Belgian Dirk Gunst from Ostende has an impressive sailing experience both cruising on long distance passages and racing in the double-handed Round Britain & Ireland and Azores and Back Race and Single-handed in the OSTAR 1996 and 2000. Dirk estimates that in his lifetime he has clocked in excess of 300 thousands miles at sea having started as a very young boy to go fishing with his dad. He will sail a proven offshore racer cruiser by X-Yachts. At 55ft he is also the the largest boat entered so far, although not a light displacement racing hull.
He defines the Global Solo Challenge as climbing “Our Mount Everest without Sherpas” (the guides or carriers hired for mountaineering expeditions in the Himalayas) with a reference to the reduce budget required to take part in the event. In fact Dirk “soon realised one can go bankrupt without being sponsored” after having done some offshore racing in the 90’s.
Where does your passion for sailing come from?
I started going at sea on my father’s motorboat that was used as a pleasure fishing craft (with nets) in 1963. Ever since 1967 I’ve been constantly teaching sailing, training both with dinghies and offshore and ocean going yachts.
What lessons have you learnt from sailing?
One cannot possibly foresee all the situations that can happen at sea. You can play chess (trying to predict the following steps), use the sea (waves, wind, currents) as an alley… but at the end of the day the sea is always the Master. So stay humble!
What brought you to like single-handed sailing?
The personal challenge, pushing oneself’s limits.
What prompted you to sign up for this event?
I’ve done some single-handed racing in the nineties, but soon realised one can go bankrupt without being sponsored – as usually happens in most smaller countries. This event is a budget friendly way to fulfil “our Mount Everest without Sherpas”. Moreover – taking into account my age – there’s a physical deadline to be able to achieve this.
How do you plan to prepare for this event?
Technically, rather meticulously. I’ll try to keep in good physical shape. I will try to sail the 2.000 NM qualifier by August or September 2022. Possibly, I will look for some sponsorship, if it does not become too time-consuming.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge?
Try for once to beat Murphy’s Law.
Tell us about your boat or the boat you would like to have.
After 30 years of sail training with an ex-Whitbread Racer Tomidi (Rucanor), we recently bought an Xp 55 named after my beloved but deceased wife (2009) Patricia. So in a way I wont be alone.
Do you intend to link this personal challenge with a social message?
Though I have quite some good ideas about this, for the moment I’m also managing the project single-handed – hence lack of time is a factor.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I hope to be an example for the youngsters.
Numerous cruises and races: local, in the North Sea, the Baltic, the English Channel, and the North Atlantic, sailed single-handed between Quebec and the Cape Verde Islands, and between Iceland and the Caribbean.
The Double-handed RB&I Race
The AZAB 1995
The OSTAR 1996 & 2000
Tried to do the Route du Rhum in 1998
About the boat
Boat name: Patricia
Sail Number: BEL 777
Boat design: X-55 (Niels Jeppesen)
Year built: 2014
Upwind sail area: 180m2
Downwind sail area: 320m2