Adventure of a Lifetime

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Article from ‘BREEZE SPRING 2023’

Debbie Whiting Photo.

Ryder Williams off to join the Ocean Globe Race

Of all the people following the Ocean Globe Race around the world, it is probably safe to say few are paying closer attention than Mastercard Youth Training Programme graduate Ryder Williams, who has been selected to join one of the yachts for the 7,400 mile leg from Cape Town to Auckland.

The race, which recreates and celebrates the spirit and conditions of the first Whitbread Round the World Race 50 years ago, started on September 10 from Southampton.

It includes an opportunity for a youth sailor to join race organiser Don McIntyre’s Swan 57, Explorer, on the leg finishing in his or her home port. For the Auckland leg, Ryder was “pretty excited” to be selected for the coveted slot.

Ryder has sailing in his blood. He was born in Valencia, Spain while his father, Olympic and grand prix sailor Carl, was competing in the America’s Cup for the BMW Oracle Racing Team.

“I have been sailing since I was a one-year-old,” says Ryder, “and have completed many miles at sea with my family aboard our Davidson 55, Emotional Rescue.”

Ryder’s grandmother is Penny Whiting MBE, who was the first woman (with Rachel Upton) admitted as a member of the RNZYS and, at this year’s AGM became the first woman to receive Life Membership for her contribution to sail training in Auckland. His great aunt, Debbie Whiting, was the first woman elected as a member of the RNZYS General Committee and was also honoured with a Service Award at this year’s AGM.

Ryder’s application received strong support from Zak Merton, RNZYS Performance Sailing Manager and Youth Programme coach, who spoke of his infectious “can-do attitude” and maturity beyond his years. Brian Petersen, owner of V5, and Guy Endean, boat captain of the Melges 40, Menace, also backed the application.

“The passage from Cape Town to Auckland will absolutely be the longest offshore passage I have ever done,” says Ryder. “I am looking forward to the whole life experience of living and racing on a boat like Explorer and getting to see the Southern Ocean.

“Hopefully we will get some hard downwind conditions and see how we go.”

In preparation, he is doing a couple of sea survival courses and keeping up with whatever sailing he can. “I have also been talking to (Volvo Ocean Race veteran) Brad Marsh, who has given me a gear list of what to take. It has been pretty handy listening to somebody who knows first-hand what they are talking about.”

McIntyre OCEAN GLOBE 2023 – COPYRIGHT FREE for Editorial Use. Captain Coconut and his crew on Explorer AU (28) crosses the line first!! One of two Australian, we could see a little internal race between Explorer and Outlaw AU (08) Credit: Aida Valceanu / OGR2023

Ryder flies to Cape Town at the end of October and will spend a week helping with boat maintenance and preparation ahead of the November 5 departure.

The race is described as “an eight-month adventure around the world for ordinary sailors on normal yachts”. Racing ocean-going GRP production yachts designed before 1988, there are no computers, no satellites, no GPS, and no high-tech materials. “Sextants, team spirit and raw determination alone in the great traditions of ocean racing are allowed on this truly human endeavour.”

The OGR fleet is divided into the Adventure Class (47ft-56ft), Sayula Class (56.1ft- 66ft) and Flyer Class, which is for yachts previously entered in the 1973, 1977, or 1981 Whitbread Round the World Races, or of ‘relevant’ historic significance and ‘approved’ production-built, ocean certified yachts generally 55ft to 68ft LOA.

Fourteen yachts ranging in size from 51ft to 74ft are entered, representing France (five), Australia (two), Finland (two), and one each from the USA, South Africa, Spain, Italy and UK

For the Auckland stopover this summer, the RNZYS has agreed to host the fleet and undertake race management operations for the finish and restart.

The fleet is expected to arrive shortly before Christmas and remain in Auckland until the January 14 restart. Auckland boaties and Squadron members in particular are urged to put out the welcome mat and support the fleet with the hospitality that, over five decades, made this city the competitors’ favourite stopover.

Events planned include:

• A welcome party for the fleet at the RNZYS on Saturday, December 23.

• A reunion of Whitbread veterans on Friday, January 12. This will be a luncheon at the RNZYS where the current racers will join with Whitbread veterans and Squadron members in celebrating their long association with this event.

• After lunch, a special Ocean Globe Rum Race will be followed by the official farewell party for the fleet before they head away for the Southern Ocean leg around Cape Horn.

• On Sunday, January 14, the RNZYS will host a farewell breakfast open to members, race crews and their supporters, before heading out on the water to give them a rousing Auckland send-off. In association with the NZ Sailing Trust, Steinlager 2 and Lion New Zealand will join the farewell fleet on the Waitemata Harbour. Members are strongly encouraged to get their boats out on the harbour to make this send-off a real spectacle.

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