Michael Guggenberger has faced several days of 60 knot winds and 6-7 metre seas but is about to become the third Golden Globe Race skipper to round Cape Horn

‘You get crazy seas from all directions and when I feel the boat slipping on the wave then I release my warps with around 50 metres of chain, and then when I feel it slipping again, I release another 50 metres of chain. I am using the winches to let it out or bring it in. A few nights ago, I had about 50 or 60 knots of wind for 20 hours or so, and I was fine with a storm jib and about 100 metres of rope with 50 kilos of chain attached and I made some good progress.’

Michael Guggenberger, who is currently in third place in the 2022 Golden Globe Race, has been battling heavy weather as he makes his way towards Cape Horn.

The Austrian solo sailor is expected to round the milestone by Sunday; it will be the first time he has sailed past the South American landmark and he plans to celebrate by drinking Austrian sparkling wine and eating a can of Nuri sardines, courtesy of his sponsors.

A sailor wearing a hat and a beard sitting on the deck of his boat sailing through crazy seas

Michael Guggenberger is looking forward to sailing into warmer weather. It is currently 8°c in his cabin. Credit: Michael Guggenberger

Once he has passed Cape Horn, he plans to head east around the Falkland Islands and then north.

The 44-year-old is sailing the only ketch in the Golden Globe fleet – his Biscay 36, Nuri. He is 1,334 miles behind the Golden Globe Race leader, Kirsten Neuschafer, but only 750 miles from second placed Abhilash Tomy.

Guggenberger prepared well for the race. He has also made modifications along the way, sewing a second reef into his mizzen sail while in Hobart, and modifying his mainsail. He said in hindsight, he would rather have a yankee than a genoa and would prefer a furling staysail, rather than a hanked-on staysail, which he chose to keep the weight down.

Michael Guggenberger says sailing through the 'crazy seas' of the Southern Ocean is physically demanding. Credit: Martin Kadlez

Michael Guggenberger says sailing through the ‘crazy seas’ of the Southern Ocean is physically demanding. Credit: Martin Kadlez

‘On my mainsail, on the luff side, I wish I had put in two reefing points – one higher, one lower – so I could drive my boom higher. I have attached webbing to my reefing hook on the mainsail so I can drive the whole sail 40-50cm higher when reefed, and my boom is then lifted 40-50cm higher so it does not stick into the water anymore. It was in the water a lot when I entered the Southern Ocean.

‘Now I have this webbing, everything is higher. When I prepared for the race I didn’t change the cockpit configuration at all; it would be better to have more winches and more cleats. I would also have liked a larger deck hatch so I could have a better look out, as I can currently only look forward and to the side. The seas and the wind are always coming from the stern,’ he shared.

Guggenberger installed a heavy watertight submarine style companionway door to keep out the worst of the weather and ‘crazy seas’ which has worked well, although he would prefer it was lighter.

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Characteristically, he prepared for the recent heavy weather, sleeping for several days and eating well before the conditions hit.

‘You don’t need a big system to get overwhelmed by the weather down here. So I do have a rule on board that there is not more than 10 free flying items in the cabin, usually the smaller stuff which won’t hurt me if it hits me. On deck, I have my storm gear in my cockpit lockers; my storm jib is always on deck and I am ready to use it.’

He also managed to catch some much needed water. A contaminated water tank meant he was down to a reserve of less than two litres – he now has over 100 litres of water – enough to last him 50 days. He also has over 17 weeks worth of food left.

A man wearing a striped top and shorts standing on the deck of a boat

Having almost run out of water, Michael Guggenberger has now managed to catch 100 litres and has plenty of food left for his voyage back to Les Sables d’Olonne. Credit: Aïda Valceanu/ GGR2022

‘I was very happy to actually catch water because I was down to below two litres, and now I am allowing myself as much hot tea as I want. I am trying to get myself happy and in a good mood with a lot of good food and drink. It is hard work, of course, with these large seas, but actually it is all fine.’

Guggenberger said he was looking forward to leaving South America, and the ‘crazy seas’ in his wake, as well as the cold weather.

‘You always have these crazy seas; big south-southwesterly swells. I have 5-6 metres from the southwest and about 2-3 metres from the west and that is the more dangerous one – the smaller one is the more dangerous one. It is physically very harsh as the boat is in huge motion at all times. Mentally, I don’t find it too hard, because I obviously prepared well,’ he said.

Golden Globe Race skipper Michael Guggenberger sailing his Biscay 36 yacht

Designed by Alan Hill, Nuri was raced in the 2018 Golden Globe Race by French sailor, Antoine Cousot, under the name Métier Intérim. Credit: Nora Havel/GGR

A carpenter, Guggenberger only learnt to sail 10 years ago and said it was ‘crazy’ that he was still in the race, especially as sailors with better funded campaigns had already retired.

‘It is crazy to see some really good sailors have dropped out, but on the other hand, I know that I worked really hard to prepare well for the journey – finding the money to do it, getting everything organised. I’m very proud. It’s a bit weird, because it is also a social experiment as well, being trapped within this group of people and then 70% of those people drop off. Now we are a little family,’ he said.

UK sailor Simon Curwen is also likely to round Cape Horn this weekend, furthering his lead in the race’s Chichester Class for entrants who make one stop.

Jeremy Bagshaw has used a Coppercoat antifouling for the bottom of his OE32, and is concerned about gooseneck barnacle growth as he heads towards Cape Town. Credit: John Stickland

Jeremy Bagshaw is around 2,000 miles from Cape Horn  Credit: John Stickland

Behind him, Jeremy Bagshaw, who is also in the Chichester Class, is considering cutting the corner of the Pacific Exclusion Zone to find better weather. Under race rules, he won’t be penalised if he decides to do this.

Meanwhile, Ian Herbert-Jones is struggling again with calms, which has dogged his progress across the Pacific.

‘I’ve Looked All Over & I Can’t Find Anymore I’m Completely Out Of Patiance ;> Another Windless 24hrs! Working Every Breath Of Air & Almost No Progress’ tweeted the frustrated sailor.

It is likely Herbert-Jones will round Cape Horn late in the season – towards the end of March –  which he is currently preparing for.

Current positions of the Golden Globe Race 2022 skippers on 24 February 2022 at 1100 UTC

Kirsten Neuschafer, (South Africa), Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha
Abhilash Tomy, (India), Rustler 36, Bayanat
Michael Guggenberger, (Austria), Biscay 36, Nuri
Ian Herbert-Jones (UK), Tradewind 35, Puffin

Chichester Class:

Simon Curwen, (UK), Biscay 36, Clara
Jeremy Bagshaw, (South Africa), OE32, Olleanna


Edward Walentynowicz, (Canada), Rustler 36, Noah’s Jest
Guy deBoer, (USA), Tashiba 36, Spirit
Mark Sinclair (Australia), Lello 34, Coconut
Pat Lawless, (Ireland), Saltram Saga 36, Green Rebel
Damien Guillou, (France), Rustler 36, PRB
Ertan Beskardes, (UK), Rustler 36, Lazy Otter
Tapio Lehtinen, (Finland), Gaia 36, Asteria
Arnaud Gaist, (France), Barbican 33 Mk 2, Hermes Phoning
Elliot Smith,  (USA), Gale Force 34, Second Wind
Guy Waites (UK), Tradewind 35, Sagarmatha

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