Launch of the Golden Globe Race: 16 sailors prepare for 9 months of isolation


The 2022 Golden Globe Race, the “retro” race inspired by the first non-stop solo round the world race in 1968, kicked off today for its second race in modern times.

Sixteen sailors – 15 men and one woman – set off from Les Sables d’Olonne today, for the 2022 Golden Globe Race, the non-stop solo “retro” round the world race which is expected to last up to 9 months.

The Golden Globe Race, which eschews modern technology, sees skippers compete on “vintage” production yachts, without regular access to modern communication or navigation systems, making it one of the sporting events most isolated from the world.

The fleet of 16 boats in the Golden Globe Race leaves Les Sables d’Olonne

Rocky start to the 2022 Golden Globe Race

The fleet left western France today in sunshine and light winds, but a North Atlantic depression is expected to bring stronger headwinds soon.

Meteorologist Christian Dumard explains: “After a good start, the depression to the west of the Celtic Sea will bring sustained winds from the southwest. It will be followed next weekend by the remnants of Cyclone Danielle, which formed in the middle of the Atlantic. It is therefore in a dominant south-west to west flow that the competitors will sail to Cape Finisterre, then probably to the latitude of Lisbon. A sea state will form with waves up to 4 meters. The skippers will then be able, hopefully, to hold on to the Portuguese trade winds, these famous northerly winds, which will allow them to sail downwind towards the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde archipelago.

A split is expected to form in the fleet, those confident of pushing themselves and their yachts in the early days should head west for stronger breezes, while those seeking milder but more uncertain should embrace the Spanish coast.

The famous Sables d’Olonne canal lined with crowds to see the fleet offshore

Golden Globe Race returners

The entry list is diverse, with a wide range of nationalities, motivations and sailing experiences across the fleet.

It includes four returning skippers. Finnish skipper Tapio Lehtinen is the only sailor to complete the Golden Globe Race in 2018/19 who is entering it for the second time. He finished as the 5th and final participant to complete the course non-stop, despite significant barnacle growth slowing his progress to a crawl. He comes back with the same yacht, but with – hopefully – greatly improved dirt protection.

Australian Mark Sinclair, known as “Captain Coconut”, is also back. Sinclair completed his circumnavigation after initially setting off in Adelaide in 2018, then restarting to race in the 2022 race. He endured inclement weather on the return journey both rounding Cape Horn and crossing Biscay, and was in for a run against the clock to prepare his Lello 34 in order to be ready for his second start in the race.

Ertan Beskardes is another comeback, who left in 2018 but retired early feeling unprepared. While Indian sailor Abhilash Tomy is one of the fleet’s most famous skippers, he was rescued in spectacular fashion after being knocked down, dismasted and seriously injured during the 2018 race. spine, he is reinstated with a Rustler 36.

Tapio Lehtinen’s S&S designed Gaia 36 is the oldest yacht in the race. Photo: Ocean Boundaries OGR/GGR/CG580

Choice of retro yachts

The Rustler 36s dominated the last race, with the top four in classic British design. This year four more Rustlers will be competing, including one of the likely favorites, Damien Gillou’s PRB. Gillou is a well-known ocean racer and boat captain who has meticulously prepared many IMOCA 60s and grand prix racing boats, and his PRB is a stunning example of how to bring a production cruising yacht up to spec. race.

Other highly regarded competitors include Simon Curwen, a British sailor who lives partly in France, and who also holds the record for the best Mini Transat result achieved by a British sailor solo when he finished 2nd in 2001 ahead of a draw other than Yannick Bestaven, the winner of the last Vendée Globe.

Kirsten Neuschäfer is the only female skipper in this year’s race and was the skipper many of her competitors named as looking fast on the water in her Cape George 36 cutter. Neuschäfer worked with Skip Novak on expedition sails, so he is well versed in sailing and preparing a yacht for the Southern Ocean.

American skipper Elliott Smith is the youngest participant in the Golden Globe Race

Each skipper has a unique story to tell. Pat Lawless is following in his father’s footsteps, having been the first Irishman to circumnavigate the globe solo, aged 70. Guy Waites is returning to single-handed racing, after taking part in the Jester Challenge 10 years ago in a Contessa 26, then in two Clipper Round the World Races, as mate and skipper. American sailor Guy de Boer has campaigned in the Olympic classes but has yet to cross an ocean solo, while fellow sailor Elliot Smith is the youngest entry, aged 27.

Updates for the 2022 Golden Globe Race

For the second edition of the race, there have been significant changes. The departure date has been moved from early July to September, to ensure that the fleet does not arrive in the south in the middle of winter, and also that those making the return trip through Biscay avoid European winter storms.

There are also more obligatory markings of the course – including bypassing the Brazilian island of Trinidade to port and the ‘film drop’ gates at the Canary Islands, Cape Town, Tasmania and Punta del Este – which remove many tactical choices from the race.

Some skippers have expressed concern that the new route could turn it into something of a drag race, others that sailing closer to shore – and sailing – for the film drop gates by sextant without GPS or chartplotter could be potentially dangerous. However, organizers will want to avoid a repeat of 2018 which saw four boats abandoned in difficult rescues.

Changes have also been made to the authorized technology, which this year includes weather fax. However, the skippers’ only means of communication is through Single Side Band (SSB) HF Radio. They can monitor HAM radio, but are not allowed to transmit (an effort to avoid one of the controversies of the last race). They can hail other competitors or other ships for information, but are otherwise limited to what they can infer from sextants, barometers, and weather faxes.

Damien Guillou, Simon Curwen and Kirsten Neuschäfer has taken the lead – you can follow the fleet on

We will be posting regular updates on the progress of the fleet, while our sister title Monthly Yachting has the skipper profiles of each participant.


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