Endurance test: sailing the seas

Sailing crews are entering into gruelling challenges all over the world and so-called 'endurance tests' are becoming increasingly popular. Vision finds out more

After hair-raising days of competition along the shores of the UAE and Oman, an Irish team took the glory for the prestigious Dubai to Muscat sailing race last week and sailed first over the finishing line. The Irish sailors, Lee Overlay Partners, cut an impressive time of two days, 53 minutes and 40 seconds and set a new course record for the 360-mile race.

Now in its 22nd edition, the competition is organised by The United Arab Emirates Sailing and Rowing Federation in association with the Ministry of Sports Affairs, the Sultanate of Oman. It is the longest offshore yacht race in the region and draws sailors from the USA, the United Kingdom and Australia as much as those from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman.

Racing 24 hours day and night in uncertain weather conditions, Dubai to Oman is an exhilarating course. Beginning with around 100 miles of tactical racing, the competitors find themselves in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and the entrance to the deep waters of the Indian Ocean. The yachts then turn south into the Gulf of Oman and race the final 260 miles in open waters along the rugged coast.

For those who sail the open seas, these kind of endurance tests are nothing but inspiring, and the choices are as vast as the oceans they sail. The Rolex Fastnet Race is a biennial offshore yachting race renowned for testing both inshore and offshore skills over a course of 608 nautical miles in UK waters. It has become a testing bed for advanced yacht design and sailing techniques and this summer trimaran Spindrift 2 showed its pre-eminence crossing the finishing line first in a total of 38 hours 53 minutes and 58 seconds. 

Endurance test: sailing the seas
Sailing on the world's seas demands stamina and resilience

Spindrift’s skippers Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard are part of a decidedly international world. Next month, the annual 628 nautical mile ocean classic running from Sydney to Hobart, often referred to as a ‘nautical rite of passage’, begins. Here, yachts from locations as far-flung as Germany, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom make up an impressive international line-up, all of them having made the logistical commitment required in delivering a boat to Australia.

Whether working with maelstroms or the lightest zephyr, the coastlines of the world all throw up their challenges, but the ultimate sporting test is solo circumnavigation, 30,000 miles around the world. Each year the toughest sailors coax speed out of their boats and spirit out of their souls as they take part in the Vendée Globe, non-stop, around the world sailing race.

Here, the billowing sails and rolling waves really do transport the sportsman into another dimension. In the words of Britain’s Michael Golding Gamesa, the first sailor to complete the race three times, “The Vendée Globe is like an animal you have to tame, with many obstacles to overcome.”