Golden Globe: Southbound along Africa

Published on September 22nd, 2022

(September 22, 2022; Day 19) – Damien Guillou, the French favorite for the Golden Globe Race, made it through the Lanzarote Rubicon Marina film drop under his biggest spinnaker on a tight reach this morning. A wind vane repair returning to Les Sables d’Olonne had cost him six days on the rest of the fleet, but the last twelve days have been an impressive comeback.

A renowned sailor, ocean racer and boat captain in the IMOCA fleet, Guillou is consistently posting the top 24 hour distances of the fleet, having already caught up with the other French sailor Arnaud Gaist and the Australian mariner and GGR 2018 Mark Sinclair “Captain Coconut”.

However, a lack of weather information this week from a defective Weather Fax, and a high-pressure system with light winds, while the wind came back in the south, favoring the leaders, hampered his efforts to catch-up. Sitting in 12th position, the leader has a 700 mile advantage but the mid-fleet pack is only 3 to 4 days ahead.

“The Bay of Biscay, I sailed it twice!” noted Guillou. “The first time it was hard in strong winds and seas right from the start, and the second time I had different conditions with lighter but more unstable winds, before getting over 30 knots upwind at Cape Finisterre.

“Now, in my mind, I’m taking it step by step. I’m happy to be here, happy with the way I’m living on the boat, happy to be back in the race, and with the way I’m living this experience. This is great!”

Another impressive comeback is South African Kirsten Neuschäfer who exited the Bay of Biscay in 10th position, and did not hide her disappointment at being 6th at the Lanzarote gate. But she has now joined the lead pack in 4th position and has been working very hard, spending a lot of time at the helm of Minnehaha to average 7 knots over the last 24 hours.

With strong Northerlies today where Minnehaha excels, there’s no doubt she will close further onto the leaders. The other South African in the race, Jeremy Bagshaw, 6th in the fleet sailing the smallest and lightest yacht in the fleet, posted the second-best performance over 24 hours with 154 miles, nearly 6.5 knots average, clearly pushing Oleanna in those favorable conditions.

US entrant Elliott Smith made the most of his Lanzarote gate, motoring on the lee side of Lanzarote and anchoring off Playa del Pozo under a bright red sky, taking advantage of the lack of wind to rest and do maintenance without letting the fleet escape. There’s more than one way to sail the Golden Globe, and Elliott’s take on the adventure has been authentic and inspiring from day one.

“I’m realizing how long it is and I want to pace myself. My headspace is good and I feel clear. There’s been highs and lows but the main take away is trying not to focus on being pleased while I’m out there.

“Don’t search for meaning and purpose in what I’m doing, instead just do it; you’ll find the joy in that. All the joys so far in the trip have come totally by surprise, they are not the ones you’re looking for, they just happen.”

A tropical storm currently forming off Dakar in Senegal is gaining in strength tomorrow and will cross the path of the fleet, moving North the following day. While the early predictions were announcing a possible Cape Verde Hurricane, this is now a localized low-pressure system. The Race Control informs the fleet daily of the system’s strength, position, and movement to help them make the best decision.

Simon Curwen (UK) is taking advantage of his lead position to go around the low on the west side, taking strong northerly winds towards the Cape Verde archipelago and the doldrums. Tapio Lehtinen (FIN) in second is racing to get past before it moves over him and it may be a close call but he is ready for heavy winds. The rest of the fleet is hugging the coast off Africa, east of the low to face the lowest possible headwinds.

This means the top two will certainly increase the gap between them and the fleet but could mean changes within the lead pack itself. We know from the Bay of Biscay that Pat Lawless (IRL) excels in adverse conditions and could consolidate his lead, while Neuschafer and Tomy, now at VHF distance, could emulate each other in a quick upwind exit, breaking up with the rest. Meanwhile, back in the Canaries, should Guillou get some good weather forecast, he could well make most of the adverse weather at the front of the fleet.

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2022 GGR competitors:
Abhilash Tomy (43) / India / Rustler 36
Arnaud Gaist (50) / France / BARBICAN 33 MKII (long keel version)
Damien Guillou (39) / France / Rustler 36
Elliott Smith (27) / USA / Gale Force 34
Ertan Beskardes (60) / UK / Rustler 36
Guy Waites (54) / UK / Tradewind 35
Ian Herbert Jones (52) / UK / Tradewind 35
Jeremy Bagshaw (59) / South Africa / OE32
Kirsten Neuschäfer (39) / South Africa / Cape George 36
Mark Sinclair (63) / Australia / Lello 34
Michael Guggenberger (44) / Austria / Biscay 36
Pat Lawless (66) / Ireland / Saga 36
Simon Curwen (63) / UK / Biscay 36
Tapio Lehtinen (64) / Finland / Gaia 36 Masthead sloop

Edward Walentynowicz (68) / Canada / Rustler 36 (dropped out Sept. 8)
Guy deBoer (66) / USA / Tashiba 36 (ran aground Sept. 16)

About the 2022 Golden Globe Race
On September 4, 2022, the third edition of the Golden Globe Race started from Les Sables d’Olonne, France. Sixteen skippers will face eight months of isolation sailing 30,000 miles across five oceans solo non-stop and unassisted.

In 1968, while man was preparing to take his first steps on the moon, a mild mannered and modest young man was setting out on his own record breaking voyage of discovery. He had entered the original Golden Globe. Nine men started that first solo non-stop sailing race around the World. Only one finished. He was 29 year old Sir Robin Knox Johnston. History was made. Navigating only with a sextant, paper charts and an accurate and reliable time piece, Sir Robin navigated around the world.

In 2018, to celebrate 50 years since that first record breaking achievement, the Golden Globe Race was resurrected. It instantly gained traction with adventurers, captivated by the spirit and opportunity. Eighteen started with five finishers.

To embrace the original race, competitors must sail in production boats between 32 and 36 feet overall and designed prior to 1988 that have a full-length keel with rudder attached to their trailing edge. Additionally, sailors have limited communication equipment and can use only sextants, paper charts, wind up clocks, and cassette tapes for music.

Source: GGR

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