World sailing

Pat Lawless Knot baffled by round-the-world sailing mission

Some of us dream of early bird dinner deals at seaside resorts, perhaps restoring a vintage car or just tinkering around in the garden.

Pat Lawless, who worked as a carpenter in his native Kerry during his working life, will compete in what he describes as ‘the longest and loneliest boat race’ in the world.

Hey, whatever floats on your one-man boat.

The former Ballyferriter fishing trawler owner embarked on the second leg of his incredible adventure from Crosshaven to Cork last week as he was greeted by a large crowd of well-wishers and family. He had earlier been led out of Dingle Harbor by a flotilla of local boats in a touching farewell.

Lawless will first participate in a preliminary race between Spain and France, then will undertake the more than nine-month epic that is the Golden Globe Race, starting from Les Sables-d’Olonne on September 4.

The objective is to circumnavigate the world solo, non-stop, via the five Great Capes and to return to the same port.

“For four years, I’ve been preparing for it full-time,” he says. “Nine months solo, pushing the boat as hard as I can for nine months.”

If the 66-year-old is successful, he will become the first Irishman to circumnavigate the globe solo non-stop.

“This race is part of sailing history and I can’t wait to get started. There have been 11 non-stop solo sailing races around the world. The first original Golden Globe Race was won by Sir Robert Knox-Johnson, an Englishman. All the other 10 races were won by the French. We have to put Ireland on that list,” he said.

Lawless will be one of 18 sailors – after a few retirements – and the only Irish competitor.

He will raise funds for the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland as he sails the 30,000 nautical miles ahead of him.

He is following in the footsteps of his father, Pat Sr, who sailed around the world at the age of 70.

In the spirit of the race (“Sailing like it’s 1968”), no modern technology is allowed and Lawless will sail his route using the sun, a sextant and paper charts. He won’t have the luxury of an iPad or contact with his family by satellite phone, and he has enough food, water and spare parts to take him around the world.

He will miss his family, his home and Christmas will be hard. There will be lonely days, he admits: “That’s part of it. It’s the unknown, but I feel very confident about it.

Besides the essentials, he has books and music tapes to pass the time.

“It’s old-fashioned sailing,” he says. “Sailing in its purest form.”

Sponsored by Green Rebel, a Cork-based offshore site investigation company, the support meant he didn’t have to re-mortgage his house to take up the challenge. And he feels he has the right boat to make an impression. So can he win?

“You wouldn’t do it if you didn’t think you had a chance, but there’s a lot of luck involved,” he says. “So the plan is to go and hopefully I’m fine.”