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Barnacles are back! 23,000 miles to go as GGR hits the equator on a voyage of attrition

Picture Above: Michael Guggenberger on his yacht ‘Nuri’. Picture Credit: Andre Rodrigues

# 13 sailors are still racing, Simon Curwen first across the Equator, others in the doldrums physically and psychologically. 

# Sailors suffering from isolation, injuries, lack of information and lack of wind

# Leaders hit the trade winds opening a gap with the rest of the fleet

# Kirsten, Tapio and Damien are the fastest, but will it be enough?

One month at sea and what a month it’s been! 

Starting with a rough exit of the bay of Biscay, testing sailors and boats to the limit, with Damien Guillou’s (FR) PRB returning for repairs, Edward Walentynowicz (CAN) pulling the plug on his GGR campaign, Guy deBoer (USA) grounded in Fuerteventura and Mark Sinclair (AUS) mooring his Coconut in Lanzarote for good. Now thirteen sailors battle the doldrums seeking tradewinds and a fast passage south.

Simon Curwen (UK) crossed the equator last night knowing he was still in the lead, and planned a proper “crossing the line” celebration with Neptune.

We’re going to eat together and I’m going to open a bottle of champagne. We have to celebrate this. It is a British tradition. You have to offer something to Neptune, the god of the seas…

Simon, who does not have the fastest boat, took the lead in Cape Finisterre on September 9th and has held it ever since. The experienced solo sailor seemed unfazed by the ordeal as he saw his lead melting below 100 miles in the doldrums. His experience campaigning his J/105 Voador short-handed for 15 years, and  many years racing his Classe Mini 6.50  before that, has certainly come in handy. 

First into the tradewinds, he is now trucking at 5 knots on a direct route towards Trindade Island in his South, the next rounding mark which he should reach in 10 days. He remains in good spirits, enjoying his time at sea. 

I’m quite happy to be alone with myself. I have music and books to read… Friends gave me tapes and I took things I listened to when I was 20. Like Led Zeppelin and the Beatles. It’s good to listen to this music again. (…) So far, it’s going well. I’m not bored at all. There’s always work to be done… I spend two hours a day on the charts and the sextant, to do the calculations. I also have to look after the sails before heading south. And sometimes you spend an enormous amount of time just looking at things…

( Listen to Simon Curwen’s this phone recording from GGR Soundcloud Chanel here )

Leading the fleet since the exit of Biscay, Simon Curwen is first in the tradewinds and building back the lead he lost in the Doldrums. Picture: Josh Marr
Ertan Beskardes, who left the 2018 GGR early because he was not ready for the isolation, has prepared well this time, but the windless doldrums leave too much time to think. He called GGR Race Control asking when the wait for wind would be over! Picture Nora Havel/GGR2022

Not all the fleet, however, has been dealing equally well with the lack of wind, lack of communications, lack of information and prolonged isolation. Don and the GGR team at Race Control have felt it during the scheduled weekly satellite safety calls. Entrants can only call Race Control, not family and friends. Some demoralised GGR sailors called to chat, share their frustrations and trump the isolation after a month alone. A few are questioning why they are there, others if it is even possible to continue with severe lack of family contact. 

The entrants, who felt overloaded with public and media attention in the weeks leading to the start, now welcome the weekly safety and media calls as a change in their routine and only chance to chat to the outside world.

The GGR skippers are having slightly more contact with the outside world than their 1968 counterparts. Part of this is safety, like the compulsory daily tweet to race management, but also to help share their experience at sea with the public and GGR followers, like the newly introduced weekly media calls where a news organisation can call them for an exclusive interview.

Don McIntyre, Founder and President of the Golden Globe Race.

The difference with 1968 is that back then people did not have the constant noise and fast communications of today, so did not miss it. Sailors were even worse off back then and could not communicate other than throwing letters and films on passing ships, or going into specific places like the Canaries, Cape Town, Australia or New Zealand. The Golden Globe Race is re-creating those letter and film drops.

The instant communications and gratifications we have in the modern world, makes the isolation of entrants all the more intense, and sometimes painful, which is why we allow the voluntary calls to GGR Race Control.

Don added

When the mind is strong, sometimes it’s the body that gives-up. Guy Waites (UK) who had an otherwise good week of sailing is facing swelling legs and ankles due to the humidity and lack of walking exercise. Michael Guggenberger (AT) is also looking after his swollen feet, as well as hands and knees, damaged by the humidity and hard work.

I’m dancing a lot on board to keep fit and cure my ailments!

Michael Guggenberger (AT) told us

Pat Lawless (IE) thinks he broke a rib when shoved across the cockpit.

I had an accident, the mainsheet caught me in the shoulder and threw me inside the cockpit, it was four days ago and I have had a sore rib since. The shoulder must have a torn ligament, but it’s slowly improving.

Pat Lawless (IE)
Irish entrant Pat Lawless is a fast sailor and tough as nails. He weathered a knee infection between the Canaries and the doldrums, currently nursing a damaged rib and torn shoulder, while fighting in the lead group. Picture: Kieran Ryan-Benson

When your mind and body are fine, sometimes it’s the boat that is causing problems as South African entrant Jeremy Bagshaw found out.

Jeremy is happy at sea and has not hurt himself since climbing the mast in Les Sables d’Olonne, but was finding Oleanna sluggish as Damien was catching up. During a calm he decided to dive on the hull to check the coppercoat antifouling only to discover with horror that 70% of his hull was covered with gooseneck barnacles!

I checked the hull in Spain arriving from South Africa, and again in Les Sables d’Olonne before the start, and all was fine. Two days after the Lanzarote film drop I dove in again and had seen nothing.Yesterday, just two weeks later I was shocked to discover 2 cm long barnacles colonising the hull. Fortunately I’ve been able to get rid of them all.

Jeremy Bagshaw (SA)

This is obviously a staunch reminder of Tapio Lehtinen’s (FIN) ordeal in the 2018 who discovered in the Indian Ocean that his Asteria was covered with Barnacles. He refused to dive for fear of sharks and was not allowed to scrape his hull in Australian territorial waters. He completed his round the world tour in 322 days, being last to finish, and earning the nickname of “Captain Barnacles

Tapio Lehtinen’s barnacle ordeal -pictured here with Jean-Luc Van Den Heede GGR 2018 winner- was the cause of his 322 day round the world trip, and the reason he is participating again in 2022. Picture: GGR2018

Tapio is not slowed by Barnacles this time. Not only has he been challenging Kirsten’s second place all week, but he also has the second best 24-hour distance with 174.19 nautical miles! This morning, as he sat in the cockpit eating his porridge, he saw another sail a few miles away. It was Pat Lawless. A fun duel began immediately. Tapio was covering him all morning, hurting his elbow in the process but having the most fun in weeks! It shows how intense the fight is at the forefront of the fleet, even in the middle of the empty ocean.

So far only Jeremy has seen the dreaded barnacles, but other unsuspecting sailors may be impacted. The calms of the doldrums are the last place they can swim and check their hull before venturing in the southern hemisphere trade winds. Let’s hope they will!

A minority, like Simon, are happy at sea, in good physical condition and sailing fast. This definitely is the case this week for Kirsten Neuschäfer (SA) whose laconic daily tweets suggest she is not in need of communications!

It was difficult to concentrate on preparing for such a big trip while having a lot of public and media interest, as well as attending events. I’ve really enjoyed my solitude, and I’ve had some really adrenaline-fuelled moments, like helming the boat through squalls with the gennaker where it was a really a bit on the edge because we were in a situation where I didn’t have the nerve to leave the tiller, so those were pretty exhilarating moments.

said Kirsten

Kirsten, currently 2nd, is fast, happy at sea and one with the boat: “I am very happy with the boat and grateful each day to be sailing it!” Picture Etienne Messikommer /GGR2022

Kirsten, who exited the bay of Biscay in 9th position, has been consistently posting the best 24-hour distances and holds the fleet record at 174.73 nm per day, allowing her to get back to second position this morning.

I don’t know where I am in the fleet and actually prefer not knowing where the others are, and just enjoy sailing. I also enjoy not having the GPS and sailing with all the instruments off the boat.

Kirsten Neuschäfer (SA)

Another sailor not suffering mentally or physically, and working hard to get back at the front is French favourite Damien Guillou, who has been gaining places ever since he left Les Sables d’Olonne with a 6-day delay after repairing and reinforcing his windvane.  He has gone from last to 6th, leading the mid-fleet pack earlier this week, although the doldrums make the ranking change several times a day.

With people around me, I’m in a racing mindset. A cruising boat is not relaxing when you work it like a racing boat. We’ve been away for a month” Said Damien “There are at least five (six- Editor) more to go… The wind will soon change. Even if we don’t have the weather information on board, the St Helena high (a.k.a. South Atlantic high) can generate huge gaps.

Damien Guillou (FR)

Many wonder if the obvious speed, talent, hard work and determination of the Finisterian sailor that enabled his comeback will be enough to catch-up on Simon and the leaders. Michel Desjoyeaux who won his second victory on the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe, after going back to Les Sables d’Olonne, 200 miles after the start, for repairs and leaving with a 40-hour delay, gave us a hint on twitter earlier this week :

He is doing a “Desjoyeaux’, only better! If you don’t mind me saying it!

Michel Desjoyeaux

Of course we don’t, Professeur!

Damien Guillou (FR) went from Last to 6th earlier this week showing better speed than the fleet, but can he catch Simon Curwen and the leaders? Picture: Nora Havel/GGR2022

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Golden Globe fleet dive into doldrums, frustrating first test for many

Picture Above: Captain Coconut Mark Sinclair, the hero of the GGR 2018 and only Chichester Class finisher pulled out  in Lanzarote. Credit GGR22/Nora Havel

# Windless holes, dead birds, dust and flying fish play with entrants’ nerves entering the dreaded doldrums.

# Entrants missing family, some hampered with repairs, most nervous about the lack of wind.

# Back of the fleet surge toward the mid fleet, Pat, Kirsten and Abhilash chasing the leaders.

# Captain Coconut retires in Lanzarote leaving the fleet of 13 heading for the equator

# Guy deBoer’s “Spirit” successfully salvaged and ready for repairs. 

A week after the fleet crossed the Lanzarote gate, Simon Curwen (UK) is leading the fleet into the Doldrums through the 10th parallel, where the elastic fleet expands and compresses depending on the conditions.

Simon Curwen passed the Lanzarote waypoint in first position. He has been leading since Cape Finisterre, showing seamanship, speed, strategic intelligence and pleasure at sea. A worthy leader for the GGR 2022! Credit: GGR2022/Nora Havel

This week, it’s been mainly compression for the leaders Simon Curwen (UK) and Tapio Lehtinen (FIN), who after making most of their time west of the stormy low-pressure system are now hitting the windless wall of the Doldrums. With the wind strengthening from the North, the back of the fleet has made good progress on the leaders, and the mid fleet pack. This benefited Damien Guillou (FR) in his chase back to the top, reducing the gap from 700 miles in Lanzarote to 500 today.

There were a few changes in positions for Kirsten Neuschäfer (SA), 5th in Fuerteventura and her compatriot Jeremy Bagshaw, a close 6th then. Kirsten, spending long hours at the helm posted the best daily average with several days around 170 miles, enabling her to close on Abhilash Tomy (IND), eventually stealing 4th place from him before chasing Pat Lawless (IRL), himself catching Tapio Lehtinen (FIN), 200 miles to the east of him. 

The Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone with light winds and squalls, or Doldrums are extending from 3°N to 10° N (deep Blue areas) .Leaders, Tapio Lehtinen and Pat Lawless are about to enter. Credit: GGR2022

Jeremy Bagshaw (SA) who is no stranger to bold moves and options, broke away from Kirsten last Saturday for a western route into the Cape Verde islands looking for fresh winds, which he is currently clearing, but lost 3 places in the process, falling from 6th to 9th place. He is currently sailing in fresh winds 350 miles west of Elliott Smith (USA), and now has Damien Guillou (FR) and Ian Herbert-Jones (UK)  following his track into the islands.

The doldrums are a windless belt around the equator where the NW trade winds of the northern hemisphere collide with the SE trades of the southern hemisphere. The heat forces the hot, humid air into the atmosphere where it transforms into pouring rain after cooling down.

This zone of weak, erratic winds, hot weathers, squalls and showers was feared in the ancient times where ships could stay for weeks at a time. Today the doldrums are no longer a danger, but for the GGR entrants with little outside communications, they can still play with the nerves.

Crossing the equator will be a first for many and the pinch of isolation is becoming real with several entrants sharing that they are missing family and friends. Others had quite surreal experiences such as Elliott Smith (USA) experiencing special offerings from the Saharan winds.

It was a night of storm and lightning, and the next morning I wake up and there was dust everywhere, orange dirt, four dead birds on the deck, some of them decapitated, flying fish everywhere, grasshoppers and crickets, and then a big black nasty looking locusts as big as my thumb. This is when I realised I had left the hatch open…

Elliott said on his weekly call on Wednesday, sharing how big an adventure he had taken on.

US entrant Elliott Smith is experiencing the high and lows of solo ocean racing, as well as unusual offerings from the saharan coast. Credit: GGR22/Nora Havel

Many have ongoing problems heading in the southern hemisphere: Ertan Beskardes (UK) who experienced early electrical problems with a short-circuit and smoke, called Race Control this week reporting batteries issues, not keeping charge and that he was struggling with his power management. He had planned to stop in Cape Verde Islands for repair and continue in Chichester Class, but later decided to soldier on through the doldrums and try to solve it. He is running on minimal power now and it is obvious the batteries have been seriously damaged. He is prepared to finish the Race without power, using his emergency solar system to recharge critical safety comms.

Guy Waites (UK) has been working on his staysail cars, and spinnaker pole issues Arnaud Gaist (FR) has been working on deck fittings, preserving his sails and is shocked at some of his running rigging that is chafing excessively.Elliot Smith re-positioned and re-stitched his mainsail clew, and found most Luff slides on the mainsail battens broken. Ian Herbert Jones is frustrated at being so far behind, but realises that for him, it is all about the voyage and enjoying the journey. Kirsten Neuschäfer seems the happiest she has been since the start and feels back in the Race! Listen to her latest weekly call here 

All are taking advantage of the doldrum to maintain and prepare the yacht for future trade winds. They find solace in their regular HF radio session chats, comparing positions and passing on weather information. 

Meanwhile this week, Captain Coconut Mark Sinclair, the popular Australian sailor decided to pull into Lanzarote and retire from the GGR 2022 

I wanted to start this edition but it was a big effort to get ready and I think I am just tired. I had planned to make landfall in Cape Town and attend my son’s wedding, continuing the voyage in Chichester class, but it’s been a slow start and I am now two weeks behind schedule. I won’t be in time in South Africa, and probably not at the Hobart gate before January 31. 

Mark, a former Australian Navy commander and cartographer, also mentioned some medical follow-up and surgery and other pending issues since he has been away from home for ten month. He left Adelaïde in December 2021, crossing to Les Sables d’Olonne in 174 days, spending another 100 days full time without a break to get Coconut ready for the start with little time for anything else. 

GGR 2018 veteran Ertan Beskardes’ voyage has been hampered by electrical problems since the early days of the race, but he decided to soldier on and try to repair at sea after contemplating a technical stop in Cape Verde. Credit GGR22/Nora Havel
Guy deBoer’s walks in front of Spirit , now off the beach and in the yard in Fuerteventura, ready for repairs and re-launching. Credit: Laerke from Mara Noka!

Meanwhile in Fuerteventura, Guy deBoer (USA) has reunited with his Tashiba 36 Spirit, which has been lifted off the rocks where he landed on September 18th. Spirit’s salvage involved building a sand road for the mobile crane and the low-bed truck to get to the boat, getting the mast off and lifting the boat onto a low-bed truck. Driving it out was easy without extra damage. Sadly, the boat has been visited in the meantime, with a significant amount of material including the Hydrovane, Watt & See generator, winches and other material were stolen for a value exceeding USD 50,000.

In Fuerteventura, a chain of solidarity formed around Guy and his injured yacht, some local friends having found a piece of land for Spirit’s repairs.

It looks like I’m sorted, the landlord is friends with the crane operator who is ready to bring Spirit to the property and set-it up. We’re now getting the wood to build Spirit’s cradle.

Said Guy deBoer. It’s a relief for the American sailor who had been frustrated in finding a solution for his boat.    

This week is all about the fleet compressing from the back as the leaders are hitting the doldrums hard, but next week should be about offerings to Neptune, and the Southern trade winds toward the next mark: Trindade Island!

Watch out for entrant onboard footage being released on GGR Youtube Here!

Arnaud Gaist onboard Feï of Shanghaï. Credit: B. Gerdaud
Skipper Jeremy Bagshaw arriving at the waypoint on Lanzarote, Rubicon Marina September 18th in 10th position. Credit: GGR22 / Nora Havel

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Golden Globe Race, High and Lows, Snakes and Ladders heading south from Lanzarote film gate

Picture Above: Damien, still competitive, dropped his spinnaker at the last minute, and hoisted it back at the first opportunity! Picture Credit: GGR2022 / Nora Havel

# Damien Guillou’s comeback hampered by a high pressure, now through the Rubicon Marina gate and back in the chase

# Kirsten Neuschäfer 10th at the Biscay exit now in 5th place and going after the lead pack

# Elliott Smith making most of Lanzarote, anchoring for the night and meeting friends

# Intense low pressure between Cape Verde crossing the GGR fleet over the weekend

# Simon Curwen and Tapio Lehtinen breaking away on the west side of the low-pressure system

# Guy deBoer set out to salvage SPIRIT after hitting the coast of Fuerteventura before expected large swells. 

Damien Guillou, the French favourite 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. The last 12 twelve days have been an impressive comeback. He 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”.

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, favouring the leaders, hampered his efforts to catch-up. The leader is 700 miles ahead. The mid-fleet pack is only 3 to 4 days ahead.

The Bay of Biscay, I sailed it twice! 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!

Damien told us,

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!

He said before he hoisted the spinnaker back and resumed racing.

Damien Guillou has spent the whole week under his max spinnaker and should catch up further with the fleet blocked by a low pressure over the weekend. Picture Credit: GGR2022 / Nora Havel. Picture Credit: GGR2022 / Nora Havel

Another impressive comeback is Kirsten Neuschäfer (SA) who exited the Bay of Biscay in 10th position. She did not hide her disappointment at being 6th at the Lanzarote gate. She has now joined the lead pack in 5th position and has been working very hard, spending a lot of time at the helm of Minnehaha, to catch up. This morning, she averaged 7 knots over the last 24 hours, clocking 170 miles and gaining 55 miles over her closest competitor Abhilash Tomy (IND)!

With strong Northerlies today where Minnehaha and Kirsten excel, 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 favourable conditions

Elliott Smith mooring in Lanzarote for the night, resting and doing maintenance. The GGR spirit. Picture Credit: GGR2022 / Nora Havel
Guy deBoer’s Spirit should be salvaged before the expected swell coming in Monday. Picture Credit: Felix Montenegro Pujales / Osvaldo Martinez
Kirsten, from 10th in Biscay to fighting for 4th place before the Cape verde Islands. Picture Credit: GGR2022

US entrant Elliott Smith made the most of his Lanzarote gate motoring on the leeside of Lanzarote then deciding to anchor 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 realising how long it is and I want to pace myself. My headspace is good and I feel clear. There’s been high 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.

Shared Elliott,

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.

US entrant Guy deBoer whose yacht Spirit ran onto rocks north of Fuerteventura has shared the story of his grounding, WHY and HOW, with Don during a phone call yesterday, which you can catch here. Spirit is still on the rocks, but all fuel and hazardous products have been taken out of the boat which poses no threat to the pristine environment of the island. Guy met with two local salvage companies while keeping close contact with the authorities to find the best way to remove his yacht from the beach. One scenario is to bring a telescopic mobile crane on the beach and lift Spirit off the rocks which would limit damage to the boat. A large swell is expected on Monday so they race against the clock.

After going through the gate in Lanzarote, I was awake for 30 hours, and I chose to go West of Fuerteventura, it was close-hauled but I was sailing 30° over the island and was safe. The moment I sat down I fell asleep because I was so fatigued.

Said Guy,

The reason I hit the rocks is because the wind velocity dropped off significantly and the boat bore away towards the island and I was not aware of that before the boat hit the rock.In insight I should have gone on the east side and avoid the leeshore He concluded: it was a bad decision by the skipper and I’m paying the penalty for it today.

A tropical storm currently forming off Dakar in Senegal gaining in strength Friday and crossing the path of the fleet, moving North on Saturday. While the early predictions were announcing a possible Cape Verde Hurricane, this is now a localised low-pressure system. The GGR race Control informs the fleet daily of the system’s strength, position and movement to help them make the best decision.

GGR2022, Simon Curwen, Clara, Sailing Sailing during the times of the Race Village
GGR Live Tracker map of the fleet 1200 UTC 22nd Sept. The two leaders break away to skirt around the developing low pressure system arriving in 36 hours. The rest of the fleet headed toward the east to miss it. Picture Credit: GGR2022
The WINDY weather prediction of the intense low blocking the GGR sailors at 1200UTC on the 24th Sept. Picture Credit: GGR2022

Simon Curwen (UK) is taking advantage of his lead position to go around the low on the west side, taking strong northerly winds pushing him towards the Cape Verde archipelago and the doldrums. Tapio Lehtinen (FIN) 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 that Simon and Tapio 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 Kirsten and Abhilash, now at VHF distance could emulate each other’s in a quick upwind exit, breaking up with the rest. Meanwhile, back in the Canaries, should Damien Guillou get some good weather forecast, he could well make most of the adverse weather at the front of the fleet!

Video film coverage and 20 minute interviews of all GGR sailors passing through the Rubicon Marina film drop gate are available on GGR YOUTUBE

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“The Golden Globe Race is a game!” Jean Luc VDH 2019

Picture above: Jean Luc VDH, winner of the 2018 Golden Globe in 212 days, welcomes Tapio Lehtinen back to Les Sables d;Olonne , the final finisher after 322 days at sea. Credit: Jf.Brossier / Ville des Sables d’Olonne

The 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race made history delivering the first ever solo non- stop unassisted voyage around the world. Nine started, one finished, one died, one boat was lost. The legend of this amazing adventure was born. 

It was not a race like the America’s Cup. It was a challenge and display of the human spirit. A testament to human courage in the face of extreme challenge, great isolation and relying on one’s own ability to get the job done no matter what. It was also a great feat of seamanship, borne from experience, mixed with large amounts of common sense. The objective was simple. Get around the world by yourself and don’t stop. The planning was not complicated, Bring food! Neither was the preparation if you knew what you were doing. Learn to navigate! The execution was also uncomplicated, just incredibly hard. Get to the finish!

In 2014 I had the idea of trying to recreate this event that was part of my life for 40 years. Sir Robin Knox Johnston, the only finisher in 1969 is one of my boyhood heroes. In 2018 the Golden Globe set off again for the first time in 50 years. It could never be identical to the 1968 edition for many reasons, but we held true to the core principles. It was a success in the eyes of those who understood the challenge. 

Like the first edition, the 2018 Golden Globe was a game. The rules are set. Entrants decide if they want to play and volunteer to be part of that game. 18 set out, five finished, four boats were lost. The legend was back. It was life defining and life changing for entrants and many followers. Some not for the better. It was an extreme challenge that for players hits the core of who you are and what you believe in, even why you exist. Most are proving something to themselves. It was not an answer to the meaning of life, but it sure tested them and even followers around the world. Some entrants were shocked by the experience and still are to this day. It was not to be what they expected, even after years of preparation. But that is the name of this game. 

The GGR is as tough as it gets. You can make up your own mind on that. All the sailing races around the world make this claim, but look closely at the GGR before you brush it off as a throwaway line. Start with 8 months of isolation and work it back from there. 

The game has real risk, the biggest attraction to players. It’s harder and more excruciatingly painful that even entrants imagine. Don’t try to think about that issue too long! It is hard to grasp, but it is.

In a game of cards, you use skill, chance and luck. Most understand that in the GGR you can make your own luck through good planning, preparation and then seamanlike execution. But you still need luck. That wild card is the same today as it was in 1968. So too, the feeling of the players when they finally get a GREEN CARD to play the GGR game. They dreamed of that moment and finally the game is on!

The GGR game recreates an important element from the 1968 Golden Globe. Bernard Moitessier sailing JOSHUA had no radio. Just a slingshot and flashing light to pass messages to the world. He sailed through the Canaries looking to pass messages, then down to Trindade Island in the South Atlantic to do the same, unsuccessfully. He made for Cape Town twice, firing his messages and film cannisters to the deck of anchored ships. In Hobart he waited hours for a passing fishing vessel to take his letters to the Royal Yacht Club Tasmania

Robin Knox Johnston sailing SUHAILI had a radio, but it failed. He sailed up into Victoria, Australia to pass messages to the pilot vessel and arrange a message drop in New Zealand. He anchored in Dunedin New Zealand, waiting for his contact to arrive with letters from home. Under the rules of the game, they could not be delivered. They were opened and read to him from a boat alongside. This was the game in 1968.

The 2022 GGR game is the same. Players must drop letters and films at Lanzarote in the Canaries. They leave Trindade island in the South Atlantic to port. They drop letters and film in Cape Town and stop in Hobart Tasmania exactly the same as Moitessier. Instead of New Zealand we have Punta del Este in Uruguay. 

SH_T happens in life just the same as accidents. There are always reasons for them and we learn from them. Sadly, Guy deBoer sailed his yacht SPIRIT straight up onto rocks a few hours after rounding the GGR film drop mark in Lanzarote. Fortunately, he was not injured and was able to walk ashore. He did not drift there and was not trapped on a lee shore unable to sail off. He had all the charts and navigation equipment to know exactly where he was. There were lighthouses clearly visible. The weather was mild and sea state low. It was night and visibility was good. He has not yet explained exactly what happened, but we know it was an accident. 

The history of sailing clearly demonstrates that running ashore is a risk. It happens in fully crewed racing with all the latest most sophisticated electronics and professional sailors’ money can buy. It happens in the biggest solo races, with the biggest budgets, most sophisticated equipment and most famous sailors.  It happens to weekend sailors who only know how to watch a chart plotter. They are all called accidents.

Accidents will always happen in any game and on any ocean. 

In the GGR game you must listen only to cassette tapes. You can only use HF SSB radios. You must use wind up clocks. For safe navigation, it is not a game. Players have every device and skill you need to know where you are, all the time, giving you all the information needed to act in a seaman like manner, all the way around the world and NOT hit rocks on the coast. There is also an emergency GPS if needed. This is an explanation for those not familiar with the rules of the GGR game, NOT any criticism of Guy deBoer. Some may now think following Guy’s accident that the GGR rules put entrants at risk. They do NOT!

All skippers in this game are responsible for their own wellbeing and the safety of their ship at all times. None are forced into unsafe practices because of the game. The challenge and difficulty are obvious to entrants who love facing that. They alone make the decisions on how much sleep they need, what course they sail and when to give up. This point runs to the core of why they are doing it and why they love it. There will be winners and losers in any game. But the GGR game itself is safe. Maybe safer than your own day to day existence and the risks you face without even knowing it. 

Accidents happen to us all. Even in cars. It happens in, motor racing, mountain and ice climbing, parachuting, motor cross racing, glider flying, helicopters flying, trike flying, gyrocopter flying, scuba diving, Antarctic expeditions, open boat expeditions. Same too in solo around the world yacht and mini solo transatlantic yacht racing. I know, as I have done them all. I accepted the risk and did everything to mitigate them before the event. I used my best value judgments in every decision I ever made during the activity. Maybe I was lucky? I have never had an accident (touch wood), but I was always happy to play the game as a volunteer and feel truly alive and satisfied with my life. 

Jane and I are very proud of the GGR and the GGR family around the world that helps make it what it is and what it stands for. A chance for any sailor to play the game. The GGR gives followers something to dream about, a display of the human spirit in all its Glory. We are very proud of all the entrants, including GUY, who follow their dreams and do everything they can to live life. Without a spirit of adventure and responsible risk takers, the world would be worse off. Thanks for following the GAME! 

Don McIntyre

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GGR entrant Guy deBoer runs onto rocks at night in Canaries while the fleet moves through the first “film gate”

  • Guy deBoer (USA) crashes into rocks at night on the north coast of Fuerteventura, Las Palmas in the Canaries, his yacht now stranded but he is safe. Salvage under investigation.
  • Simon Curwen (UK) , Tapio Lehtinen (FIN) , Pat Lawless (Ireland) and Abhilash Tomy (India) first through the Marina Rubicon film gate.
  • Pat Lawless is suffering a knee infection, running low on antibiotics, but going forward.
  • Whole fleet at risk of being parked with no wind around the Canaries and a hurricane may be forming ahead of the fleet late next week? 

It was South African GGR entrant Kirsten Neuschäfer (SA) who relayed Guy deBoer’s VHF radio Mayday call to GGR Race Control on Friday morning at 03:10 am UTC. Guy’s Tashiba 36 had run aground on the North coast of Fuerteventura, just 10 miles from the Lanzarote Marina Rubicon film drop gate he had passed a few hours before. He had activated his EPIRB and at 04:24 UTC rang the GGR Race control on his Sat phone.  

545hrs local time 18th September 2022. Guy DeBoer and “SPIRIT” hits rocks 50 meters off the beach on the Nort Coast of FUERTEVENTURA in the Canary Islands. Picture Credit: GGR2022 / Alex Craig

“Spirit” was sitting on rocks, away from the beach, tilting 45°, Being pounded by heavy seas crashing over the boat. The surf was pushing her slowly forward grinding over rocks. Guy who was in constant contact with Salvamento Maritimo, the local Rescue Coordination Center and GGR Race Control was in a serious situation. He had his life raft ready, but decided to remain inside Spirit, which was holding up. He planned to wait for daylight since he could not see the coast. The conditions for a safe use of the life raft, or exit onto the rocks beaten by the surf were not right.

At 04:10 UTC the MRCC Las Palmas informed GGR Control that first responders were on the beach, 50 metres from the boat sitting on the bedrock. Conditions were difficult and Guy decided not to evacuate the yacht. At 04:36 UTC Guy finally abandoned his yacht by foot, greatly assisted by the local police and firefighters. A Government salvage tow boat was already en route towards them. Guy was taken to a local hotel without injuries.

Following an early morning Government assessment it was considered too difficult to tow Spirit back to sea at high water. The authorities decided to pump all fuel from the boat to avoid a potential spill and are now working with Guy deBoer ’s team and an insurance company on salvaging the Tashiba 36 with the least environmental impact. The area is a popular tourist surfing spot. 

 At 9.30 Monday morning I am meeting with a large salvage company to consider the best course of action which at this stage looks like dragging her back over the hard rocks, fortunately not fragile reefs

Said Guy deBoer

She has an incredibly strong and thick hull so should be able to take that ride! She has taken a pounding so far and the hull is fine. I hope to see her sail again, but certainly we cannot just leave her there.

Golden Globe Race wishes to thank all those rescue personnel who responded so professionally and quickly to a very demanding and difficult situation which had a positive outcome.

5th Position: Guy DeBoer passing the gate in the early hours of Sept. 18th. Picture Credit: GGR2022 / Nora Havel
Kirsten Neuschäfer could not hide her disappointment at being 6th crossing the gate 25 minutes after Guy. Picture Credit: GGR2022 / Nora Havel

The mood was very different earlier that night and the day before as a freshly shaved Guy deBoer went through the Lanzarote Gate happy and confident to be in 5th position. Kirsten Neuschäfer could not hide her disappointment at being 6th crossing the gate 25 minutes after deBoer. Her Cape George 36 had sailed out of the Bay of Biscay unscathed and was in excellent shape, although she was tired from the long hours under spinnaker at the helm of Minnehaha, even if, as she said

The boat doesn’t need me and can sail by herself…”.

Hours before them, Pat Lawless had beaten Abhilash Tomy in their week-long fight for the 3rd spot. Pat’s option east of the fleet cost him dearly earlier in the week but enabled him a magnificent come back on Friday and Saturday. Pat’s enthusiasm is infectious and he was radiant when told his position in the fleet! 

Infectious also is his right knee, a pre-existing medical condition to the GGR which has come back unexpectedly during the first week of sailing. Pat is in regular contact with the Race doctor, MSOS Direct, and taking antibiotics as advised. He was advised to stop in Lanzarote to stock up with stronger antibiotics on board, but this would have meant losing contact with the leaders, as well as accepting external assistance and being moved to Chichester Class. 

Pat Lawless is suffering a knee infection, running low on antibiotics, but going forward. Picture Credit: GGR2022 / Aïda Valceanu

This is an old injury that has come up after crawling on deck

Said Pat Lawless

There is no way I want to move into Chichester Class, not for a minute, so I sail on! It will be fine

He could reconsider this decision if it gets worse and make a stop in Cape Verde Islands in a week or so sailing south.

Abhilash Tomy holds 4th place and revealed during the film drop that after leaving Les Sables d’Olonne he suffered for 10 days with severe PTSD syndrome. He could not eat for those 10 days.  Re-living his rescue and severe back injury inflicted during the 2018 edition of the GGR upset his ability to concentrate. This reaction surprised even himself. Now he is back into the 2022 edition with real focus and determination.

Abhilash Tomy at the GGR2022 Marina Rubicon Film Gate. Picture Credit: GGR2022 / Aïda Valceanu

A few miles ahead, it is Simon Curwen in his Biscay 36 CLARA solidly in the lead after breaking away from Tapio Lehtinen who chose a less direct route under his biggest spinnaker in a bid to find stronger winds. He didn’t. Both were very satisfied with the result, although they too, were disappointed for Damien Gillou. They were definitely looking forward to a direct confrontation with the French favourite now still 550 miles astern!

While the tight mid-fleet group of Guy Waites, Michael Guggenberger, known as Captain Gugg , Ertan Beskardes and Jeremy Bagshaw have all gone through the gate over the weekend, the remaining miles will be more challenging for Elliott Smith, Ian Herbert-Jones. A big wind hole arriving from Madeira is taking over the Canaries and is meant to stay until Tuesday, slowing down their progression towards Lanzarote.

Skipper Michael Guggenberger at the waypoint in Lanzarote. Picture Credit: GGR2022 / Nora Havel

750 miles further south from Lanzarote,  just to the east of the Cape Verde island on the African coast, a tropical depression/Hurricane may be forming on Thursday 22nd and building into Friday 23rd. Forecast winds are expected to be around 50kts. This is right in the path of the GGR leaders and middle fleet. GGR control is monitoring it closely. 

Another interesting week ahead!

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