GGR NEWS – 900 miles to a Hero’s welcome in Les Sables d’Olonne

  • Abhilash Tomy and Kirsten Neuschäfer trading places one week from the finish after 229 days and 29000 miles.
  • First GGR sailors in Les Sables d’Olonne expected for Labour Day week-end, 29/30th April. Come and welcome them into the Channel!
  • Ian Herbert Jones back on land in Cape Town today

Dateline: Les Sables d’Olonne, Friday, 21st of April, 2023

229 days from the start with just one week till the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne with 29.000 miles under the keel, Abhilash Tomy (IND) BAYANAT and Kirsten Neuschäfer (ZAF) are now separated by only a few miles. This is an incredibly tight finish for the two fantastic sailors who have led the fleet since February after Simon Curwen (GBR) HOWDENS moved into Chichester Class.
On paper, the situation looked dire for Kirsten Neuschafer last week. She had lost all of her lead in the very wide doldrums, and Bayanat the Rustler 36 of Abhilash Tomy is a better boat for the all-round conditions of the North Atlantic, with upwind, downwind in the medium to light conditions. Abhilash had made a bold move over the last weekend, tacking to the NNE with negative VMG, in pursuit of the low pressure that was pushing the high away. He did lose precious miles in the operation, but the payback was well worth it as he sailed in more wind, longer, and a better angle, catching up on Kirsten and finally snatching the lead on Wednesday! Nursing a wounded boat home, Abhilash is skirting the low pressure, constantly arbitrating between speed and safety, keeping the boat together for a safe return. Today, he tweeted that his starboard runner broke but that he was doing a repair.

Kirsten still has a few cards up her sleeve however. The wind will be fair and downwind for both sailors after April 21st once the low pressure north of Abhilash has gone east. They will then surf the Atlantic swell all the way to Cape Finisterre and the entry of the last -but not least- stretch to Les Sables d’Olonne. They will be side by side entering the Bay of Biscay and that means Kirsten will be virtually one day ahead of Abhilash when you account for Kirstens 23-hour net time compensation from Tapio’s rescue.

The Bay of Biscay presents plenty of challenges in the last 400 miles to Les Sables d’Olonne, with highly localised and fast changing weather systems and where both fishing and shipping traffic are intense. The skippers cannot let their guards down after more than 230 days at sea. There is sure to be true suspense as both navigate this last obstacle that will decide the winner of the toughest game on the planet!

Minnehaha is in fine form and Kirsten is pushing as hard as she can, flying the spinnaker on her bowsprit and racking up miles. In fact, she has posted the best 24-hours and 7-day distance of the last 30 days as per the GGR Underground page curated by Jonathan Endersby. Also, she has proven time after time how resourceful she is in making most of the cards she’s dealt with, and not shy of bold options that have paid-off more often than not.

Ian Herbert Jones arrived safely in Cape Town today onboard the ZI DA WANG having been rescued from Puffin following her dismasting during a rollover on April 10th. It was previously reported that Puffin was scuttled and had sunk, but Ian did not have time during the “Do or Die” rescue that took place. She was known to be drifting as her satellite tracker lost power, but her status is unknown. Ian is very grateful to all involved, especially the exceptional hospitality of the master and crew of ZI DA WANG during this repatriation voyage to Cape Town.

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