The sea has always been and remains a mystery as attractive as it is impenetrable, a mystery that for most human beings is an ineffable fascination. The sea attracts because unknown, mysterious, wild, endless, for the thousands of secrets that it evokes, from the past and the future, invoking people’s deepest feelings.
As we contemplate it from the shore it gives us a sense of peace, tranquillity, and restores our internal balance and our balance with the Universe, bringing us a mental clarity that improves our understanding of the terrestrial world. Its un-measurable greatness reminds us of how small we are in front of Nature, like a much-needed dose of humility to calm the waves of ego and vanity that plague us.
The attractiveness of the sea is as unquestionable as the fact that not everyone feels the call in the same way. There is a fine distinction between those who prefer to observe from the shore and those who, answering the call of their innermost selves, feel the urge to enter the kingdom of waves, winds, and birds of the high seas. However, both these positions are interconnected and held in the same embrace of the ocean, that wild and irrepressible embrace from which it is impossible to escape.
Those who feel the call of navigation, usually have the urge to cross an ocean, while those who stay on land need to know what happens out there, what sailors felt, what they experienced, what flash of inspiration they had, eager to apply to their day-to-day life what was learned at sea.
Offshore sailing awakens the dreamy and adventurous spirit of people who feel the need to move things to the place they deserve; follow the cycles of night and day, to have meteorology determine their daily tasks, or to see the stars again, far from the bright lights of the cities that make it impossible.
Some people even feel the need to go into these very different, at times hostile, worlds alone; many of them consider it as a personal challenge that takes them beyond their limits in an uncontrollable scenario. As Global Solo Challenge participant Kevin Le Poidevin said: “Feeling self-sufficiency, self-confidence and the need to challenge myself in an environment in which I have limited influence and even less control.”
Going a step further, solo sailing is for many sailors an exercise in introspection and knowledge with their most intimate self, exploring their own boundaries rocked by the waves and the offshore wind. Some of those entered in the GSC, such as Amaury de Jamblinne, described this idea as exploring their limits while seeking intimate moments of connection with themselves.
But if offshore passages arouse passion, sailing beyond the Roaring Forties is a dream for all those who have felt the need to check Nature in its wildest and most unleashed state; you can read about it, watch videos, imagine how it would be, but deep down inside a voice whispers that one day you will have to go and see those mountains of water with snowy foam ridges for yourself. Descend into fear, in a state of absolute loss of control and submission to Nature in the face of those waves that have been circling the earth since the beginning of time.
Pierre-Etienne Rault, another sailor entered in the GSC, said that taking on a project of this magnitude means “opening an introspective parenthesis, take stock of what has been built and see what remains to be achieved”. And this is what descending in albatross territory alone should mean – I wish I could talk from experience – a watershed moment in the way we look at the world.
Offshore sailing challenges like the Global Solo Challenge and the Golden Globe Race bring this open oceans experience closer to regular sailors. Jean Lui Van Den Heede (GGR 2018 winner) pointed this out very well when he highlighted the fact that it is possible to sign up with normal and affordable boats, contrary to what happens in other races such as the Vendée Globe. For all those interested in the mysticism of high seas navigation, these types of competitions also represent an opportunity to virtually take part, analysing the different meteorological elements, tracing the route they consider most appropriate, and comparing their decisions with those made by the actual participants. In addition to actively participating in the regatta, this way of following also means getting involved in offshore navigation meteorology.
Crossing an ocean, or several oceans, is a call from the wild, from the indomitable, a call that we all have inside but that only a few brave ones dare to answer and take to the open sea. Those who dare get to know better who they are and how they would react in situations in which they would never have wanted to find themselves in, but they also form a special bond with the Universe by witnessing the magnificence of Nature, especially in those moments when, to quote navigator Marco Nannini, “ocean navigation teaches, or rather, gives no other option but to learn the beautiful art of patience and waiting” by not being able to do anything but wait for the situation to improve. Whether you are following from land a regatta like the GSC or dare to hoist the sails and let yourself be carried towards the horizon, sailing the seas and the oceans is a dream.