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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology


News of students and staff - 2001

Bart Hallmark, racing around the world the 'wrong way'

bart Bart Hallmark graduated with an MEng in Chemical Engineering here in Cambridge in 1999. In Autumn, 2001, he returned to study with us for a PhD, but in June 2001, he completed the BT Global Challenge 2000. He was part of Team Wilkins, sailing the Spirit of Hong Kong.

The BT Global Challenge is a one-design yacht race, racing around the world the 'wrong way', that is to say against all prevailing winds and currents. Twelve 72-foot Challenge class yachts took part, each with 1 skipper and 17 crew. The uniqueness of this race is that all the crew are volunteers, people from all walks of life, most of whom have had little or no past sailing experience, however the rigorous training programme soon sorts that out! The concept is the brainchild of Sir Chay Blyth, whose many achievements include sailing single-handed the wrong way around the globe in his yacht British Steel and also rowing across the Atlantic Ocean with John Ridgeway. The first race, the British Steel Challenge, was first run between 1992 and 1993, and the 1996-1997 BT Global Challenge followed in its success. The 2000 race is therefore the third time this event has been staged, now with a completely new fleet of yachts. The patron of the race is HRH The Princess Royal, and the official charity The Save the Children Fund.

The fleet set sail from Southampton on 10 September 2000. They then headed across the Atlantic Ocean to Boston, Massachusetts where they had a stop over for about 2 weeks. From Boston they headed down the eastern seaboard of America to Buenos Aires before rounding Cape Horn and sailing into the Southern Ocean. They next set foot on land again in Wellington, New Zealand for the major stop over where a lot of maintenance was carried out. They left New Zealand on 17 February 2001 and arrived in Sydney, Australia, on 26 February. They set sail again on 11 March 2001, for the hardest leg of them all up to Capetown. This leg took the yachts deep into the Southern Ocean once more and into the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties and the weather caused some serious injuries amongst the fleet.

They left Capetown on May 13, then stopped at La Rochelle to allow the fleet to re-group before the final 700-mile dash from La Rochelle to Southampton. The race finished on June 30, 2001. Bart had spent 290 days 4 hours and 40 minutes circling the globe, of which 177 days 19 hours and 20 minutes were spent at sea. They travelled a distance of over 32,345 nautical miles or 59,838.25 kms at an average speed of 7.6 knots. The Spirit of Hong Kong came in a respectable sixth overall, but it was an amazing achievement for all the participants.

Bart kept in touch with us by e-mail and there have also been occasional television programmes. On 3 November 2000 the Spirit of Hong Kong crossed the Equator. Landlubbers, including Bart, were summoned to the court of Neptune and well and truly gunged. From the tip of South America, just before Christmas 2000, Bart wrote, "We're now at about 54 deg 30 S 64 deg 55 W and are just about to enter a channel called the Straits of de le Maire, apparently an absolutely infamous stretch of water that signalled the start of the mutiny of the bounty. It can have some of the worst tidal rips on the planet - up to 8 or 10 knots if you get it wrong with seas piling into it. It's a channel of water that separates an island (Isla de los Estados) and the end of Tierra del Fuego - the final tip of South America.
The five lead boats have now converged - we can see them all! The scenery is stunning - I can see snow capped mountains, plunging down into the ocean, absolutely stunning. Very very wild and beautiful. Just to add to it the water is flat and visibility excellent. The beast must be slumbering."

A day after that message, in a less poetic mood, he wrote, "We saw Cape Horn! An immense lump of granite looming out of the cloud and spray - imposing and bloody cold. . . We can all now join to official Cape Horn Society!"

At the end of the race, Bart said, "It seems hard to believe that a project first thought of almost eight years ago, and one I have been actively involved in since 1996, is at an end. The fact that we set sail from Southampton on September 10th last year heading west, and continued going west until we crossed our outbound track yesterday is something that won't sink in for a while. Of all the lessons I've learned during the race, the one most outstanding thing this has taught me is if you want to achieve something and are willing to stick at it and put some effort in, what you can do is way beyond what you perceive you can do."

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