Chapter 9-  July 10, 2005

Sam Writing

We spent today with the racers.  Over the past week since we arrived in La Rochelle we’ve noticed a number of small boats with numbers on their sides pulling into the marina and docking alongside our pontoon.  One of them had a Singaporean flag on it, which meant that further investigation was needed.  This morning I finally saw someone on the Singaporean boat and decided to walk over for a chat.

Elaine Chua, racing to Brazil.


It turns out that Elaine Chua is a Singaporean woman who is racing in the 6.5 meter-class international competition.  There are 72 boats in the fleet and they are headed North to Brest on Tuesday.  Interestingly, they have just come from Northern Spain where we are headed and we have just been in Brest where they are headed.   Eventually they will turn around and leapfrog to the south of us arriving in the Canary Islands before a final push across the Atlantic to Brazil. 


I guess while talking to Elaine I was mentally “on-board” this racing idea in these little boats until the bit about crossing to Brazil.  When I asked her how long she expected it to take she said the class record was 19 days and the longest crossing had taken 30 days.  Furthermore, she mentioned that they had SSB radios aboard for long distance communication but they had been set to receive only and the transmit function had been disabled to ensure no kibitzing among competitors or shoreside help.  At this point I shook my head and the word “insanity” kept crossing my mind.

To put Elaine and her competitors’ little adventure into perspective, 6.5 meters is roughly half Debryn Ruth’s length.  Take this together with the narrower beam of Elaine’s boat and she is planning on crossing the atlantic on a boat about ¼ the size of ours.  (Weight wise they are closer to 1/10th the size of ours.)  This she will do without computers, radar, fully functioning SSB radio or an engine.  And if this isn’t enough for you, she will do it solo - thank you very much.


The day before we had seen a fleet of very large (72ft) racing boats fully decked out in their sponsor’s colors.  There was a sign that said today would be “open boat” day for those interested in talking to the crews of the Global Challenge boats.  In sharp contrast to Elaine’s solitary efforts, 18 people man each of the Global Challenge boats.  Furthermore, each of the things I mentioned Elaine does not have on her boat these boats have in spades.  Their life raft is literally the size of Elaine’s boat.

Now, lest the above be mistaken as detracting from the Global Challenge and I be accused of libel let me point out that the Global Challenge is not chopped liver either.  The event is sailed around the world by amateurs via both Cape Horn (South America) and Cape Good Hope (Africa).  For those not of the sailing ilk suffice it to say that sailing around both capes brings big bragging rights back in the overstuffed armchairs of the local yacht club.

Global Challenge yachts, preparing for circumnavigation race.

Chatting with a Global Challenge crew.

We chose to board the Samsung sponsored yacht for a tour because the skipper had received his Yachtmaster instruction from none other than Bryan Walker – our instructor!  Small world.  Bryan had told us about this chap and said he was a real natural. (Not as much of a natural as we were rest assured, but a natural nonetheless.)  Therefore, it was quite disappointing that he was off somewhere else and couldn’t be located.  However, we did learn from the crew that the boats had just come from Boston, USA and were headed on their final leg to Portsmouth, England in a couple days. 

In conclusion let me say that Deb found the whole tour interesting, but kept commenting during the trip home on the fact that the crew were entitiled to a shower only once every eleven days while on board.  The race around the world had taken them 10 months, which meant that during the 300 or so days aboard, each had taken a grand total of about 27 showers.  However, lest we applaud this unhygienic feat too loudly, let us remember Elaine.  Yup, you guessed it, no shower on her boat…

Postcript – Completely by coincidence we ended up departing La Rochelle 10 minutes after the Global Challenge boats.  As they were making their way leisurely to the starting line for the final leg home we motored past all of them and found the Samsung boat.  Pulling alongside we wished Nick and Lorainne (An American woman who helped Nick show us around during our tour aboard) and the whole crew a safe journey.  When Lorainne found out we were enroute to Spain she feigned jumping overboard saying she would rather come with us than sail North to England…  We had exchanged e-mail addresses with her the previous day and hope to take her up on her invitation to sail the San Francisco Bay on her boat when we return.


Global Challenge boats lining up.

Page:  First          Previous        Next       

Chapter:  1        2        3        3b        3c        4        5        6        7      8     9    10    11    12    12b


Map of Hamble to Lymington

Map of English Channel  Star is at Honfleur.  Fecamp is just north.  Map is interactive so you can move in, out and around.  

Map to Noirmoutier   Southern Brittany and Noirmoutier.

Elaine Chua website  Follow her Atlantic crossing.


Web design:  Don Webster                Don's Home Page

Page 9