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Saturday 18 November 2017

Meet the man who wants to be the first Irish person to sail non-stop around the world in 'world’s hardest race'

Sailor Enda O’Coineen gets ready for the 'World's hardest race'
Sailor Enda O’Coineen gets ready for the 'World's hardest race'
Daire Courtney

Daire Courtney

Businessman and sailor Enda O’Coineen will this year make the first Irish attempt at sailing non-stop around the world in the “world’s hardest race”.

The event called “the Everest of the sea,” the Vendée Globe Challenge starts in Les Sables d’Olonne in France and runs 29,000 nautical miles from east to west, around the three major capes: Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn.

Some 29 skippers will compete, all of them alone on a boat for months in what is considered one of the most difficult sporting events in existence.

Speaking to, Enda O’Coineen said: “The preparation for the race started 18 months ago, but you could also say it started when I was born. Day-to-day you run every part of a boat that would normally have a crew of 10; you have to cook for yourself, desalinate your own water and if anything happens to the boat, you have to fix it on your own.”

“Of course it’s a huge physical challenge, but the biggest challenge in the psychological part. You’re completely on your own for three months and that can take a toll.”

They keep in touch by satellite phone, but they will spend the challenge alone on the open water, not touching land until the race ends. Enda will prepare food for 120 days, but hopes to complete the race in 110.

Enda hopes for this race to be a defining moments in an already adventurous career; he has completed six Round Ireland races and sailed across the Atlantic twice in an experimental raft – not too different from an inflatable dinghy.

“The first time in 1977 I capsized off the west of Ireland and had to be recued, so I did it again in 1985 and completed it that time. Giving up is not a term I’m familiar with.”

Enda left for France on Tuesday to prepare for the race, which starts on November 6. He was seen off by the Lord Mayor and Honorary Admiral of Dublin Port as part of a launch for the Atlantic Youth Trust’s schools programme, which hopes to encourage young people to take up sailing.

There have been seven Vendée Globe Challenges since 1989; 138 skippers have competed but only 71 have managed to cross the finish line. The record for fastest time is 78 days by the French sailor Francois Gabart in 2013.

Primary schools have been invited to sign up to keep track of the race and receive free information and lesson plans; you can find those resources here:

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