Storms attack Golden Globe Race leaders

Published on February 7th, 2023

(February 7, 2023) – With 20,000 miles and five months at sea, the leaders in the Golden Globe Race are starting to show little signs of fatigue requiring constant maintenance, just as they are undertaking the most difficult part of the course.

With 70% of their voyage complete as they approach Cape Horn, a succession of low-pressure systems are entering the area, affecting all of the GGR entrants. As summer wanes, the number of these systems passing will only increase.

No one in the leading trio are unscathed. Simon Curwen (GBR) has a list of 13 items to repair during his stop in Chile besides his broken wind vane and a ripped dodger. Abhilash Tomy (IND) spent 22 hours straight repairing his boat after a heavy front on January 26, ranging from sail damage, mainsail sheet track, rigging, and windvane maintenance. GGR leader Kirsten Neuschäfer (RSA) has broken her spinnaker pole and can no longer fly her twin headsails, though she still has one larger heavy pole.

She explained it failed from fatigue rather than shock loads. It simply wore out from regular constant use with her special twin sail rig. Now she is sailing with clipped wings and it will surely affect her future downwind performance. She needed light winds to change this twin sail for a traditional genoa, but was forced to do it in moderate winds before the storm.

“Right now the problem I’m sitting on is quite stressful because my rig is taking a lot of strain and I can’t afford that, but without the big twin-headsail I’m hardly moving,” she explained. “It was quite a wrestle to change the headsails alone in bigger conditions that I would have liked, but it”s now done and I can focus on my storm tactics.”

This comes as the biggest low pressure encountered by the fleet so far is crossing their path en route to Cape Horn. There is no escaping this beast the size of Brazil. It jumped out of the exclusion zone before heading down the coast of Chile. Following GGR weather alerts and routing suggestions, Tomy and Neuschäfer sailed NE away from Cape Horn for two days, climbing to 45 south latitude, positioning themselves in the safer quadrant.

They both expressed concerns about stressing their yachts with 10,000 miles still to go. Kirsten is watching her rig very carefully with a feeling that it is working hard and has prepared her warps and chains ready to slow the boat. This ‘go north’ tactic should allow them to spend less time in extreme weather and ride more manageable seas, but 36 hours in winds exceeding 60 knots gusts and 11-metre seas is assured. Only Curwen who is in advance on his plans at 43°S 77°W will not be exposed.

“Starting the GGR two months later than in 2018 really has produced remarkably better weather, but you cannot hide when rounding Cape Horn,” noted race founder Don McIntyre. “This is a large system. We are routing Abhilash and Kirsten to minimize impact, but it is blowing hard. We send forecasts every 12 hours with wind direction, strength, gusts, sea height, swell direction and barometric pressure.”

The back of the fleet has not been spared either, with Jeremy Bagshaw (RSA) having the highest number of low-pressure systems encountered in the fleet so far. Guy Waites (GBR) having the worst weather to date, until today, lost his life raft last week during a knock-down in winds over 60 knots and 10 metre seas.

He was running under bare poles with 140 metre warps and heavy anchor chains out in the steep low-pressure system for days. He experienced a few knockdowns but all was okay. While strapped in his bunk he felt a massive wave bigger than the best and a sudden powerful knockdown with his mast in the water and his raft gone.

Waites had stopped in Cape Town to remove barnacles and moved to Chichester class. He is now making headway towards Hobart. He will assess options on arrival, but feels too many things are stacking up against continuing. It is now early February, late in the season for a Cape Horn passage. Regardless of his decision, once arriving in Hobart, he is out of the GGR as he missed the gate which closed on January 31.

“I was strapped in and only thought about the mast, which thankfully was okay,” said Waites. “In the morning, the liferaft was gone, vanished. The stainless-steel cradle was bent and the painter had snapped, so the whole thing was gone. If I continue now without a liferaft, I don’t think anyone in my family will be happy with me for a long time!”

For Curwen, leading the Chichester class, time is still of the essence. He would like to join his former runners-up to Cape Horn and land ahead of them in Les Sables d’Olonne. But with no detailed map of the coastal area around Puerto Mount, GGR is assisting with navigational information and local coordination for his stop to make repairs. He is allowed to access his emergency GPS for the safest and easiest landing after 158 days at sea.

“I am making good progress, working on the boat at the same time,” said Curwen. “I already repaired my engine in preparation for the landing, but I’m steering an awful lot of time. You really start appreciating your windvane .. maybe I should not have given it funny names!”

Rather than transit 60 miles each way to Puerto Montt, 120 miles in highly tidal waters with currents up to 9 knots and strong wind gusts, the British Sailor is now thinking to have the Hydrovane spares sent to him in the shelter of the entrance and carrying the repairs on anchor, in the bay of Ancud.

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Credit for helping with rescue of Tapio Lehtinen:
• Kirsten Neuschäfer: 35 hours + 30 litres of fuel
• Abhilash Tomy: 12hrs

2022 GGR Class:
Abhilash Tomy (43) / India / Rustler 36
Ian Herbert Jones (52) / UK / Tradewind 35
Kirsten Neuschäfer (39) / South Africa / Cape George 36
Michael Guggenberger (44) / Austria / Biscay 36

2022 GGR Chichester Class:*
Guy Waites (54) / UK / Tradewind 35 (stopped in Cape Town to clean/paint hull)
Jeremy Bagshaw (59) / South Africa / OE32 (stopped in Hobart to clean hull)
Simon Curwen (63) / UK / Biscay 36 (will stop to repair windvane)
* Competitors shift to this class by making one stop.

Edward Walentynowicz (68) / Canada / Rustler 36 (dropped out, Sept. 8)
Guy deBoer (66) / USA / Tashiba 36 (ran aground, Sept. 16)
Mark Sinclair (63) / Australia / Lello 34 (retired in Lanzarote, Sept. 22)
Pat Lawless (66) / Ireland / Saga 36 (retired in Cape Town, Nov. 9)
Damien Guillou (39) / France / Rustler 36 (retired in Cape Town, Nov. 14)
Ertan Beskardes (60) / UK / Rustler 36 (retired in Cape Town, Nov. 16)
Tapio Lehtinen (64) / Finland / Gaia 36 Masthead sloop (sank off Cape Town, Nov. 18)
Arnaud Gaist (50) / France / BARBICAN 33 MKII-long keel version (retired near Saint Helena, Dec. 9)
Elliott Smith (27) / USA / Gale Force 34 (retired, Dec. 20)

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 before finishing in Les Sables d’Olonne. Along the route there are several marks of the course and media requirements.

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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