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Golden Globe Race Day 207: Doldrum Conundrum

by Golden Globe Race 31 Mar 2023 19:52 BST 31 March 2023

It's been an eventful week throughout the fleet. The last entrant Ian Herbert-Jones restarted yesterday from Chile joining the Chichester Class. While in the Northern Hemisphere, at the other end of the fleet stretching 4,000 miles, the battle for first home to Les Sables d'Olonne is raging between Kirsten Neuschäfer (ZAF) and Abhilash Tomy (IND).

Minnehaha has been holding her 250-mile lead for a few days now, a testament to Kirsten's works in the light, elusive winds of the ICTZ, (Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone) but it seems that Bayanat is holding the advantage now.

Kirsten has been in light winds longer than any other sailor in the GGR fleet since entering the Atlantic. A situation that is taking an emotional toll on the South African sailor, who is unaware that she is leading the fleet. She sails like she is chasing Abhilash on Bayanat, who in fact has been behind her since the middle of the Pacific Ocean at 130 degrees West. More than barnacles or bowsprit issues, morale and the mind game is becoming the major issue on Minnehaha as Kirsten's latest safety call suggests.

Abhilash Tomy (IND) also ignores where the other sailors are located exactly, but knows he lost ground on Kirsten early February after a heavy storm when he waited several days for a weather window, heaving to, 700 miles off the coast of Chile to climb the mast and repair his damaged rig. With all repairs finally sorted, and full water tanks now, super happy after months of rationing to 1 litre a day, the 2018 veteran is enjoying every bit of the way back as he shares in his safety call!

"I have some light winds. After Fernando de Noronha I crossed the ICTZ and the wind shifted from E to W. I crossed it again with another wind shift and now for a third time, so the zone is definitely moving around. I see a ship every day, so they give me my position, so I stopped doing celestial navigation. They also give me weather updates but they're nearly always wrong. Lutz's LSO forecast is the best I've had so far!"

Bayanat is 450 miles NE from Fortaleza and just crossed the Equator on March 30, bringing the number of sailors in the Northern Hemisphere to three. Bayanat's position seems to be favourable with narrower doldrums to cross, and some early winds at lower latitudes than where Minnehaha is positioned. Bringing more uncertainty to Kirsten's leadership: the Rustler is a faster VMG boat upwind, pointing higher and pushing less water.

Meanwhile, the "Cruising Class" is happily mingling with the leaders. Simon Curwen (GBR) HOWDENS in Chichester has found a perfect mousehole in between the leaders finding more winds for longer. This has enabled him to not only close on Kirsten at 60 miles but also building a 250-mile gap on Abhilash's Rustler. Do not let Simon's cruising statements mislead you in his weekly call! He changes sails more than anyone in the fleet, alternating spinnaker, light and medium genoa several times on a daily basis.

"With the Rustler being favoured in the last 10% of the course, Kirsten's line honours are clearly compromised, but it's Simon who may well be first of the fleet in Les Sables. For 2026, entrants are rushing to put their hands on a (bloody) Rustler 36 but I always said that victory is a combination of boat design, faultless preparation and sailing skills. Simon's incredible come back on a Biscay 36 is a testament to exactly that."

Southern Atlantic Highs and Lows

Michael Guggenberger (AUT) who also has his fair share of light winds has finally reached the trade winds. After weeks of weak winds, he now clocks around his usual metronomic 140-miles daily with less than 500 miles to the Doldrums. He is currently gaining 50 to 100 miles daily of the leaders with a gap of a thousand miles to fill, but he too will have to cross the Doldrums for the escape north. The elastic game is on for Cpt. Gugg, but he has a plan. He will stick to 30 degreesW until 5 degreesS and may divert his route to the coast of Brazil to catch some oceanic currents there if the doldrums were too wide to cross as he shared in his weekly call.

"All good on Nuri, I have plenty of water, I still get weather information from Peter Mott, the winds have been steady for 48 hours and Nuri is in great shape. You can see she sailed 25,000 miles but there's no issue with the boat. The only thought I have when I sail is can I, or can she do this for 245 days? If the answer is no, I don't do it and it's led me here."

At 35 degreesS and entering the latitude of Brazil, Jeremy Bagshaw (ZAF) in Chichester Class is finally seeing some improvements to sailing conditions and was champagne sailing yesterday with full main and code zero in sub-10 knot wind speed. Flat blue seas and opened hatches for Olleanna to finally dry inside was a welcomed relief! He had quite a send-off however, suffering two consecutive gales, getting the worst weather in the Atlantic he had during his round the world adventure, including a knock down on Olleanna and a broken plywood vane, as he shared in his weekly call.

"I've had a lot of exciting sailing in the last week, more so than probably anywhere in Cape Horn that's for sure. It was certainly the worst weather I had in the whole 206 days. I have very good conditions now, sea temperature is up and it's certainly warmer than anything since Cape Town. It's starting to feel normal again."

Jeremy, a competitive sailor, found motivation in the Chichester Class, by trying to clock the best time in the fleet between the Hobart Gate and the finish. He sliced the remaining segments into steps: South Atlantic High, doldrums, Azores high and Bay of Biscay, but before that he needs to go through another significant storm bearing down on him on April Fools' Day.

With Puffin and Ian Herbert-Jones (GBR) back sailing, now south of Staten Islands, all the fleet are in the Atlantic. Despite moving to Chichester Class, Ian is in good spirits. He has completed all repairs, got the green light from the Chilean Armada and left under snow in serene conditions.

"We're on our way again! Thanks 100% to the amazing Carol and Mark on SY Jonathan, all repairs completed at anchor. Heading home."

The GGR Assistant Race Director, Lutz Kohne (GER) is taking a break from shepherding solo-round-the-world sailors to prepare his own GGR 2026. He has left the Vendée today after 18 months living in Les Sables d'Olonne, adding French, local wine and oyster knowledge to his other known skills of Political Scientist and Sauna Master. He is currently on his way to the Chesapeake Bay to pick up his Rustler 36 (One & All - Ex GGR 2018 Uku Randmaa) prior his biggest solo sail to date: a solo transatlantic between the US and Les Sables d'Olonne, hence his out of office message: "Sorry I can't take your call at the moment, I'm busy preparing my solo-transatlantic crossing!"

Good luck Lutz and see you soon in Les Sables d'Olonne!

Track the fleet here.

2022 GGR entrants to date current positions:
1. Kirsten Neuschäfer (39) / South Africa / Cape George 36 - "MINNEHAHA"
2. Abhilash Tomy (43) / India / Rustler 36 - "BAYANAT"
3. Michael Guggenberger (44) / Austria / Biscay 36 - "NURI"

2022 GGR Chichester Class:
1. Simon Curwen (63) / UK / Biscay 36 - "CLARA"
2. Jeremy Bagshaw (59) / South Africa / OE32 - "OLLEANNA"
3. Ian Herbert Jones (52) / UK / Tradewind 35 - "PUFFIN"

2022 GGR Retired:
1. Edward Walentynowicz, (Canada), Rustler 36, Noah's Jest
2. Guy deBoer, (USA), Tashiba 36, Spirit
3. Mark Sinclair (Australia), Lello 34, Coconut
4. Pat Lawless, (Ireland), Saltram Saga 36, Green Rebel
5. Damien Guillou, (France), Rustler 36, PRB
6. Ertan Beskardes, (UK), Rustler 36, Lazy Otter
7. Tapio Lehtinen, (Finland), Gaia 36, Asteria
8. Arnaud Gaist, (France), Barbican 33 Mk 2, Hermes Phoning
9. Elliot Smith, (USA), Gale Force 34, Second Wind
10. Guy Waites (UK), Tradewind 35, Sagarmatha

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