There has been some discussion over the past few days as what Enda will be able to claim in terms of being the first, youngest, oldest, and so on if he completes the lap of the planet. This article aims to look at who has gone before him and who might be coming next.
From the outset, all mentioned in this article deserve enormous credit for their achievements and the last thing we want to do is to take away from any of them. Hence, we’re not going to form any conclusions here, simply lay out the facts as we know them, and ask you to help us uncover anything we might be missing.
To start with no Irish person has sailed alone non-stop around the planet. Therefore had Enda been successful he would have taken that title.
The closest to it has been Damien Foxall who sailed non-stop around the planet double handed when he won the Barcelona World Race in an IMOCA 60. He’s also sailed around the planet in record attempts and Volvo Ocean Races.
Justin Slattery has a remarkable six crewed circumnavigations under his belt and has also won the Volvo Ocean Race. Sean McCarter has completed two laps of the planet, both crewed and the latter as Skipper of Derry-Londonderry-Doire in the Clipper Round the World Race.
Gregor McGuckin, assuming his project to compete in the Golden Globe Race comes together, is the next known Irish person set to attempt a solo non-stop lap of the planet.
Retired Royal Navy Officer Bill King completed a solo circumnavigation of the planet, with stops, in 1973. His vessel Galway Blazer II had no auxiliary engine therefore he truly ‘sailed’ alone around the planet. King sailed under both the Red Ensign and the Irish tricolour. He had attempted a non-stop lap but came into difficulty south of Australia.
Next, Pete Hogan completed a solo circumnavigation, with stops, in 1993 in a boat he built himself. Pete considers Bill King as the first true solo sailing circumnavigation as he did not use an engine at all.
Two other known solo circumnavigations with stops were completed by Declan Mackell and Pat Lawless.
This piece would not be complete without a tip of the hat to one of the most famous Irish maritime adventurers, Conor O’Brien. He completed a crewed circumnavigation in his boat Saoirse in 1925.
There is also a steady stream of Irish couples who set out to cruise the world. Myra Reid and Paraic O'Maolriada took six years to explore and lap the planet. One of the most remarkable and well known adventures was completed by Pat Murphy and his late wife Olivia. They originally planned to take three years to complete the voyage but ended up taking nine. For most of us, these kinds of tales of exploring remote islands and sitting out hurricane seasons with friends and family is a lot more appealing than going it alone.
So what does all this mean for Enda?
To take the solo non-stop title would have been one for the record books. As this is a personal challenge for Enda if he doesn’t continue, and hopefully complete the lap of the planet, it will eat away at him forever. Some of you may be aware of the transatlantic story in the prototype sailing liferaft. After the first attempt Enda was the guy who almost made it. 10 years later Enda went back and successfully completed a solo transatlantic in an inflatable boat. Needless to say the media were only really interested when he had to be rescued the first time.
Once the boat has been repaired Enda may return to the GPS location where his mast broke and continue from there, or the point where he took a tow. Assuming he then completes the voyage without stopping again could he claim he did the journey with one stop under sail? Or simply the first Irishman to complete the Vendee Globe Route? Regardless, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, rebuilding the deck of the boat, securing a new mast, and getting back on track is the priority.
Young sailors involved in our campaign such as Dave Kenefick, Hammy Baker, Sean McCarter, Gregor McGuckin, and Tom Dolan are the next generation. Enda gives a very frank and honest view of sailing sponsorship in Ireland to Newstalk, you can listen to it here. Hopefully we are seeing a shift in attitudes towards sailing and watersports with the likes of Annalise Murphy and the O'Donovan brothers. It really is our Team’s hope that the profile and interest in this Vendee Globe will inspire and help future Irish campaigns.
Records and titles aside. These adventures, successful or unsuccessful in their ultimate goals, are truly remarkable and should be encouraged and supported when done in a safe responsible manner. Just imagine Gregor could take the title of being the first Irish non-stop circumnavigator if he finds the support, and then the next year we could all be watching another Irish sailor, maybe even two, departing Le Sables d'Olonne in the Vendee Globe.