#GGR2022 Abhilash Tomy (IND)  gearing up for storm. Credit: Abhilash Tomy / GGR2022

#GGR2022 Abhilash Tomy (IND) gearing up for storm. Credit: Abhilash Tomy / GGR2022

Storm alert, Golden Globe Race leaders face a big one

Sport

07/02/2023 - 16:25
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With 20.000 miles and five months at sea, 70% of their voyage is complete. The leading yachts are starting to show little signs of fatigue requiring constant maintenance, just as they are undertaking the most difficult part of the course. They had 1800 miles to run between the end of the exclusion zone and the Cape Horn but now a storm has changed all that. The window that had opened last week for Simon Curwen to reach Cape Horn before February 8 has now closed and a succession of low-pressure systems are entering the area, affecting all of the GGR entrants.  As summer wanes the number of Low pressure systems passing is sure to increase. 

In fact, no one in the leading trio has arrived after 20.000 miles unscathed. Simon Curwen (GBR) has a list of 13 items to sort in Chile onboard Clara besides his broken wind vane and a ripped dodger. Abhilash Tomy (IND) spent 22 hours straight repairing Bayanat after his heavy front on January 26, ranging from sail damage, mainsail sheet track, rigging and windvane maintenance. GGR leader Kirsten Neuschäfer (ZAF) has broken her spinnaker pole and can no longer fly her twin headsails. 

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. It was quite a challenge but reported happy to get it done.

"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. 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" Kirsten Neuschäfer

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, Abhilash and Kirsten 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 Simon 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. This is a large system. WE are routing Abhilash and Kirsten to minimise impact, but it is blowing hard. We send forecasts every 12 hours with wind direction, Strength, Gusts, Sea height, Swell direction and Barometric pressure. Here is Abhilash for today. 7F 1200Z N39 G55 S5.7NW B982 1800Z W37 G55 S5.7SW B984 2400Z W39 G55 S8SW B988 8F 0600 W35 G49 S8.1SW B992 1200Z W28 G43 S7.7SW B996 1800Z W24 G35 S7.1SW B999 Good luck!" Don McIntyre

The back of the fleet has not been spared either, with Jeremy Bagshaw (ZAF) 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 OK. 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. The raft was gone!

Sagarmatha 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 31st January.

"I was strapped in and only thought about the mast, which thankfully was OK. 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!." Guy Waites in his last Safety Call

Time is of the essence for everyone!

Guy is not the only one to be late on his voyage. Ian Herbert Jones (GBR) who passed the Hobart gate on January 18 is only just past Bounty Island, not yet north of the exclusion zone. He is 3000 miles behind Abhilash. South African sailor Jeremy Bagshaw (ZAF) in Chichester class has been pushing Olleanna hard, building a healthy 400-mille gap with Ian, but both had a hard time after New Zealand and now have an ETA at Cape Horn for the second half of March. This runs the risk of heavier and more frequent storms so the adventure continues.

Only Michael Guggenberger (AUT) is holding a relative position with the leaders, but is facing water issues and frustration along the exclusion zone. He inadvertently crossed into this NO GO area for 1,5 hours over the week-end. That generated a 4,5 hour time penalty to be served in the Atlantic Penalty Box on the way to Les Sables D"Olonne. This current storm passed just just a few hundred miles infront of him.

For Simon Curwen (GBR), 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! 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. 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!" Simon Curwen/Howdens

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! He has the support of his Team that has been sent to Chile by his sponsor Howdens, local sailors who are following the GGR and Chile's government agencies who have been informed of his imminent arrival and shares his latest thoughts on Monday's safety call.

The GGR has inspired great interest in Celestial Navigation!

The pleasure of deriving your position from heavenly bodies utilising a Sextant and timepiece is well expressed by all GGR skippers. It is one of the highlights of being in the race and most would never have experienced it without entering the GGR. It is art and science combined to give a feeling of being at one with the heavens and earth. It is not as complex as most think and anyone can do it.

Susie Goodall, a GGR 2018 entrant, was a previous Skipper and Nav instructor with Rubicon 3. This special GGR celestial navigation transatlantic crossing from Antigua in the Caribbean to Portsmouth in England is on March 26th to April 30th 2023. It is open to anyone with basic prior sailing experience. NO celestial Nav. experience is required. You will be given instruction before departure. You then Navigate all the way to the UK!

The crossing is on a Clipper 60 Round the world yacht and the skipper is Patrick Van Der Zijden, 2 x RTW race skipper. 

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