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Bay Area Sailor Ronnie Simpson Qualifies for Global Solo Challenge

If you’ve been keeping an eye on our Instagram page, you may have seen a recent post about Bay Area sailor Ronnie Simpson’s qualifying for the inaugural Global Solo Challenge — a singlehanded, nonstop, east-about, around-the-world race via the three great Capes of Good Hope, Leeuwin, and Horn. We chatted with Ronnie on the phone from the Maine Yacht Center (which he says is the “best place in the US to prepare a boat”), where he’s gearing up for his crossing to the race startline in A Coruña, Spain.

Sparrow on the water
Sparrow flies her spinnaker during the 2,000-mile qualifier.
© 2023 Ronnie Simpson

Ronnie is “determined and all-consumed” by his mission to get to Spain, and to complete the race. And while he’s hoping to make it around without stopping, he says there is allowance for emergency stops, but the cost is high. Any boat that stops has to stay put for 96 hours before re-entering the race. As one can imagine, the rest of the fleet can get a long way ahead in that time.

“We can have assistance,” Ronnie says. He has Seattle-based weather router Jason Christensen on his team. Christensen also hooked Ronnie up with a sponsorship from SpaceX and Starlink, which gives him the Starlink unit and data package, and hopefully, a spare dish.

Right now the boat, Sparrow, an Open 50 formerly owned by Whitall Stokes, is undergoing a partial refit including new sails courtesy of Elvstrøm Sails and Challenge Sailcloth, and other much-needed gear from Ronstan, West Marine, New England Ropes, Wichard … We apologize if we missed anyone; it was a little hard to keep up with Ronnie’s enthusiastic chatter.

“I’m super-grateful,” he says, and “constantly amazed and blown away by the amount of support from the marine industry.”

Global solo challenge prep
Getting to work on Sparrow’s hull at Maine Yacht Center.
© 2023 Chris Passas

Despite all the assistance, the campaign has drained much of the funding, and Ronnie says he’s still hoping to find — actually he said “aggressively seeking” — a title sponsor. Someone, or some organization, that can inject a figure in the vicinity of $150K into the race account. But he’s also a realist and says if that kind of cash isn’t coming, he’s going to do the race with what he has.

Aside from wanting to accomplish the solo circumnavigation, Ronnie is racing to represent and create awareness for the 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation US Patriot Sailing — an important cause to the combat-wounded veteran. To date he says they have raised around $70,000 in cash, along with all the in-kind donations.

Sparrow is set to start the race on October 28, which he says will place him “toward the faster end” of the staggered-start fleet. The first of the likely 22 boats that will compete, an S&S 34, will start on August 26 with the last boat, an IMOCA 60, heading off on December 1.

There’s still a good deal of work to be done, including repainting and vinyl-wrapping Sparrow’s hull, but Ronnie is confident of making the start aboard his 29-year-old fiberglass boat, which was designed and built in Australia. That indicates a good pedigree, right? And he intends to honor the boat’s origins with Australia’s sporting emblem, the Boxing Kangaroo, emblazoned on the transom.

As Ronnie prepares for his first solo round-the-world race, we ask what he considers to be his greatest challenge. Raising enough money is his first response, but he says he would just like to finish the race. “To finish first, you first have to finish.”

You can support Ronnie’s Global Solo Challenge campaign by donating to the GoFundMe account, donating directly to US Patriot Sailing, or tracking down that elusive title sponsor. Follow Ronnie and Sparrow on Instagram @captainron_official, or on his website


  1. Memo Gidley 10 months ago

    Go Ronnie!! A fantastic individual and sailor that deserves the best! Hope someone with the major sponsor backing can support what he is getting ready to do!

  2. Brad Smith 10 months ago

    Perhaps Ronnie might do some Starlink feeds, when it is really exciting! Does Starlink even work then? I had hope Ronnie would stick to writing (I find it refreshing) but I guess you can’t keep a good man down.

    • Ronnie 9 months ago

      If you follow my Instagram feed @captainron_official, I was live broadcasting a 50-knot gale in the Gulf of Maine and sending back drone shots while rounding Bermuda. Starlink has been working great.

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