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Irish Solo Sailor Pat Lawless Reflects on Golden Globe Race Retiral

15th November 2022
Pat Lawless:
Pat Lawless: "If this had happened in Hobart, I would have continued, but not here” Credit: JJ/GGR2022

Two front runners of the Golden Globe Race have retired into Cape Town with wind vane failures this week. One of them is  County Kerry's Pat Lawless on Green Rebel, who retired on November 10th after the failure of a critical bearing bush, and the Irish solo sailor was caught without a spare. Lawless did not wish to continue after repairs in port.

 As Afloat reported previously, Lawless. who had been struggling with his failing Aries wind vane for days, arrived at Cape Town sailing sheet to tiller on the 10th of November.

Hailing from a family of seafarers, his father circumnavigated the globe solo in his 70s, while his brother Peter also attempted it. Pat’s goal was to become the first Irishman to sail solo, non-stop, unassisted around the world. Without a self-steering system, he was unable to achieve his dream. He could have made repairs and continued the voyage under Chichester Class as a one stop circumnavigation, but decided to retire.

"I realised I wouldn’t be competitive without the self-steering; I could sail, but I wouldn’t be competitive. And then, in a storm, I would end up broaching, so it took a day or two to accept that I was out of the race. If this had happened in Hobart, I would have continued, but not here,” he said.

Pat had a life in the North Sea as a fisherman, a past that overshadowed his skill as a dinghy sailor and offshore racer. His experience became obvious as Pat remained in the lead pack all the way to Cape Town where he reached in 4th place.

Pat Lawless (IRL), 65 y/o, did not succeed in this attempt, but his father circumnavigated the globe in his seventies, so he may go again in 2026? Photo: JJ/ GGR2022Pat Lawless (IRL), 65 y/o, did not succeed in this attempt, but his father circumnavigated the globe in his seventies, so he may go again in 2026? Photo: JJ/ GGR2022

Meanwhile, he has been managing injuries, a knee infection in the North Atlantic and later a cracked rib and torn shoulder muscle, never departing from his infectious enthusiasm and happiness at sea!

Lawless’s Aries windvane had several thousand miles on her and was serviced before starting the race, but not a full rebuild of bearings and bushings. The headed bush on the spindle shaft that the servo pendulum rudder swings on failed. A fix at sea, while difficult, is possible, but only if you have the spares. He did not have them.

He is planning to sail back home as soon as repairs are completed. The Irish competitive sailor is looking forward to cruising time going north, with the opportunity this time to visit the islands and archipelagos he just sailed by on the way south to Cape Town.

Published in Golden Globe Race

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About the Golden Globe Race

The Golden Globe Race is the original round the world yacht race. In 1968, while man was preparing to take his first steps on the moon, a mild mannered and modest young man was setting out on his own record breaking voyage of discovery. Off shore yacht racing changed forever with adventurers and sailors, inspired by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, following in his pioneering wake. Nine men started the first solo non-stop sailing race around the World. Only one finished. History was made. Navigating with a sextant, paper charts and an accurate and reliable time piece, Sir Robin navigated around the world. In 2018, to celebrate 50 years since that first record breaking achievement, the Golden Globe Race was resurrected. It instantly caught the attention of the worlds media as well as adventures, captivated by the spirit and opportunity. The original race is back.

The Golden Globe Race: Stepping back to the golden age of solo sailing

Like the original Sunday Times event back in 1968/9, the 2018 Golden Globe Race was very simple. Depart Les Sables d'Olonne, France on July 1st 2018 and sail solo, non-stop around the world, via the five Great Capes and return to Les Sables d'Olonne. Entrants are limited to use the same type of yachts and equipment that were available to Robin Knox-Johnston in that first race. That means sailing without modern technology or benefit of satellite-based navigation aids.

Competitors must sail in production boats between 32ft and 36ft overall (9.75 10.97m) designed prior to 1988 and having a full-length keel with rudder attached to their trailing edge. These yachts will be heavily built, strong and steady, similar in concept to Robin's 32ft vessel Suhaili.

In contrast to the current professional world of elite ocean racing, this edition travels back to a time known as the 'Golden Age' of solo sailing. Suhaili was a slow and steady 32ft double-ended ketch based on a William Atkins ERIC design. She is heavily built of teak and carried no computers, GPS, satellite phone nor water-maker, and Robin completed the challenge without the aid of modern-day shore-based weather routing advice. He had only a wind-up chronometer and a barograph to face the world alone, and caught rainwater to survive, but was at one with the ocean, able to contemplate and absorb all that this epic voyage had to offer.

This anniversary edition of the Golden Globe Race is a celebration of the original event, the winner, his boat and that significant world-first achievement. Competitors in this race will be sailing simple boats using basic equipment to guarantee a satisfying and personal experience. The challenge is pure and very raw, placing the adventure ahead of winning at all costs. It is for 'those who dare', just as it was for Knox-Johnston.

They will be navigating with sextant on paper charts, without electronic instruments or autopilots. They will hand-write their logs and determine the weather for themselves.

Only occasionally will they talk to loved ones and the outside world when long-range high frequency and ham radios allow.

It is now possible to race a monohull solo around the world in under 80 days, but sailors entered in this race will spend around 300 days at sea, challenging themselves and each other. The 2018 Golden Globe Race was a fitting tribute to the first edition and it's winner, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.

Background on Don McIntyre (61) Race Founder

Don is an inveterate sailor and recognised as one of Australia s greatest explorers. Passionate about all forms of adventure and inspiring others, his desire is to recreate the Golden Age of solo sailing. Don finished 2nd in class in the 1990-91 BOC Challenge solo around the world yacht race. In 2010, he led the 4-man Talisker Bounty Boat challenge to re-enact the Mutiny on the Bounty voyage from Tonga to West Timor, in a simil

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