Irish solo-sailor Pat Lawless is among the leading group of boats as the round-the-world Golden Globe Race enters its sixth week.

The 66-year-old is hoping to become the first Irishman to complete the legendary yacht race known by many as 'The Voyage for Madmen.'

The 30,000 nautical-mile solo voyage around the world is widely regarded as the loneliest, toughest and most dangerous race in sailing. Competitors must circumnavigate the globe unassisted, without stopping.

The race is expected to take over nine months to complete.

Competitors are not permitted to use modern navigational technology and they are also banned from having any communication with friends or family for the duration of the race.

The Co Kerry carpenter was among an international field of 17 sailors which departed Les Sables d’Olonne in France on 4 September.

The race is currently being led by British sailor Simon Curwen, with Mr Lawless and his 36ft boat Green Rebel among a chasing group of four boats about 300 nautical miles behind.

The leaders are currently holding a similar course in the western Atlantic, 400-500 nautical miles off the coast of Brazil.

This is just the third Golden Globe Race in the history of the event, with the most recent taking place in 2018.

In 1968, Robin Knox Johnston became the first man to sail solo nonstop unassisted around the world.

He was the only one of nine competitors to finish in that inaugural race. The rest either sank, retired or took their own lives.

Pat Lawless in Les Sables d'Olonne, France (Pic: Kieran Ryan-Benson)

Four of the seventeen competitors have already been forced out of this year's race.

US sailor Guy de Boer’s hopes came to a dramatic end in Fuerteventura – one of the Canary islands - three weeks ago.

He was rescued in darkness when his boat was driven on to rocks by strong winds.

Having sailed through the Doldrums and across the equator, Mr Lawless is now continuing south where he hopes to meet favourable trade winds to carry him eastwards back across the South Atlantic towards Cape Town.

The first week of the race proved extremely difficult as the sailors fought strong headwinds and very heavy sea conditions in the Bay of Biscay.

Mr Lawless has suffered a couple of injuries which have placed doubt over his continued participation in the race.

Last week, while attending to ropes on deck he was thrown back in to the cockpit by rough seas, injuring his shoulder and cracking a rib.

However, he has reassured organisers that he is managing the pain and is able to continue.

Read more: Kerry sailor begins quest to complete non-stop solo world trip

The sailors may receive medical advice over the radio or satellite phone, but physical contact with a doctor eliminates competitors from the race.

In the early stages of the race Mr Lawless was hit by a bad infection in his knee and was experiencing severe pain and inflammation.

However, he has been treating the injury with antibiotics from his emergency medical bag and he has reported to organisers that it is improving gradually.

Mr Lawless has covered almost 4,000 nautical miles since the race began six weeks ago and remains very much in contention.

He is currently flanked by Finnish sailor Tapio Lehtinen, Abilash Tomy (India) and Kirsten Neuschafer from South Africa (the only female competitor in the race) as they chase down British sailor Simon Curwen.

The rest of the fleet are a number of days sailing behind this chasing group.

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The Irishman’s impressive start has surprised many as he has no previous racing experience.

However, Mr Lawless has been sailing since he was a young boy and is well-accustomed to difficult sea-conditions having fished on trawlers off the southwest coast of Ireland for many years.

Mr Lawless’ boat Green Rebel is considerably heavier than many of his competitors vessels which means she is slower under ideal sailing conditions.

However, Mr Lawless believes his 36ft Saltram Saga model will perform much better than the lighter boats in in heavy seas.

Navigation is being carried out using traditional methods, employing charts, compass and sextant.

The use of post-1968 technology such as GPS is not permitted in this race. Lawless is carrying enough food and water to sustain him for the duration of the race.

Competing in such a race has been a life-long ambition for the 66-year-old carpenter from Baile an Fheirtéaraigh.

Following considerable fundraising campaign and having and secured sponsorship Mr Lawless managed to enter the prestigious race and carry out a necessary upgrade and reinforcement works on his boat.

During the race Mr Lawless and his boat Green Rebel will tackle some of the world’s most dangerous seas, including the treacherous Southern Ocean.

In the last Golden Globe Race held in 2018, only five of the 18 competitors managed to finish the race. Five of the 13 boats that failed sank.