The Grand Departure of the GSC: seven skippers taking up the challenge

©Richard Mardens

The atmosphere is electric on the eve of the most crowded departure, with seven skippers at the next start of the Global Solo Challenge. The pouring rain and the wind that have dominated in A Coruña in recent days have not deterred the competing sailors. Busy with last-minute preparations and safety checks, they celebrated with their families, friends, and teams on Thursday evening during a convivial event organized by the GSC. A ceremony is scheduled for Friday evening with the secretary of the International Cape Horners Association, Archie Fairley, who will bring a message of fair winds from President Sir Robin Knox-Johnston to the GSC participants and present Roberto Bermúdez de Castro, Director of the FI Group, with an acknowledgment for his roundings Cape Horn during his impressive seven participations in the Whitbread/Volvo Ocean Race.

The weather situation remains uncertain. How many skippers will decide to set sail and face the first night off Finisterre with a forecast of headwinds exceeding average 35 knots and waves over 5 meters? The creator and organizer of the GSC, Marco Nannini commented, “The competitors are evaluating their options. Unlike other events, in a round-the-world race, the boats are prepared, in theory, to face any weather condition. Therefore, the decision to start or possibly delay the start is up to each skipper under their own exclusive responsibility. All skippers are aware of the risks that wind acceleration near Cape Finisterre can pose, and some models indicate gusts of up to 50-60 knots, but the worst might pass shortly before the scheduled departure time, leaving skippers with the dilemma of whether to wait for conditions to further improve before casting off.”

Who are the sailors ready to set sail? Amongst those sailing Class40s, we have Riccardo Tosetto on Obportus 3, Juan Merediz on Sorolla, David Linger on Koloa Maoli, François Gouin on Kawan 3, and Cole Brauer on First Light. Ronnie Simpson on his Open 50′ Shipyard Brewing and Alessandro Tosetti on the ULDB 65′ Aspra complete the list of competitors taking up the challenge at this next departure.

Kevin Le Poivedin ©globalsolochallenge


Initially, eight skippers were expected to start. Kevin Le Poidevin on the Open 40 Roaring Forty, arrived in A Coruña on the night of October 25th, after a challenging passage from Falmouth. On Thursday morning, he informed the organizers of his decision to delay his start by a week due to a minor back injury sustained during the voyage.

American skipper Peter Bourke, aboard the Class40 Imagine, who was entered in the event and supposed to start on October 28, unfortunately announced his withdrawal a few months ago due to health issues.

With seven skippers on the starting line, let’s learn about their stories and where the passion of these extraordinary sailors originated. Ladies first… We discover the story of the only, young, and vibrant sailor, Cole Brauer, who aspires to become the first American woman to circumnavigate the world, solo and non-stop. Born in 1995, Cole didn’t come from a sailing family but found this passion during her university studies in Hawaii. “When I was young, I loved playing in nature, but it was in Hawaii that I began sailing and was embraced by the sailing community. I started sailing for pleasure, and then it became a job. When my mentor Tim Fetsch gave me Ellen MacArthur’s book in 2018, a horizon of possibilities opened for me, which has brought me to the GSC’s starting line today.”

Cole Brauer ©globalsolochallenge


François Gouin, born in 1960, a French sailor and oncological surgeon by profession, discovered his passion for sailing young and waited forty years for his first solo Atlantic crossing, but then he never stopped. “Since adolescence, I competed with my friends, sailing short distances solo. The passion grew with age. Sailing is an incredible school of life: rigor, foresight, discipline but also flexibility and adaptation to external elements you have to obey. Despite all these apparent constraints, it’s a vast space of freedom. We never stop learning technically or from our reactions. The marine environment requires much humility. It might seem strange, but I find many parallels with my surgical profession.”

François Gouin ©globalsolochallenge


Alessandro Tosetti, born in 1960, is an Italian skipper with an architecture firm in Turin. He started sailing as a child at the Albissola Naval League on the Ligurian coast. “I fondly remember my first wooden boat, a Flying Junior. It looked like a violin. Later on, I started working as a professional skipper, working for various owners, including in the United States. The boat is crucial to my way of sailing. When I sail, I am never alone; my creation accompanies me. When I sense the wind and scrutinize the waves, I always think of her, the boat. Will she manage to get past that cape? Will she withstand the storm? I devote my attention to finding harmony between me, the people, the vessel, and the surrounding sea. Now it’s time to face this immense challenge.”

Alessandro Tosetti ©globalsolochallenge


David Linger, born in 1962, is an American sailor and a professional skipper, with expertise in shipbuilding. Currently, he dedicates himself fully to his personal projects and preparing participants for the upcoming Race to Alaska (R2AK), including his partner, Lillian Miller Kuehl. “The heroes of my childhood were all adventurers and sailors: Chichester, Colas, Tabarly. They all accomplished incredible feats that made me dream as a child and continued to inspire me as an adult. Sailing and the sea, through many years of working as a professional sailor, have taught me many lessons: the initiative essential to cross oceans by boat, technical preparation to handle breakdowns and malfunctions that can occur in the open ocean, and teamwork. In my GSC, I’ll be sailing solo, but I won’t be alone.”

David Liger ©globalsolochallenge


Juan Merediz, born in 1969, is a Spanish sailor and expert sailmaker who has made sailing both his profession and the cornerstone of his life. With previous experience in the 2010-11 Barcelona World Race aboard an IMOCA with Francisco Palacio, he’s ready to try again solo. “Sailing is what I’ve done my whole life. When I’m not sailing, I dream of sailing. The most significant lesson I’ve learned that brought me here is: don’t give up. You have to adapt to circumstances but never surrender. Becoming a professional sailor in Spain isn’t easy. This sport is still perceived as something for the elite. With my endeavor, I want to introduce and enthrall the Spanish audience to this type of competition and pave the way for future sailors. After many challenges on land, I am ready to re-encounter the Ocean, its beauty, and its strength.”

Juan Merediz ©globalsolochallenge


Ronnie Simpson, born in 1985, is a Marine Corps veteran who was injured in combat and found his sense of freedom and happiness at sea. “My original passion for sailing comes from the freedom this sport offers. It’s incredible to think you can travel