GGR DAY179 – Kirsten and Abhilash fighting for lead and two new Cape Horners!

  • South African Kirsten Neuschafer and Indian Abhilash Tomy fighting for the lead leaving the Southern Ocean.
  • Simon Curwen (GBR) Howdens and Michael Guggenberger (AUT) NURI are the world’s latest, round-the-world solo Cape Horners!
  • Jeremy Bagshaw, 1200 miles from Cape Horn, getting cold, sailing fast but will the storms stay away?
  • Upwind, no wind and Crotch rot! Tail ender Ian Herbert Jones needs all the British Humour he has left in him!
    Dateline: Les Sables d’Olonne, Friday, 3rd of March, 2023

In August 2015 Michael Guggenbergger read a magazine announcing the 50th anniversary edition of the first ever 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. It would start from Les Sables d’Olonne in three years! He immediately sent his entry and his life began to change. He bought a boat, sold his house and focused on the challenge ahead. A few years later his dream met reality and it all fell apart. Beaten by time and money he kept pushing forward. Eight years later, following weeks of storms, and utter determination, Captain GUGG finally sailed solo around Cape Horn, at 0228hrsUTC 26th Feb.(eating NURI chilli sardines!) 175 days and 21000 miles after setting out from Les Sables d’olonne in France. His Biscay 36 NURI is in great shape and he is relieved, emotional and a little sad that it is all coming to an end. He has 7000 miles and nine weeks to sail to the finish and is now running in third place.

Simon Curwen (GBR) sailing HOWDENS another Biscay 36 had a dream to sail solo around the world. He had previously come 2nd in the Classe Mini Transat Race and faced many sailing challenges, including falling overboard while sailing solo in the English Channel. The British sailor led the GGR for 150 days thanks to his razor-sharp skills, and beautifully prepared yacht, but storm damage 1000 miles from the Horn required a stop for repairs and a change to the one stop Chichester Class. Now back at sea he is racing hard even though no longer in the rankings. The fun and challenge is still there and he sails for les Sables with racing spirit and passion. He rounded Cape Horn at 23:34hrs UTC on the 25th of Feb just hours ahead of Capt Gugg, in mild weather close enough at dawn for a picture and a VHF chat with the light house Sergeant Jose Luarte who lives on the island with his family.

While it’s been tough getting to Cape Horn the twin Biscay 36 have had more frustrations continuing on toward the Falkland Islands with elusive winds, unstable in both force and direction, alternating nothingness of Squalls with violent fronts and lows. Both skippers are getting little sleep! Simon is slowly pulling away from NURI and enjoying the close racing.

Both newly crowned Cape Horners received congratulatory messages from Sir Robin Knox Johnston, winner of the first 1968 GGR and Chairman of the International Association of Cape Horners. Meanwhile, 1100 miles North of them, Kirsten Neuschäfer (ZAF) and Abhilash Tomy (IND) are fighting hard for the lead. Both have officially left the roaring 40s and are entering the Horse Latitudes, enjoying warmer conditions and lighter winds after months of cold and damp weather. There is no such thing as a dry sleeping bag down south!

Out of the South but not out of trouble!

It hasn’t been plain sailing for either of them. Early in the week Kirsten held a 400-mile lead over Abhilash, but was hit by a northerly front while sailing north. Pounding into 35 knots, gusting 50 head winds, she was forcing her to “Hove To” (rather than lose ground running south) for the first time since the race began, just as she thought the southern oceans were behind her! Abhilash 400 Miles South and West of her, had easier weather, keeping downwind conditions for longer and further reducing the Kirstens lead. He is still -however- plagued with more electrical problems as he shared in his safety call but at least he got another 30 litres of fresh water since Cape Horn making life a lot easier!

Kirsten has been stuck in a vast barometric swamp these past few days. Today there is no leader. Abhilash is 600 miles west of Uruguay and Kirsten 1200 miles west. They are side by side! Bayanat, in theory, is faster in light winds. With the change of winds, compressing the fleet, and the different positions on the Atlantic playground there will be a lot of options -albeit slow- to play with for both sailors. It might be warmer, but next week does not look like a holiday either! The race is now wide open and for the only woman sailor, the challenge is very real! For Abhilash Tomy, who crashed out badly in the 2018 GGR, the podium is supremely attractive, no matter what has gone before!

Pacific adventures at the back of the fleet

Ian Herbert-Jones (GBR), the last GGR sailor to be forced north of the Pacific exclusion zone is famous for his sense of humour and the candid way he faces the prospects of a late Cape Horn crossing. He will need a lot more of both this week as the weather conspires against him. For weeks now he had either upwind conditions lengthening his route to the exit of the zone, or dead calms that made him drift in the wrong direction! As a result, he still has 200 miles to the end of the exclusion zone.

Puffin is dealing with the southern Oceans’ conditions better than her skipper, but Ian’s humour and determination will be precious for the next 2300 miles to Cape Horn! Picture Credit: GGR2022/ DD&JJ
Puffin is dealing with the southern Oceans’ conditions better than her skipper, but Ian’s humour and determination will be precious for the next 2300 miles to Cape Horn! Picture Credit: GGR2022/ DD&JJ

He is now the closest GGR sailor to Point Nemo, the most isolator position on earth, closer to the ISS than the closest, desolated land. He and Jeremy both received an alert from MRCC Chile to expect falling space junk over a six-day period! To make things worth, his extended stay in the cold weather and hostile conditions are taking a toll. Not only is he rationing himself on canned water after his tanks were contaminated, he now has to deal with “crotch rot” and various skin issues due to humidity as he explained in his last call. With 2100 miles to Cape horn and another 1200 to the warmer weather, his sense of humour seems his best asset right now!

Jeremy Bagshaw, 1200 miles from Cape Horn, getting cold, sailing fast but will the storms stay away? Picture Credit: GGR2022 / DD&JJ
Jeremy Bagshaw, 1200 miles from Cape Horn, getting cold, sailing fast but will the storms stay away? Picture Credit: GGR2022 / DD&JJ

Meanwhile, Jeremy Bagshaw (ZAF) on Oleanna is having a great time out of the Exclusion Zone entering the screaming fifties territories bound for Cape Horn 1200 miles away. He reports wearing six layers of clothing on top and five layers below the waist with still 5 degrees of latitude to drop south! It is getting cold. He continues to ride typical Southern Ocean weather with solid winds and five metre seas but has missed all the big storms to date. The forecast for the next five days looks reasonable, so he has cold fingers and toes crossed. He has been posting excellent average speeds in a variety of conditions, including a 4,5 knot VMC towards the Cape. But it looks like a big one may be coming!

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