High emotion as the 2022 Golden Globe Race sets off around the world

-16 skippers départ Les Sables d’Olonne for a 30,000 mile nine month race around the world.
-Thousands cheer the skippers for a huge send-off in the mythical channel with 21 gun salute.
-Damien Guillou, Simon Curwen and Kirsten Neuschäfer lead the fleet towards Cape Finisterre
-Fair weather conditions for the first 24 hours and two options for the fleet with strong headwinds forecast.
-Aleix Selles on the start line testing his jury rig test, hoping to leave in one week!

Dateline: Les Sables d’Olonne, Sunday, 4th of September 2022

Emotions ran high as family and friends bid farewell to 16 skippers setting out from Les Sables d’Olonne on one of the most gruelling challenges on the planet. The Golden Globe Race is a solo non stop voyage sailing small 32-36 ft old fashion yachts without technology and no assistance . Following years of intense preparations and safety checks, the thought of 9 months of total isolation with only high frequency radios to speak with family was daunting.

The people of Sables d’Olonne were present in high numbers to cheer the GGR competitors and in the two weeks of the race village which drew 5000 visitors per day. Thousands lined the wall along the mythical channel of Sables d’Olonne where classic and historic yachts, competitors of the Golden Globe Race, traditional Olonnois yachts and local yachts paraded towards the startline.

Robin Knox-Johnston, Tapio Lehtinen, and the next generation of sailors. Picture Credit: Nora Havel / GGR2022
Robin Knox-Johnston, Tapio Lehtinen, and the next generation of sailors. Picture Credit: Nora Havel / GGR2022

“We couldn’t have wished for a better home port for the GGR than Les Sables d’Olonne” said Don McIntyre, President and Founder of the race, ” To watch the sailors depart the marina was both humbling, exciting and electric. We were all swept up in the emotion and human spirit on display. Trying to imagine the hardships and joy these sailors and dreamers will experience in the months ahead was hard. ”

The skippers were ready to go following years of preparations. It was time! The starting line was between Tapio Lethenin’s Swan 55 Galiana and L’Esprit d’Equipe of local skipper Lionel Régnier, both Ocean Globe Race entrants. The Official start vessel was Guépard, a French Navy training ship of which the town of Les Sables d’Olonne is the godmother. The official starter was Sir Robin Knox Johnston supported by the Mayor Yannick Moreau, and the founder of the GGR, Don McIntyre.

Prologue, bis repetita?

It was Britain’s Simon Curwen who crossed the line first, followed shortly by France’s Damien Guillou on PRB, later joined by Kirsten Neuschäfer. The trio who led the previous Gijon prologue quickly took the lead of the fleet towards Cape Finisterre, 350 miles south-west of Les Sables d’Olonne, which they are expected to reach in 3 to 4 days.

The British mini sailor Simon Curwen (UK) onboard his Biscay 36 "Clara",took the best start of the day! Picture Credit: Les Sables d'Olonne.
GGR2022 START DAY, 20220904, Simon Curwen (UK) onboard his Biscay 36 “Clara”. Picture Credit: Les Sables d’Olonne.

The former Classe Mini and Figaro sailor and the South African ocean navigator will be keen to set a strong pace to the rest of the fleet in the early hours of the race to implement their respective strategies. This should see them seeking the low pressure system to the west before descending to the tip of Cape Finisterre. Strong headwinds, avoiding coastal traffic and possible interactions with orcas along the Galician coast are just some of the challenges ahead.

Popular local French sailor Arnaud Gaist broke the start line by about 1 minute and was asked by the official starter to recross the line. He failed to do so. This will be addressed later, but as he sails the smallest yachts in the fleet so it is not expected to have any real impact.

Christian Dumard, the meteorologist for legendary races such as the Vendée Globe, the Volvo Ocean Race and the Mini Transat, shares his analysis: “The conditions for the first few days of the race are going to be tough. After a start in good conditions, the low-pressure system to the west of the Celtic Sea will bring strong south westerly winds. It will be followed at the end of next week by the remains of cyclone Danielle, which formed in the middle of the Atlantic. It is therefore in a prevailing SW to W flow that the competitors will sail to Cape Finisterre, then probably to the latitude of Lisbon. The sea will be rough with waves of up to 4 metres. They will then be able to hit the Portuguese trade winds, the famous northerly winds that will enable them to sail downwind towards the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Archipelago.”

There are two options in the immediate future: westwards towards heavy weather for the skippers who will want to make the difference during the first 24 hours, and a route favouring milder but more uncertain winds along the Asturian and Galician coastline. This choice, early in the race, could well lead to the first split of the fleet into 2 groups.

The Spaniard Aleix Selles, still waiting for his mast, chose to sail alongside the fleet and test his jury rig on his Rustler 36 Onsoro. According to the Notice of Race, he may have one more week to rejoin the Race and cross the start line south of Nouch, and benefit from good weather conditions. He is determined and could well add another twist to this 2022 edition.
Next stop, Lanzarote!

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2022 GGR entrants to date:

  1. Abhilash Tomy (43) / India / Rustler 36
  2. Arnaud Gaist (50) / France / BARBICAN 33 MKII (long keel version)
  3. Damien Guillou (39) / France / Rustler 36
  4. Edward Walentynowicz (68) / Canada / Rustler 36
  5. Elliott Smith (27) / USA / Gale Force 34
  6. Ertan Beskardes (60) / UK / Rustler 36
  7. Guy deBoer (66) / USA / Tashiba 36
  8. Guy Waites (54) / UK / Tradewind 35
  9. Ian Herbert Jones (52) / UK / Tradewind 35
  10. Jeremy Bagshaw (59) / South Africa / OE32
  11. Kirsten Neuschäfer (39) / South Africa / Cape George 36
  12. Mark Sinclair (63) / Australia / Lello 34
  13. Michael Guggenberger (44) / Austria / Biscay 36
  14. Pat Lawless (66) / Ireland / Saga 36
  15. Simon Curwen (63) / UK / Biscay 36
  16. Tapio Lehtinen (64) / Finland / Gaia 36 Masthead sloop
Race Yachts
West Systems
Jeanneau JY60
Race Yachts
Cyclops Marine