I’ve been looking at the skippers and their boats in La Route du Rhum which starts later today, and thinking about what being single-handed must mean to them in the light of the PR and media circus that constantly crowds them.
Most of the boats are marvels of modern technology. But it seems to me that, in many cases, the technology has taken charge.
I want to believe that the skippers are greater than the technology that drives their boats. Surely, for each one of them, there is a human element of self-reliance that reaches beyond it.
It’s not that technology itself that is the problem. Indeed technology is responsible for pushing back all sorts of boundaries. And certainly the idea is long outdated that all the technology you need is Robin Knox Johnson’s barometer, borrowed from the pub on his first voyage.
No, it’s something else. It’s the attitude that got him to the finish that is surely still vital, and the determination to get there using all the tools at his disposal.
What concerns me, in my rather naive way, is that, because all this technology exists, plus the constant pressure to get there faster than anyone else, it has become imperative to have it, together with the technological expertise, teamwork and huge expense needed to make it happen.
In modern single-handed racing, it is now very much the case of the skipper and his/her technology and his/her team. Each has to rely on the other.
I admire these racing skippers immensely and am following them daily with envy. I can’t begin to emulate the skills they are showing.
However, I can’t be the only one who took his hat off to Knox-Johnson starting the Velux5 Ocean Race with a reefed mainsail. That can’t have been in the television script which required corporate logos in full sail! But, given what came later, it was a good decision.
So maybe he showed that I am wrong. In a small way, he demonstrated that, with everything else that was going on, the boat and everything in it really was in the hands of the skipper, and it’s just unfortunate that this fact sometimes gets lost in the hullabaloo of PR.