Golden Globe fleet approaching Lanzarote

There has been plenty of drama in the Golden Globe race, as boats and sailors had their first shake-down in the Bay of Biscay, a steadfast Pat Lawless (IRL) leading the way.

Ertan Beskardes (UK) had an electrical short, later knocking himself out after falling into the cockpit. Guy deBoer (USA) became seasick for the first time and lost all radio contact. Race favourite, Damien Guillou (FR), was headed back to Les Sables d’Olonne with a broken windvane, unsure he could make the start line in time. Edward Walentynowicz (CAN) retired, pondering another participation in 2026.

What change a week makes!
Simon Curwen (UK) and Tapio Lehtinen (FIN) are now in a solid lead of the fleet, sailing close by and emulating each other into high daily mileage.

Abhilash Tomy (India) sailing Bayavanat is happy to be racing again – Nora Havel pic

Meanwhile, Pat Lawless (Ireland), who made a fantastic start, got lost on his east option, letting the leaders escape. He also allowed the western group of Abhilash Tomy (IND), Guy deBoer (USA) and Kirsten Neuschäfer (SA) to close in as the routes are converging 100 miles from the Lanzarote gate.

Guy deBoer, who has been breaking blocks on a steady basis since the start, has narrowly avoided a collision with a fishing boat by 5 metres, as he tells in last Wednesday’s dramatic satellite phone call available on the GGR Soundcloud.

Kirsten Neuschäfer has been averaging 7.5 knots – Nora Havel pic

Early last week, investigating a strange noise while climbing out of the companionway, deBoer was shocked to find a large green fishing boat dead ahead. He rushed to the helm, cutting his leg in the process, but avoided collision by just 15 feet. The captain was screaming from the bridge, unable to alter course. deBoer then sailed straight across the towed fishing net, fortunately not hooking up!

During the confused seas of the first week, the American was thrown across the cabin and damaged his AIS detector alarm, so it did not respond. For some reason, the fishing boat did not see his AIS transponder, nor call him on the VHF.

Before Edward Walentynowicz’s retirement, he was giving weatherfax reports to the fleet. Now deBoer, whose leg is healing well, has become the official weatherman, sharing his Weatherwax info on the regular HF Radio buddy chats.

At 27 Elliot Smith is the youngest and least experienced in the fleet – Nora Havel pic

Elliott Smith (USA) reports an issue with the through deck mast collar packing, damaged in the first week, allowing movement of the mast. Smith knows he must somehow repair it well before the grinding South Atlantic trades forward of the beam. He was happy about the companionway dodger built in the past few days and says it will help keep the spray out. However, there is a constant leak from his hull deck rub rail that has to be solved.

Unfazed by her average start and coming unscathed out of Biscay, Kirsten Neuschäfer has been posting impressive high average speeds, catching up, and now casting away from the chase group.

It is clear that Minnehaha, Neuschäfer’s Cape George 36, is quick, with the gennaker up and helming as much as she can, to make up for lost ground. She is posting a spectacular come back in the forefront, as is deBoer, who is power reaching under an asymmetric spinnaker happy with the speed potential.

Abhilash Tomy’s Rustler 36 is a lighter, less powerful yacht, perceived by many as having the best all-round performance. It is still holding the former two off, but until when? The Rustler 36 may not be the fastest boat in the fleet, as many have believed since Jean-Luc Van Den Heede’s win in the 2018 GGR.

Pat’s Saga 36, which showed great potential in the strong winds of the first week, seems less at ease in the current lighter winds. In front, Tapio’s Gaia 36 with fine entry, high ballast ratio, deep draft and low freeboard is shining through and through in all weathers and points of sail, whereas Simon Curwen’s Biscay 36, still manages to hold him off.

Damien Guillou (FR), also on a Rustler 36, is working hard on his comeback. Back in Les Sables d’Olonne with a broken wind vane bracket axle, he had Vincent Riou and Jacques Fort reinforcing the support bracket. They switched the 10mm bolt for 12mm, adding an extra bracket for strength, before leaving six days after the rest of the fleet.

Since then, Guillou has sailed through unstable winds out of Biscay and has been consistently posting daily averages in the top of the fleet. His seven seasons racing Solitaire du Figaro are certainly coming handy.

Most importantly, all boats are now out of Biscay. None of them has had meaningful interactions with Orcas, despite an early fright for Elliott Smith (USA), when two Orcas visited his boat, but did not bite.

Most sailors seem to have stopped hurting themselves now, except for Guy Waites (UK), who had a ‘disagreement’ between Sagarmatha’s boom and his head!

All skippers are finally enjoying some time off the wind with a decent sea state, rising temperatures and barometers, posting good speeds on a straight line to Lanzarote. The leaders are expected into the Rubicon Marina film drop at 2000hrs UTC today, Friday 26 September, with the first 10 sailors expected through in the first 30 hours.

Each sailor must approach the Lanzarote film drop buoy 300 metres south of Rubicon Marina with a reefed mainsail. When abeam they drop all headsails and sail slowly for 20 minutes passing over films and letters before hoisting full sail to continue the race.

Departing the film drop, sailors will face a wind hole forming Saturday between the Azores and Lisbon. It is set to gradually come down over the Canaries on Sunday and stay there until late Monday. This may create a first weather gate between the leaders and the ones in pursuit, followed by the doldrums on their way to the next mark: Trindade island in Brazil.

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