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Golden Globe Race

I learned long ago that it’s never smart to pick favorites in my line of work as a sailing journalist.

That said, I have a favorite in the 2022 Golden Globe Race, and I hope she wins. South African sailor Kirsten Neuschäfer took the lead in this retro race (read: old boats, no electronics, retro equipment) in late January, and she’s been demonstrating the kind of grit and gumption that commands international respect amongst mariners.

This isn’t to say that her pursuers are not worthy. Quite the contrary.

India’s Abhilash Tomy is a force to be reckoned with. The man withstood a rolling that dismasted his steed during the 2018 Golden Globe Race and was rescued at sea. Many people would arrive shore and hug a tree for the rest of their lives. Not Tomy. He instead sorted out a new whip and -as of this writing – is roughly 100 nautical miles astern of Neuschäfer.

 Kirsten has saved her leadership out of sheer determination in the face of overwhelming odds, and now has fresh winds filling Minnehaha’s sails! Can she hold on? © GGR / Nora Havel

While Neuschäfer had enjoyed a far grander lead just a week ago, Tomy’s more westerly routing through the doldrums proved faster, and he spent the last week whittling down Neuschäfer’s margin. While this experience likely wasn’t pleasant for Neuschäfer, she is now out of the doldrums and is making 4.6 knots of VMG towards the finishing line Les Sables-d’Olonne, France.

Some 2,150 nautical miles separate these skippers from their first real meal in a long time. (Neuschäfer’s corrected elapsed time, as of this writing, is 237 days, 22 hours, 0 minutes, and 6 seconds.) Not to diminish the massive Leg 3 in The Ocean Race, which took teams from Cape Town, South Africa to Itajai, Brazil, but the 36-some days required to sail this 12,750 nautical mile leg don’t feel so massive (chronologically speaking) compared to what the GGR skippers have endured. Alone.

Kirsten Neuschäfer (ZA) on MINNEHAHA currently leading the race - photo © Kirsten / GGR2022
Kirsten Neuschäfer (ZA) on MINNEHAHA currently leading the race – photo © Kirsten / GGR2022

It should also be noted that 31 skippers started the GGR. Now, several hundred days into this race, only three sailors— Neuschäfer, Tomy, and Austrian Michael Guggenberger—are still in the hunt for the overall trophy, while several others skippers have resigned themselves to competing in the Chinchester Class (skippers are shifted to this class if they have to use electronics or stop for repairs, etc).

Ian Herbert Jones (52) / UK / Tradewind 35 - 'Puffin' - photo © Ian Herbert Jones / GGR2022
Ian Herbert Jones (52) / UK / Tradewind 35 – ‘Puffin’ – photo © Ian Herbert Jones / GGR2022

News arrived overnight (Monday, April 10) that UK skipper Ian Herbert Jones, who is racing in the Chinchester Class, encountered a massive storm, with gusts reportedly in the 90-knot range and 25-plus foot seas, as well as counter seas. While Puffin was sailing under bare poles, Jones’ boat was rolled in these conditions, dismasting his steed, hurting his back, and leaving him with a gash on his head. Jones, injured, activated his EPIRB, and is awaiting rescue.

Talk about an attrition rate… by our math, only 9.7 percent of the starting fleet is still racing; flip the script on these percentages, and it also equates to a 90-plus percent attrition rate.

Sail-World wishes all GGR sailors safe and (relatively) fast passage to the finishing line, and we have a candle lit for Jones.

Team Malizia's sailing crew after they crossed the finish line of Leg 3 in first position - The Ocean Race - photo © Ricardo Pinto / Team Malizia
Team Malizia’s sailing crew after they crossed the finish line of Leg 3 in first position – The Ocean Race – photo © Ricardo Pinto / Team Malizia

As mentioned, the four teams competing in The Ocean Race recently finished their monster Leg 3. After 35-plus days of racing, skipper Boris Herrmann’s Team Malizia took the win, followed by skipper Kevin Escoffier’s Team Holcim PRB roughly six hours later.

Let’s ponder that for a second.

Two boats just sailed more than 12,750 nautical miles and finished within a quarter of a day of each other?

Team HOLCIM - PRB - The Ocean Race - photo © Georgia Schofield | PolaRYSE | Holcim-PRB
Team HOLCIM – PRB – The Ocean Race – photo © Georgia Schofield | PolaRYSE | Holcim-PRB

As someone who well remembers the days of the Whitbread Race and The Volvo Ocean Race, where entire days would sometimes separate winners from second-place teams, this is a jaw-dropping metric, made even more impressive by the amount of MacGyvering at sea that took place, especially aboard Team Malizia, who were in danger of losing a piece of their rig at one point.

“Winning this leg is an unreal moment, it’s taking time to realize what we have achieved, that the dream is coming true,” said Herrmann in an official release.

These teams were joined on the podium by American Charlie Enright’s 11th Hour Racing team, which also dealt with serious amounts of repair work at sea (read: cracked rudders and a demolished mainsail).

11th Hour Racing Team takes third place on leg 3 of the The Ocean Race 2022-23 - photo © Sailing Energy / The Ocean Race
11th Hour Racing Team takes third place on leg 3 of the The Ocean Race 2022-23 – photo © Sailing Energy / The Ocean Race

Frenchman Paul Meilhat led his Biotherm team to a fourth-place finish.

Leg 4, which will take the teams from Itajai to Newport, Rhode Island (5,550 nautical miles), is set to begin on April 23.

Finally, in Olympic sailing circles, the 52 Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mallorca Iberostar regatta (March 31 to April 8) just wrapped up on the waters of the Bay of Palma. While there are plenty of great results to be celebrated, sadly, the Champagne will stay in the wine fridges in North America, as U.S. and Canadian-flagged sailors failed to break into the top three in any class.

In fact, the best results from either country were realized by Daniela Moroz (USA), who took fourth place in the Women’s Formula Kite class.

Daniela Moroz in action in Cagliari's Poetto - Sardinia Grand Slam - Formula Kite World Championship - photo © IKA Media
Daniela Moroz in action in Cagliari’s Poetto – Sardinia Grand Slam – Formula Kite World Championship – photo © IKA Media

The other top-ten results were realized by Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea (USA) in the 49erFX class, and by Stuart McNay and Lara Dallman-Weiss (USA), who took eighth place in the Mixed 470 class.

While it’s nice to be in the top ten, given that the Paris 2024 Olympics begin in just 473 days, American and Canadian sailors need to find an extra gear, and fast, if they hope to medal at next summer’s Games.

by David Schmidt

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