Belfast Telegraph

Irish sailor to take on world race using only traditional navigation tools

An Irish sailor is attempting to turn back the clock as he competes in the second running of a unique round the world race which allows only traditional navigation skills.

Gregor McGuckin, originally from Dublin, is to spend about nine months at sea in a non-stop solo trip using only paper charts, a compass and sextant and a radio.

More people have been in space than have successfully completed the feat, which the 30-year-old has dubbed a "voyage for mad men".

Mr McGuckin is one of 30 contenders in the 2018 Golden Globe Race, which a year from now will recreate the record-setting trip of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in 1968 - the first man to sail single-handed around the world.

He was the only one of nine competitors to complete the race and it has never been re-run until now.

"I always had a plan that I'd get my own boat and ideally sail around the world... but I'd almost resigned myself to not doing it until this opportunity came along," Mr McGuckin said.

The sailor put off telling his girlfriend Barbara for several months but she has embraced the adventure and is helping him prepare a primary schools' course to allow children to follow his voyage while learning about the oceans.

"It's not the easiest thing to ask of someone but I think she always knew it was coming," he said.

Competitors will use old fashioned non-laminate cloth sails. Carbon fibre vessels are banned and GPS will only be used to send locations to race control.

The sailors cannot bring laptops, MP3 players or tablets for fear they will be engineered to help with navigation and they have been told they will only be allowed wind-up chronometers on board.

"If it didn't exist in the 1960s, then no," Mr McGuckin said.

The race will set off from Plymouth on June 30 2018 and cover 30,000 miles via Cape Horn and four rendezvous gates, including the Canaries and Tasmania.

The sailors will have two satellite phones, one to keep in touch with race control and the other in a sealed box with a GPS device to only be opened in an emergency.

They will also have high frequency radios to pick up weather forecasts and make contact with family, other competitors and the outside world.

Mr McGuckin said he has "maxed out" money raising efforts to get to the start line, after getting the 10,000 euro entry fee (£8,800) and buying his Biscay ketch for the race.

"I wish I was a privileged youngster. It would make the race a bit easier," he said.

"The theory was to come back and get sponsors - I thought it would be easy, but that's rubbish, it's not easy at all. It's been an unbelievable learning curve

"What I'm basically doing is starting a business and selling myself. I didn't really know what I was getting myself into from that point of view.

"Finding the boat was tough enough and then finding some way to finance it then is another story altogether."

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