French favourite in the 2022 Golden Globe Race, Damien Guillou has left Les Sables d'Olonne after making repairs to his self-steering gear. Canadian Edward Walentynowicz has retired from the GGR 2022

French offshore sailor Damien Guillou is heading back towards the Golden Globe Race (GGR 2022) fleet having successfully fixed the Hydrovane self steering on his Rustler 36, PRB.

The 39-year-old returned to Les Sables d’Olonne on Friday morning after the starboard screw/axle windvane attachment at the transom broke while sailing in 30 knots of wind and heavy seas in the Bay of Biscay. All of the skippers have been battling for days against 25-30 knot southwesterly headwinds.

Under GGR 2022 rules, he is allowed to return to Les Sables d’Olonne to make repairs and restart the race without any penalties as long as he leaves by 1600  UTC on the 11 September 2022.

‘I was going upwind close-hauled in strong headwinds and heavy seas, which is not a point of sail where the windvane is under strong pressure. Once this [lower starboard] screw broke, and we lost one of the three fittings, the rudder acted as a lever. I tried to use lines to stabilise the system and fit a new axis, to no avail in the wind conditions and sea state of that night,’ explained Guillou, who alerted race control on Tuesday night

‘Quickly, the axle of the second lower fitting broke, and the system started to loosen the last, top fitting, which in turn twisted the backstay chainplate, so I decided to dismantle the whole system and take it back in the boat. This was quite a challenge in itself as the whole system with the rudder is long, bulky and heavy, I thought a few times I was not going to succeed. Conditions were not easy that night, 30 knots and heavy seas, I hove-to before dismantling the system, but it was still choppy,’ explained Guillou, who has raced in the Solitaire du Figaro seven times.

‘It is abnormal that a 10 mm axis breaks like this, and we’ll make sure that I can leave with full confidence in my windvane system,’ he added.

2004 Vendée Globe winner, Vincent Riou was helping Guillou with his repairs.

Guillou refuelled, and added some last minute fresh food before setting out at 14.45 today to catch the fleet; he will now face one less competitor in the GGR 2022.

Canadian skipper Edward Walentynowicz, 69, confirmed on Friday that he was officially retiring from the race due to personal reasons.

Continues below…

As part of his preparations, he had shortened the mast of his Rustler 36, Noah’s Jest by 1.5m; 2018 Golden Globe winner, Jean-Luc Van den Heede did the same, a move he believed saved his Rustler 36, Matmut from being dismasted when he was pitchpoled in the Southern Ocean.

Walentynowicz also had exactly the same sail plan as Van den Heede on Noah’s Jest, and fitted a racing car seat in his saloon for comfort and to ride out the worst of any storms. He was also the only skipper to have already mounted a bracket and shaft aft for a new Hydrovane, in case of damage to his original.

GGR 2022 skipper Edward Walentynowicz demonstrates his racing car seat in his saloon. Credit: Katy Stickland

Edward Walentynowicz demonstrates his racing car seat in his saloon. Credit: Katy Stickland

Walentynowicz, who has sailed more than 67,000 miles including 35,000 miles solo, and seven Atlantic crossings. had hoped to finish in the top half of the GGR 2022 fleet.

He called his wife, Magda ahead of making the decision to retire. He is now sailing Noah’s Jest, towards Les Sables d’Olonne.

This now leaves 15 skippers in the Golden Globe Race 2022.

UK skipper Simon Curwen, who was the first to cross the start line aboard his Biscay 36 masthead sloop, Clara, has rounded Cape Finisterre and is now sailing down the Atlantic towards the first photo gate at Lanzarote.

Irish sailor Pat Lawless and Tapio Lehtinen from Finland have also rounded the Cape and are hot on his heels.

The strong southwesterly headwinds in Biscay split the fleet earlier in the week, with Lehtinen, along with Abhilash Tomy favouring a beat into the wind westwards, while the majority of the entrants opted to go south.

Pat Lawless in a white hulled sailing boat

Pat Lawless believes his Saltram Saga 36, Green Rebel, will sail faster downwind than the Rustler 36s in the fleet. Credit: John Stickland

Tomy, Jeremy Bagshaw, Ertan Beskardes, Guy Waites, Guy deBoer, Kirsten Neuschafer should pass the Cape Finisterre within the next 24-48 hours.

Current positions of the Golden Globe Race 2022 skippers on 10 September 2022 at 1600 UTC

Simon Curwen, (UK), Biscay 36, Clara
Tapio Lehtinen, (Finland), Gaia 36, Asteria
Pat Lawless, (Ireland), Saltram Saga 36, Green Rebel
Ertan Beskardes, (UK), Rustler 36, Lazy Otter
Jeremy Bagshaw, (South Africa), OE32, Olleanna
Guy Waites (UK), Tradewind 35, Sagarmatha
Michael Guggenberger, (Austria), Biscay 36, Nuri
Guy deBoer, (USA), Tashiba 36, Spirit
Elliot Smith,  (USA), Gale Force 34, Second Wind
Abhilash Tomy, (India), Rustler 36, Bayanat
Mark Sinclair (Australia), Lello 34, Coconut
Kirsten Neuschafer, (South Africa), Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha
Ian Herbert-Jones (UK), Tradewind 35, Puffin
Arnaud Gaist, (France), Barbican 33 Mk 2, Hermes Phoning
Damien Guillou, (France), Rustler 36, PRB


Edward Walentynowicz, (Canada), Rustler 36, Noah’s Jest


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