.
Dafydd bid farewell to his family and friends with hugs and a few tears of joy, and some of inevitable apprehension. So much work and commitment to reach the first milestone of this endeavor, to be ready at the starting line. The organization’s dinghy followed Dafydd out to sea with his partner Joanna and their children Lizzy and James.
Some friends rented jet skis to accompany him as he prepared to set off. Once past the protection of the outer breakwater, the wind was steady but decidedly cool: today’s temperature was almost 20 degrees lower than just two days ago. After such an emotionally charged day, the navigator calmly hoisted the sails and waited for the departure time, managing to find peace and serenity, looking forward to the horizon. After keeping the boat upwind, slowly approaching the starting line, right at 15:00 sharp, he slightly bore away, allowing Bendigedig’s sails to fill, which immediately picked up speed heading north. Dafydd was in tune with his Bendigedig, his face relaxed. Finally, alone, to live this great dream together, lasting approximately 200 days.
Tonight the wind will shift to the north and increase, allowing Dafydd to head directly towards Finisterre. Before departing, Dafydd stated that during the first two days he wants to sail cautiously and without pushing too hard in order to find his rhythm. “After the stress of the last day, due to a malfunction of the computer systems, I will calmly approach the first two days of sailing. I will hoist the mainsail and the J3, which are easier for me to handle.”
Dafydd’s last comment before departure was a heartfelt thank you to those who helped and supported him. “My journey at sea begins today, but I wouldn’t be here without the support of my family, my sponsors, and the many people who follow me. I want to thank everyone, and I know that a simple ‘thank you’ cannot express how crucial your involvement has been in my adventure. In particular, I want to thank Joanna, without whom I don’t think I would ever have made it here today.”
His family commented on the moment of departure as follows:
“It was very emotional. His friends were here but nothing went wrong. He looked very happy sailing into the distance.”
Lizzy, Dafydd’s daughter.
“It was a surreal moment for sure! I know he has spent the last 3 years preparing for this moment and I know he will be fine out there! I’m looking forward to having a cold on