Kirsten Neuschäfer (39) / South Africa / onboard her Cape George 36  – ' MINNEHAHA'. Credit: Kirsten Neuschäfer / GGR2022

Kirsten Neuschäfer (39) / South Africa / onboard her Cape George 36 – ' MINNEHAHA'. Credit: Kirsten Neuschäfer / GGR2022

Kirsten Neuschäfer takes lead in Gruelling Golden Globe


31/01/2023 - 14:00

149 days ago, on Sept 4th 2022, 15 men and one woman set out from Les Sables d'Olonne. Their dreams and aspirations were to circumnavigate solo in the extreme Golden Globe Race. In 1968, nine set out on the first such mission and only one finished. In 2018, 18 sailors set out and just five sailed home. Today only four of the original 2022 sailors are still racing the GGR towards Cape Horn, the most infamous of all Capes. They have over 9,000 miles and many months still to go to Les Sables d'Olonne. Anything can happen. 

Out front is an extraordinary solo woman sailor quite unlike any other. Behind her are 15 extraordinary men who have either given up, or struggle to keep up. The GGR is a mind game, so phiysically and mentally tough, relentless and unforgiving, it sometimes beggars belief. They are, or were all volunteers. They are all dreamers, adventurers and passionate about life, giving it their all to achieve something even they may not fully understand. The GGR is an amazing human story of courage and determination unfolding before our eyes.  

Unable to repair his Hydrovane self-steering system damaged at sea during a knock-down, race leader Simon Curwen has retired from the GGR into Chichester Class and is heading North East for a Chilean Port to effect repairs. 

With 70% of the total distance under his belt and a thousand–mile gap with his closest rivals, Simon Curwen (GBR) seemed untouchable last week as he was screaming down the 50s on his way to Cape Horn, to the point that his runners-up had given-up hope of catching-up! Alas, cruel is the game of the GGR, and a crucial piece of his hydrovane broke when the boat was knocked-down last Friday 27 of January. Listen to his report here.

Simon tried to emulate his hero Sir Robin Knox Johnston who steered Suhaili to the finish, and to victory in the original 1968 GGR, without a windvane for the last stretch of that voyage. Balancing sails, however, proved harder on his cutter rigged Biscay 36 than on the ketch rigged Suhaili and Simon was making slow progress. This would potentially expose himself to future storms in the weeks ahead while attempting to round Cape Horn under duress.  

"I tried all sorts of options for several days to make this boat go downwind and she doesn't want to. I was bullish yesterday with the southwesterly but now I can't get her to go in the right direction. With all those weather systems coming through with no ability to steer a course, I have to think about safety. Apart from risk to me and the boat, there is also potential risk for any person who may have to come and rescue me" Simon Curwen, Clara / Howden's

The Race Office advised alternative ports on the west coast of Chile, where the Briton could safely moor, receive the part and replace it in a timely manner. With a lee shore approach, Race Control is monitoring and assisting navigation and giving regular weather updates. Simon has been given a special exemption to use his emergency GPS to ensure maximum safety in the coming days.

It's a heartbreaking decision for the charismatic sailor who has led the fleet since Cape Finisterre, but a wise one. His sponsor Howdens is providing support.

"Most importantly we are relieved that Simon is safe and well after the incident last Friday. We are talking to Simon's team and the race organisers on how best we can provide logistical support to assist with repairs as Simon heads to a port in Chile. Simon has been outstanding so far in the race and although the class of competition may have changed, his adventure continues, as does our support." David Sturdee, Howden's

Kirsten Neuschäfer with the fastest boat in the fleet this week, taking the lead with just four racing for line honours!

Abhilash Tomy a solid second, but must now tend to his body and his boat

Abhilash Tomy (IND) suffered a serious accident during the 2018 GGR. His boat Thuriya, an ERIC 32 replica of the original Suhaili, was rolled over and dismasted in the Indian Ocean, prompting a text-book rescue and recovery involving the Indian and French Government. Abhilash seriously damaged his back and after heavy surgery took years to go back to walking, sailing and ultimately flying aircrafts again in the Indian Navy.

Abhilash fell on his back in the Indian Ocean, and was steering by hand last week for 12 hours during a gale and soon after was plagued by back pain and numb limbs. He spoke to his Doctors in India who gave him exercises to regain control of his leg, as well as the official race doctors MSOS for pain treatment. He was advised to rest and mend himself for a few days before attending to Bayanat's extensive to-do list prior to diving to Cape Horn, including rigging and mainsail track maintenance and repairs.

He is now sailing to keep the boat comfortable under reduced sails, rather than racing downwind. This is making his route longer and slower than Kirsten's Cape George 36, which has struggled to catch up to Bayanat in the Southern Pacific so far. This may last a few more days yet. Abhilash is safe and does not require any assistance and is in complete control. He knows he must rest now, so the pains do not return again. GGR is closely monitoring the situation.

Abhilash Tomy (India) 's strong mentality has overcome his 2018 ordeals, but his body hasn't fully recovered yet. He passed all required medical checks to enter the 2022 GGR. Photo Credit: GGR 2018 / Christophe Favreau

Leaving Les Sables d'Olonne was hard on the rescued sailor as he suffered post - traumatic stress during the first 10 days of the race, unable to eat anything. He recovered but crashed again during the Cape Town film drop, declaring the GGR was "Not a race" but  just a game of chance and that he was not racing anymore. He thought he had put his demons behind him when he passed the Indian Ocean longitude of his rescue and was excited and happy at the Hobart film drop to be back in the game! Now the memories are back haunting him in a physical rather than psychological way.

Capt. GUGG Nuri Sardines, now 3rd in the fleet, is impressively steady and prepared.

The revelation of the Pacific definitely is Michael Guggenberger (AUT) who since the South Atlantic found the manual to get his ketch-rigged Biscay 36 Nuri Sardines go fast and steady, matching the speeds of the other Biscay in the fleet, Simon Curwen's cutter rigged Clara. Although still 1200 miles back of the runners-up, Nuri has not lost ground on the most experienced sailors of the fleet, which says a lot!

It's not only the pace of Nuri Sardines that forces respect. New to sailing 10 years ago, Michael has matched both the pace and the preparation level of much more experienced sailors, presenting no significant damage after 18000 gruelling miles in the GGR. His only issue being depleting water reserves, holding until March 19 at 1,5 litre/day.

Puffin coming in 4th at speed into the Pacific!

They will get plenty of northerlies this week sending  them quickly north of the exclusion zone and into their Southern Pacific ride.   

Guy Waites (GBR) has been battling consistent heavy weather the past four days under Australia with more to come. He has been sailing under bare poles towing warps often. Another large low-pressure is on the way with 11mtr seas and 50-60 knot winds forecast. Guy is tired, but getting ready. He confirmed all is well onboard Sagarmatha and looking forward to a break. He did not make the mandatory Hobart gate on time, and will be retired from the GGR once passing the longitude of Hobart.

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Leg 2 of The Ocean Race, racing into the south