Enda O’Coineen looking good at 60 for first solo round-the-world race

Galway yachtsman has earned a crack at one of sailing’s purest challenges

 

sailing is on the cards following this week’s announcement in Paris of the line-up of skippers for the Vendée Globe solo round-the-world race.

Starting and finishing in Les Sables d’Olonne on France’s Atlantic seaboard, 29 skippers, including Galway yachtsman Enda O’Coineen, will compete in the non-stop race that passes the three great capes – Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn - on it’s 29,000-nautical-mile route.

The 60-year old entrepreneur freely admits that he’s unlikely to be in the leading group of 60-footers on his 10-year-old boat, but completing the race itself will be a massive accomplishment. In a typical outcome for the event, which takes place every four years, an attrition rate of more than 50 per cent would not be unusual.

The latest generation of Open 60-footers feature foils that extend the hull above the waves and will certainly deliver fast times and new records, provided, of course, that the boats survive the conditions.

The event is known as the Everest of sailing, and no outside assistance is permitted. Organisers will reveal closer to the start date at the end of November the location of ice-exclusion-zone perimeters, which will be the only major alteration to the course since its inception in 1989.

Goal

“There are three stages of life: youth, middle age and ‘you’re looking well’,” he said. “At the press conference in Paris, I was asked was I concerned about the younger sailors in the race, so I said I thought they’d be okay.”

Yet the scale of the challenge ahead is considerable. His boat has already been through a major refit with everything that can break taken apart and replaced, along with all the running-rigging.

His boat will be relaunched at the end of the month when he’ll begin more offshore training and a passage northwards to Dún Laoghaire for an official farewell on October 10th.

His boat, Kilcullen Voyager, was previously campaigned by Britain’s Mike Golding, whose best result in the race previously was third overall.

“It’s a personal odyssey, a kind of bucket list or f**kit list,” O’Coineen told The Irish Times yesterday. “I called Mike Golding at 2am and bought the boat over the phone. If you think about these things too much, you’ll never do it.”

Qualification

As part of the build-up, O’Coineen also had two reserve skippers – David Kenefick and Andrew Baker – on standby, but now the window for them to take over has closed, so he is the sole candidate for the starting line on Sunday, November 6th.

Preparations for the race will now intensify, though O’Coineen eschews the widely practised sleep-preparation techniques that many skippers make use of as they catnap for 20 minutes at a time while at sea.

“Being frank, I’m really not bothered. When I go, I go,” he said. “The French are a lot more sophisticated, but I have a philosophy that when I’m tired, I sleep.

“In terms of preparation, psychological preparation is the toughest, but I’m not under any illusion.

“From a sporting perspective, it’s a notch up from anything I’ve done before.”

O’Coineen is provisioning for 120 days at sea, but would be happy with anything under 100 days, so a finishing time in February is the goal.

“This is sailing in its purest form,” he says enthusiastically. “But the the odds are pretty tough.”

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