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Going down! Cape Horn, cold, wet and challenging Golden Globe Race

by Golden Globe Race 27 Jan 16:00 GMT
Guy Waites (54) / UK / Tradewind 35 – ” SAGARMATHA “ © posh tomato photography

It's a long way to Les Sables d'Olonne, France and new challenges continue to mount for the remaining GGR sailors in unexpected ways. Simon Curwen is holding the lead by a good margin, but anything can happen. He is dipping south towards Cape Horn 1200 miles off with severe gales on the horizon. He should be around in the next 8 days. New barnacles and water shortages mixed with generally light dry and stable weather are the order of the day.

In the 2018 Golden Globe Race the fleet was swept by successive extreme Southern Ocean gales, resulting in the loss of four yachts and many dismastings. By contrast for this edition, which started two months later from Les Sables d'Olonne, that heavy weather has all but disappeared. In addition the Positive Southern Annular Mode (SAM) is pushing the low-pressure systems south this year both in the Southern Indian and Pacific Ocean, to about 55-60 degreesS rather than the more frequent lows at about 45 degreesS. So for the GGR 2022 it means entrants have softer winds north of the exclusion zone. But water is shaping up as a big issue!

Simon is getting ready for his biggest Southern Ocean storm yet.

Simon Curwen (GBR) on Clara/Howden's, continues to impress with his steady pace and perfect trajectory, now 1200 miles ahead of his closest followers, but is frustrated on missing out on the big Southern Oceans conditions. His rate of progress has been a mixed bag to date but that is the life of a sailor! The temperature is dropping fast and he is using all his cold weather gear, feeling confident.

"Race Control informed Simon on January 26 of a deep low pressure system that formed over Abhilash's position on Thursday morning, intensifying and going straight on Simon's path towards Cape Horn with NW 35 knots of wind, gusting 55kt. We are in regular contact with Simon through the YB device and Sat Phone, monitoring the situation as it may develop further." Don McIntyre GGR founder and Chairman.

Water everywhere and not a drop to drink...

Water is now an issue within the fleet. Each is required to carry an emergency manual desalinator but will be penalised if using it. As days go by without rain to replenish depleting water reserves on board decisions on rationing have begun. With no or little rain since the tropics, entrants have little hope of catching the precious liquid in the Southern Oceans. Sea state and boat motion in rain squalls make it challenging to catch enough water.

If not for barnacles, water would have been the reason why Jeremy Bagshaw (ZAF) stopped in Hobart. Losing half his reserves mid Atlantic, he landed with less than 45 litres in Hobart. Michael Guggenberger (AUT) had declared a water shortage before Hobart, with 53 days of water left and relies on bottle lemon soda to make it to the tropics, while Abhilash Tomy (IND) has been living on 1 litre a day for weeks now and cooking all food in sea water. They may not get supplies again for a few months!

"In the last weather front, it was drizzling and I only got two cups of water which is always welcome, but not enough. The crew is upset and demands at least one serving of rice cooked in fresh water a month which I'm not sure to provide. I am a bit worried about onboard mutiny, but I crossed Bounty Island and am less concerned now." Abhilash Tomy, BAYANAT

The latest to declare water rationing is Ian Herbert Jones (UK), who is limiting himself to two litres a day, cutting down on his daily coffees. To make things worse he found some "organic matter" in his tank water and has switched to his jerry cans for the time being: "it hasn't killed me yet but it's time I stop drinking that stuff anyway."

Ongoing barnacle War in the Southern Oceans

Ian Herbert-Jones (UK) antifouled Puffin's fully loaded waterline wrong at the start. The yacht's transom and hull aft is now colonised by barnacles. He was unable to do anything but observe it in Hobart, but they will continue to grow and slow the boat. The worst is the propeller.

"My prop which had no treatment at all now has enormous growth! The whole space between the keel and the rudder is now filled with barnacles. So I'm dragging a basketball where my propeller should be, which is a shame because the rest of the hull is fine. I'm trying not to let it mess with my head, but the moment you see the barnacles you can't get them out of your mind!" Ian Herbert-Jones, Puffin.

Mid-Southern Pacific, along the northern limit of the exclusion zone, Kirsten Neuschäfer has finally found the right conditions to dive over the side and clean the hull of Minnehaha. Not an easy task in the open ocean since the residual sea in the calms make the boat move dangerously. This is devastating for Kirsten who is out to win the GGR and things looked OK in Hobart. Kirsten's strategy was to wait for a bit of wind in relatively flat waters and heave-to in order to stabilise the boat and make the work easier and safer.

"After I found barnacles on the rudder of my Hydrovane I got a little worried and I discovered that the port side was like a reef: old barnacles and millions of new ones. Thankfully the starboard side was not that bad. I spent several hours cleaning ¾ of the hull so far with the scraper. It was cold, exhausting, but very gratifying to watch clusters of millions of tiny barnacles sink into the deep!" Kirsten Neuschäfer, Minnehaha

She dived 3 hours on Friday 20 exhausted cleaning the port side of Minnehaha, then another 2 hours and finally 3 hours on Thursday 26. To her horror, she found newer tiny barnacles growing rapidly, already 4 times bigger than the week before. Most of the hull is clean except for parts of the rudder and stern. It is likely this fight will continue in the months ahead. Both Kirsten and Jeremy blame the quick growth on warmer water and slow speeds.

Minnehaha's exit of the Tasman sea was slow, Kirsten who checked the hull with a GoPro in Hobart thinks it's when the tiny barnacles started growing. She was 5 to 10% slower in the Pacific than in the Indian Ocean in the same conditions, and has now resumed her usual daily averages.

The Challenge of Chichester Class!

An entrant forced to stop in the GGR is moved to Chichester Class and no longer in the rankings. They sail home with the fleet to complete a one stop circumnavigation. Guy Waites (GBR) stopped in Cape Town to clear barnacles and so too, Jeremy Bagshaw (ZAF) in Hobart. Both sailors explained how hard it was to get back in the "solo racing mode" as a "Chichester sailor" after being on land for a few days. Finding motivation to push for speed and performance when no longer competing against the others in the fleet is tough..

"You have to reset every day and make the best of it." Guy Waites, Sagarmatha

"Olleana and I have a point to prove and we're in a hurry." Jeremy Bagshaw, Olleanna

Both had posted some of the best speed in the fleet after cleaning their boats, with Guy getting the best 4-hour speed, 24-hour and 7-day distance of the last 30 days. Meanwhile Jeremy is making the fastest exit of the Tasman sea to date pulling away from Puffin. Most importantly both underline the pleasure they have to sail again rather than dragging.

"I cannot describe how wonderful it is to have no barnacles. It is the most liberating feeling I had. I feel I have a new boat completely." Jeremy Bagshaw, Olleana

What happens for Guy Waites on 31st January?

Even though logging the fleet's best 7-Day distance of the last 30 days, during a succession of westerly gales and high seas, Guy Waites (GBR) will not make the Hobart Gate in time. As per Notice of Race 2.7.2 'Hobart Gate', any Chichester Class entrant arriving after January 31, 2023 will be withdrawn from the event.

Guy is well aware of the situation since leaving Cape Town and has communicated to Race Control that he will continue to Cape Horn, against the directive of the GGR, without stopping in Hobart to ensure a fast passage around Cape Horn - his big objective.

As a result, Guy will be withdrawn from the event as soon as he passes 147º East, the longitude of Hobart. The GGR transition process for his withdrawal from the event requires Guys team and manager to officially take over all safety responsibility with the following action plan:

  • EPIRBs: The first point of contact or "Next of Kin" will be changed from GGR Race Control to Guy's manager, Julie Waites.
  • MRCC: GGR Race Control updated MRCC Australia (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) and MRCC Chile regarding the new first point of contact and his withdrawal from the event.
  • YB Tracking: Guy will be removed from the GGR tracker after the longitude of Hobart. His own YB tracker will be available after Hobart and shared on his page.
  • Tweet & Calls: GGR Race Control will stop the weekly calls and daily text messages, but may occasionally post or repost messages from his social media channels as is done with other retired entrants.

The Rules of the GGR require all entrants to stop in Hobart if they are unable to pass through the gate by 31st January. (They can set sail again in Dec 2023). A February departure greatly increases the risk of Autumn gales rounding Cape Horn in April, especially if the transit across the Southern Ocean is slow.

"It is unfortunate that we must retire Guy from the GGR and we wish him well with his new plans". Should he want to, he will be free to use his sat phone, GPS and access any weather information and routing to assist and fans can follow his personal blogs and tracker." Don McIntyre GGR Founder.

His team have confirmed all safety actions are now in place and Guy can rely on a wealth of expertise led by his wife and Team Manager Julie, including Norman Bailey, the former Commodore of the Newport YC, world-class weather experts, Clipper Ventures Race Directors and crew, who Guy met as a skipper on the Clipper 2019/20, and of course the Commodore and friends at Scarborough Yacht Club.

"We are fully prepared at Guy Waites Sailing to take over the GGR responsibility to assist Guy with his challenge to complete his solo circumnavigation around the world. This is something we are used to with Guy's previous solo ocean crossings and I have a great team behind me who will give Guy and I their full support. We will try our best to update all his supporters and followers on social media over the next few months, however our priority will be the focus on Guy and Sagarmatha." Julie Waites, Guy's wife and Shore Manager

Are you going to BOOT Düsseldorf?

Meet Lutz Kohne (GER), GGR 2022 Assistant Race Director and GGR 2026 entrant! Come over to the Sailing Center in Hall 15 next Saturday, January 28 at 12:00 local time for a talk and presentation of the Golden Globe Race and say "Hi"!

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