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Golden Globe Race Day 164: Kirsten Neuschäfer first around Cape Horn

by Golden Globe Race 16 Feb 2023 07:57 PST

The Golden Globe Race is all about the stories! A human adventure of months alone struggling to get back to Les Sables d'Olonne France where it all began. Day 164 was a big one!

While Kirsten was flying around Cape Horn, just 300 miles north Abhilash was struggling in heavy weather on a dangerous lee shore, with the tiller lashed and a broken windvane unable to tack to safety. Meanwhile Michael Guggenberger 1000 miles to the Northwest was sailing down to Cape Horn in near perfect weather that may hold for some time.

It's been an eventful month of February for Kirsten Neuschäfer (ZAF), finally rounding Cape Horn at 2020 UTC 15th Feb. She moved to first place after 150 days of racing and since had to face two storms, breaking a spinnaker pole and taking down her massive twin sail alone on a Minnehaha rocked by the residual swell.

With the final 10,000 miles to Les Sables on her mind and sensing pressure on her beloved yacht, she sails a conservative course further and longer towards the north-east to avoid the stronger winds and sea in the first front on February 7th, trailing warps and nursing Minnehaha in the ensuing storm. Then finally a southerly course South of Diego Ramirez Islands creating sea room the Chilean coast before finally heading up for a long look at the infamous final Cape of the course. A treasured memory!.

With over 240,000 miles sailing experience she knows this area very well sailing many times as a commercial skipper to Antarctica. But this is the first time she crosses the Pacific solo to get around. The famous rock was surrounded by squalls that forced her to make continuous adjustments, poling the Yankee and reducing sails when necessary. Despite all the action, she could hardly speak during her safety call because of the cold shortly before rounding.

"It feels good to be that close, it's been very rewarding to spot the Diego Ramirez islands. I was hoping to see the lighthouse but saw the land when the twilight came. This was really nice and felt really special. I'm looking forward to rounding the Cape, Staten Island and the Falklands, back into the open ocean." Kirsten Neuschäfer, Minnehaha

In the past days heading to the Horn, the GGR 2018 veteran Abhilash Tomy (IND) was more exposed to the wind and waves, with 40 knots, gusting 60 which he later said it was closer to "60 knots sustained with occasional lulls in the 40" meaning his Rustler had suffered some damage as he explained in his safety call.

The storm repairs, strong weather and waiting for the right conditions to climb the mast meant Bayanat sailed further east than planned. He was getting close to the coast of Chile, a dangerous lee shore and he knew it.

At the worst possible time in 30kts gusting 40kts pressing him toward the coast, at 0852 UTC 15th Feb. he rang GGR control to advise his Wind Pilot wind vane pendulum rudder failed again. He had lashed the tiller and was considering all options. He was unable to sail away from the coast and his current course was intersecting with it in about 10 hours. The wind was expected to drop before then.

He has been facing wind vane issues since the Atlantic many months ago. He had used all his spare pendulum blades. He had been making spare blades by cutting up Bayanat's chart table which is now gone. He first has to stay away from the lee shore, and the Race Office provides him with his position, weather and sea state information. He was unsure if he would all be able to continue racing without a wind vane, or have to stop for spares, continuing his round the world journey in Chichester Class.

Eventually, many hours later, he called to report that he was able to cut a blade from the boat's main emergency rudder, after a first try with the toilet door proved to be too weak. He hoped it would last at least a few days. He further reported that he hit his head in the tough conditions but was OK. At 0000 UTC, February 16th he finally tacked away just 11 miles off the coast of Chile with 250 miles to Cape Horn.

"One of the biggest challenges of the GGR is getting the Planning right. That includes so many issues including the choice of equipment, the amount of spares to take etc and that is way before the Preparation which in itself is also critically important. Wind Vanes are one of the most important when you are on such a demanding adventure. The 2018 GGR was an epic story. The 2022 GGR is shaping up as an amazing story with so many unexpected twists and turns. Who will be the first home and how many will make it? Real adventures always have an unknown outcome! " Don McIntyre, GGR Founder and Chairman

Michael Guggenberger (AUT) is now only 1100 miles from Cape Horn in a strong position. He continues to ride nothing but favourable weather all the way across the Pacific which looks likely to continue for the next week! Equally for Ian Herbert Jones (GBR) who has been working hard all week with a high-pressure system that hampered his progress East, is also facing some issues, notably the lack of drinking water on board after his fresh water tanks got fouled. He still has about 3400 Miles to Cape Horn and is a little apprehensive about the challenge ahead. He knows he is late in the season being the last in the fleet. His ETA at the horn is late March.

Chichester Class is no holiday!

Chichester Class entrants progress is not going exactly as the weather gods had planned. Jeremy Bagshaw (ZAF) had to climb all the way up to 43 degrees to keep moving only to be swallowed by the same high pressure as Ian. Both Jeremy and Ian will have NW to WNW winds for the rest of the week, pushing them in the right direction at last, albeit in confused seas for the next few days.

Simon Curwen (GBR) the British sailor who led the GGR for 150 days before a detour of a thousand miles to Chile to repair his broken Hydrovane moved him to Chichester Class. Completing a long list of little jobs, he finally left Puerto Montt on Monday 13th February. Breaking out from the fiords he found himself unable to progress towards Cape Horn.

The strong 30K South Westerlies were only allowing him to sail NW away from the Horn with negative VMG, or leading him back towards the coast. He needed to seek refuge and called the Race Office which provided him with options, and Simon decided to safely moor on a buoy in a sheltered bay south of Chiloé Island where he is waiting for the southerlies to decrease before starting again on Friday 16. Simon is less than a thousand miles from Cape Horn, but on the other side of the high pressure, meaning he may have to tack his way south.

With three boats now bound for Cape Horn in the week ahead, there are more stories developing for sure!

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"
4. Ian Herbert Jones (52) / UK / Tradewind 35 - "PUFFIN"

2022 GGR Chichester Class:

1. Simon Curwen (63) / UK / Biscay 36 - "CLARA"
2. Jeremy Bagshaw (59) / South Africa / OE32 - "OLLEANNA"

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

Track the fleet here.

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