Simon Curwen has less than 650 miles to go until the finish of the 2022 Golden Globe Race, and could be the first boat to cross the line

The speed of the Biscay 36, Clara up the Atlantic has surprised many, not least her Golden Globe Race skipper Simon Curwen.

The British sailor, who is in the Chichester Class for entrants who make one stop in the race, is likely to be the first of the fleet to cross the finish line towards the end of next week.

“I am ahead of my best expectations in terms of speed up the Atlantic. It is partly because the boat is still in very good nick. The sails are pretty much as good as at the start, and the antifoul (he used Nautix A9000 SPC (“Self-Polishing Copolymer”) is good and the boat is lighter, as I’ve eaten a lot of food, so the boat has been going well. I have also been fortunate with the weather, and my routing, I think, has worked well. I have not done anything extraordinary at all, just kept to very straight lines, but I am a few days ahead of my most optimist expectations for coming up the Atlantic,’ said the Mini Transat veteran.

Simon Curwen's shorthanded and Mini Transat racing experience is helping him to optimise his boat for the weather conditions. Credit: Josh Marr/GGR 2022

Simon Curwen’s shorthanded and Mini Transat racing experience has helped him to optimise his boat for the weather conditions. Credit: Josh Marr/GGR 2022

Curwen, who led the 2022 Golden Globe Race through the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans, was forced to stop in Puerto Montt, Chile to make repairs to his Hydrovane windvane steering, after the shaft on the topside of the vane body, which connects to the wind sensor, sheared off. To save weight, he was not carrying a spare windvane so could’t make repair without the original components.

Curwen had originally estimated that the 2022 Golden Globe Race would take him 220 days.

‘My optimistic time for the race was 220 days, and I did a 20 day detour to Chile so 240 days would be my revised estimate for the race, and with a bit of luck, I will be getting in a bit ahead of that,’ he said.

Although Curwen has made impressive gains up the Atlantic, South African skipper, Kirsten Neuschafer, who is currently in first place, still holds the best speed records in the 2022 Golden Globe Race.

It has been a frustrating week for Kirsten Neuschafer as she makes her way towards the equator

Kirsten Neuschafer currently holds the speed records for the 2022 Golden Globe Race Credit: Kirsten Neuschäfer/GGR2022

Her Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha, has a sail area of 806 sq ft, which has helped her achieve the best 4 hour speed average (9.80 knots), best 24 hour distance (218.9nm) and best 7 day distance (1,216.2nm) records of the race.

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The forecast for Biscay for the next week is currently predicting highly localised and fast changing weather systems.

Curwen is receiving weather reports via his weather fax, but is not picking up radio yet; he also is unable to transmit on his HF radio.

‘I won’t be able to fix the HF. I will not be transmitting on HF between here and the finish. My antenna for receiving is absolutely fine, which is how I am picking up the weather fax, and I have, at times, been able to listen into the other entrants buddy chats. The problem is that my counterpoise for transmission is totally inadequate. It is my installation, my fault and there is nothing I can do about that. I have tried internally but it needs a ground plate on the outside of the hull, which I can’t install.’

A man in a cockpit of a boat

Simon Curwen led the 2022 Golden Globe Race, until a broken Hydrovane forced him to stop to make repairs. Credit: GGR2022 / D&JJ GGR2022 / D&JJ

Curwen went east of the Azores, believing the move would put him in a position to make the most of tighter wind angles and achieve a better speed towards the finish in the westerlies.

Although briefly becalmed on Monday, since then, he has had strong winds, with 4m seas.

‘I was anticipating I would wind down a bit during the final run into Les Sables d’Olonne, maybe make a few notes and maybe record a bit of video. But so far, in these conditions, the boat is being thrown about in these waves, so I haven’t had the peace and quiet I was expecting or been able to sit down with a pencil and paper; it’s as much that I can do the daily navigation,’ said Curwen, 62.

Simon Curwen working on the electrics on his Biscay 36, Clara ahead of the 2022 Golden Globe Race

Simon Curwen did much of the electrical work onboard Clara, including fitting the HF radio. He has been unable to transmit for much of the race due to a ‘totally inadequate’ counterpoise for transmission. Credit: Simon Curwen

‘The course from here is pretty straightforward; it is only the weather that will really dictate any changes. My ideal course would be pretty much straight from here to Les Sables d’Olonne, which would cut around 100 miles off Finisterre, but I will see what the weather forecasts are for Finisterre before deciding how close into the continental shelf I go. I don’t have any orca reports or anything, but I will keep well outside the continental shelf I expect, but otherwise straight in. Just managing the boat day by day is all that is left, which does give some time to think about the future.’

Reflecting on his 2022 Golden Globe Race, Curwen said: ‘By and large, I’m very happy, although not about the incident (broken Hydrovane windvane steering) which ended my participation in the main event, and caused a little detour to Chile, but apart from that, I’m very pleased with how it’s gone, how the boat’s performed, and pleased with the courses I’ve taken.’

Simon Curwen sailing in his Biscay 36, Clara

Simon Curwen believes Clara could do another Golden Globe Race. Credit: Chalky Whyte

He is also thinking about Clara’s future.

‘I will need to have a little discussion with the co-owner of the boat which ,of course, is impossible at the moment, because I can’t communicate. So we need to decide. I think unlike many of the people who finish, I still like the boat. I think at lot of people at the end of the last race couldn’t wait to leave their boat. It will be interesting to see what people think this time. To be honest, for what Clare (his wife) and I are likely to want to do, she is not a bad boat. She is pretty kitted out for the Golden Globe Race now and it may make more sense for her to do another Golden Globe Race, which I think she would be very much up for, I hasten to add without me!’

Current positions of the Golden Globe Race 2022 skippers on 22 April 2022 at 1200 UTC

Kirsten Neuschafer, (South Africa), Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha
Abhilash Tomy, (India), Rustler 36, Bayanat
Michael Guggenberger, (Austria), Biscay 36, Nuri

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
Ian Herbert-Jones (UK), Tradewind 35, Puffin

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