Londoner sets his sails on a gruelling, around-the-world race

Londoner Gaurav Shinde is the only Canadian invited to compete in the 2022 Golden Globe Race, a non-stop solo sail around the world where competitors are barred from using GPS navigation and other modern technology.

Gaurav Shinde, 33, is putting his life on hold to enter a race that many sailors never finish

Londoner Gaurav Shinde is throwing everything he has into entering the Golden Globe Race in 2022. He's currently the only Canadian invited to compete in the race, in which sailors navigate around the globe using no modern navigation equipment. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Londoner Gaurav Shinde, 33, is working to prepare for a race that many would say makes a marathon seem like an afternoon jog. 

Even a climb up Mount Everest or an entry in an Iron Man doesn't quite offer the same challenge as the competition Shinde is gearing up for: the Golden Globe Race 2022.

It's a sailing competition, but this is no tour around the bay followed by a round martinis at the yacht club lounge. 

The Golden Globe Race is a continuous, around-the-world solo sailing completion that can take anywhere from 200 to 350 days to complete. It starts in September of 2022 in southern France. Many don't finish. In the last race, held in 2018, only five of the 18 who set sail from the start managed to reach the end. 

Some lost their masts, others were knocked out by equipment problems.

Shinde is signed up for what promises to be a gruelling test of his sailing skills. And he can't wait. 

"I know I'm a good sailor, I'm not worried about my seamanship," he said. "No two days are going to be the same, it's about hanging in there. There are going to be nights that I'm going to hallucinate but I have to make sure I don't give up at those points and can find my way back into the race." 

Modern technology not allowed

Sailors in the Golden Globe Race are barred from using any technology built after 1968. That's when Sir Robin Knox, a British sailor, became the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world.

No GPS navigation or computer-aided autopilot are allowed. Sailors in this race have to navigate by sextant.

Even a digital wrist watch or an iPod is verboten. Also, boats are not allowed to pull into port for rest, repair or to avoid bad weather. Although race boats are equipped with engines, the engine compartments are sealed by race officials before the start. Firing up the engine, even in an emergency, would mean instant disqualification. 

Sailors participating in the Golden Globe Race have to sail around the globe without stopping and without the use of any modern technology. (Golden Globe Race)

Shinde would love to enter the Vendée Globe, the premier single-handed around-the world solo sailing race. Those sailors are allowed the latest technology, requiring millions of dollars. No sailor can consider entering unless they've got deep pockets or a sponsor who does.

"Sailing is expensive and I come from a modest lower-caste background in India," he said. "The Golden Globe race is doable for me." 

Also, he considers this race a supreme test of seamanship. 

"Some of the Vendée Globe skippers wouldn't be able to do this race," he said.

A boat rebuilt

And so when it comes to financing his entry and getting the boat ready, Shinde has to pretty much do everything himself.

These days he's busy working to restore and retrofit the 34-foot Ta Shing Flying Dutchman / Baba 35 cutter he bought for the race. Built in 1980 and renamed Good Hope, he plans to paint it Canadian red and white. He will remove much of the equipment to transform it from a pleasure cruiser to a vessel that can withstand weeks of pounding on the open sea. 

The New York-based former owner of the boat sold it to Shinde at about a third of its market price. The vendor also floated Shinde an interest-free loan as his contribution to his entry in the race.

"It is funny how people come together to help you achieve your dream," said Shinde. 

His love of sailing began as an 11-year-old in the Sea Cadet Corps in his native India. When a friend tricked him into entering an open-sea solo race off India's coast, Shinde was both fear-stricken and enthralled by the challenge of taking on the open ocean by himself.

He came to Canada in 2015, earning his MBA at Ivey Business School at Western University. He worked for Google for four years and is currently working at in digital marketing with 3M in London. 

Gaurav Shinde is busy retrofitting his 1980 TaShing Flying Dutchman 35 boat in preparation for its entry in the Golden Globe Race 2022. It's an around-the world solo race and sailors aren't allowed to use modern navigation systems. (Gaurav Shinde)

Life on hold

But his career and everything else in Shinde's life will be put on hold for this race, which he estimates will cost him $200,000 to enter, including the cost of the boat. To save money he and his wife are selling their house in north London and plan to live on the boat — which is currently dry-docked near St. Catharines — until it's ready for the water.

It's a series of sacrifices, all to enter a sailing race that has a paltry prize of just £5,000, or less than $10, 000 Canadian. 

Shinde is looking for sponsors, something many sailors in the race do help cover their costs. 

And while just finishing the race would be a massive achievement, Shinde clearly has his sails set on a higher goal. 

"I am very confident that I am the right person to win the race," he said. 

London's Gaurav Shinde is getting a unique opportunity to compete in the Golden Globe 2022 Race. Gaurav tells London Morning about the grueling race and how he's preparing for a sailing trip around the world. 8:55

About the Author

Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.