Imagine being numb with cold. Imagine biting 70mph winds that sting your face as you lumber about the deck rollercoasting its way over 50-foot waves. Imagine hanging on for your life as a wall of freezing water crashes on top of you. Imagine doing this for five weeks at a time. This was Global Challenge, the world’s toughest yacht race. Each yacht was crewed by ordinary men and women led by a professional skipper. Every single crew member set out to push themselves to the limit and to have the adventure of their lives.
It was tough because they raced ‘the wrong way’ around the world – against the prevailing winds and currents. En route they stopped in Buenos Aires, Wellington, Sydney, Cape Town, Boston and La Rochelle before returning to Portsmouth ten months later. Conditions ranged from the calms and energy-sapping heat of the doldrums to the icebergs, storms and monumental seas of the southern oceans.
Global Challenge was more than just a yacht race. It brought together the business community, a major charity – Save the Children, the media and tens of thousands of supporters as well as the crews. Over 120 organisations participated in the event through sponsorships and partnerships. Spectators from around the world visited the ports of call and tracked the event on the race website and through coverage in the world’s media.
The British Steel Challenge took place in 1992-3 to critical acclaim from journalists, sponsors and participants and changed the face of yachting forever. The race was followed by two successive BT Global Challenge races in 1996/7 and 2000/2001. Sadly, a downturn in the sponsorship market meant that the 2004/2005 Global Challenge race set off without a title sponsor.