There is a hot battle brewing in the North Atlantic and it’s time to start paying attention. The Golden Globe Race is a solo, unassisted, non-stop around-the-world race with a nod to the original event that took place in 1968 in terms of boat and equipment. In other words, a pretty dismal situation navigating by sextant and eating out of a can say nothing of having to read a book for entertainment. No one is streaming Netflix that’s for sure.
The race started 222 days ago out of Les Sables-d’Olonne, a seaside town on the west coast of France. Thirty-one entered, 16 started; there are just three left standing, well to be more precise, three left sailing, and the leaders are getting to within spitting distance of the finish line and the racing is close. Battling for the top of the podium are the lone female in the race, Kirsten Neuschäfer from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and Abilash Tomy, a former Navy commander in the Indian Navy. They are well ahead of the Austrian sailor Michael Guggenberger who is currently around 1,000 miles astern without too many passing lanes in his arsenal.
Abilash was an entrant in the 2018 race and was running a solid third place when an extreme storm deep in the Southern Indian Ocean rolled and dismasted his yacht. Tomy severely injured his back and was unable to move his legs. He was trapped below but able to send a short text message to race control and able to turn on his EPIRB.
After that all communication was lost. Three and a half days later, a French Government fisheries patrol vessel OSIRIS arrived at the scene. In terrible conditions the crew was able to recover Abhilash on a stretcher. He was later transferred to an Indian Navy vessel that had been sent to rescue him and two days after arriving in India titanium rods were inserted in his spine and 5 of his vertebrae were fused into one. Despite this, how do we say this, not-so-pleasant experience, Tomy came back for another try and at this point is lying in second place.
I have to admit that Kirsten Neuschäfer is my personal favorite because she is a fellow South African and cut her teeth working for my mate Skip Novak on his yacht Pelagic. Kirsten is no stranger to extreme weather having chartered out off Antarctica and so far the weather has thrown everything at her and she has taken it all in stride. Kirsten currently leads with just 1,747 miles to go to the finish. Abilash is some 41 miles astern and positioned quite far to the west. Ahead of them lies some complicated weather with the Azores High bound to dish up some tricky sailing conditions.
It’s well documented that the wind gods can reap havoc at any time as witnessed by the rolling, dismasting and subsequent rescue of British sailor Ian Herbert Jones earlier this week, so as the American baseball legend Yogi Berra said, “it ain’t over till it’s over.”
Watch this space – you can find the race tracker at https://goldengloberace.com/live-tracker. On the tracker you will notice the British sailor Simon Curwen. Although Curwen started as a GGR entrant he was forced to make a stop on the west coast of Chile and thus was relegated to the Chichester Class for those still racing, but having had to make a stop.
With all the foiling, record speeds and bluster of most offshore sailing these days it’s nice to know that pure adventure still exists and one-on-one boat racing still makes for an exciting story. – Brian Hancock