Third place Golden Globe Race skipper Kirsten Neuschafer has been left frustrated by the lack of wind, which has also affected fellow South African Jeremy Bagshaw, who has now reached the Hobart Gate but moved into the Chichester Class
Kirsten Neuschafer was just 24 hours behind 2022 Golden Globe Race leader, Simon Curwen when she passed through the Hobart Gate.
Now, three and a half weeks later, 1,050 miles separate them, and the South African solo skipper feels frustrated that her advantage has now disappeared, given that she can’t chase the weather she wants due to the Pacific No Go Zone.
This zone forces the entrants to keep 47°S to starboard until 115°W. Those that cross this line will face time penalties.
‘The only time I was able to catch up a little bit to Simon was when I was beyond the southern limits [No Go Zone] in the Indian Ocean, but now I’m back in the southern limits [No Go Zone] area in the Pacific which lasts right up until 115° west, so there’s absolutely nothing I can do. There is no amount of strategy I can take to catch up to Simon. All I can do is try and stay as close as I can to the southern limit [No Go Zone] and try and stay as close as I can to the wind, but it is frustrating,’ explained the 39-year-old, who is keen to round Cape Horn as soon as possible as ‘I don’t want to be passing later into the season.’
‘Right now, the winds are already really dropping off. If I was able to go further south, I would be in better wind. I have been able to see on the weather fax that Simon should have been getting incredibly good winds. Obviously, I don’t know, but my assumption is he must be 800 or 1,000 miles ahead of me. So it is going to become increasingly more difficult to catch up and it’s become increasingly a game of luck now.’
Neuschafer criticised the race course, arguing that it was ‘completely unnecessary’ to make entrants keep Snares Islands and Bounty Islands to starboard; it was here that Kirsten and fellow sailor, Abhilash Tomy became caught in the wind holes of a high pressure system, while Curwen rode the south-southwesterly winds, which has helped him extend his lead.
‘It caused a whole lot of extra stress that was just unnecessary and there was no reason why any of us should have landed up in that high if we could have stayed further south. And I guess that’s the frustrating thing; I’ve been able to see on the weather fax that there’s been wind south of me, you know, but I’ve been forced to move up north and then sit around in the high so, it’s been pretty frustrating. I’ve been pretty disenchanted these last couple of weeks,’ said the skipper of the Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha.
She said the swell in the Southern Ocean was constant, unlike being caught in high pressure systems in the Trades in the Atlantic Ocean.
This has put strain on the boat’s gear and rig.
Neuschafer, who is pleased with the decision by race organisers to drop the Punta del Este film drop, is looking forward to getting back into the Atlantic where the Golden Globe Race ‘ becomes a proper race again, where you can actually take a different route or try a different strategy’.
But, she acknowledges that Curwen has ‘a massive lead on me and he’s an outstanding sailor.’
‘It’s gonna be very difficult [to catch him] unless he ends up getting becalmed or something like that, and I then end up in that time period, having enough wind to catch up to him; it is going to be incredibly difficult. I’ll give it my best shot but right now, like I say, I’m pretty disillusioned.’
Overall, she is pleased with her Cape George 36 cutter, although she would prefer the reefing points on her main to be higher to prevent her boom touching the water; this happens even when the mainsail is heavily reefed.
She has battled isolation and boredom by reading and watching wildlife, like fur seals, albatross and storm petrels.
‘When there is no wind, the race starts to feel really long, and then you start missing different colours and smelling vegetation and having solid land so that I can go for a walk,’ added Kirsten Neuschafer.
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Fellow South African solo sailor Jeremy Bagshaw, has also been left frustrated by the weather on his approach to the Hobart Gate.
‘It was either feast or famine; 40-50 knots or 3 knots; then the wind died and I was drifting around the mouth of the River Derwent for 15 hours,’ he said, once he had moored his OE32, Olleanna at King’s Pier Marina.
Bagshaw has decided to stop in Hobart to lift his OE32 out of the water to remove the gooseneck barnacles from the hull, which has reduced the speed of Olleanna down to 3 knots. He will also provision and replenish his water supplies. The stop puts him in the Chichester Class, where he joins UK sailor Guy Waites.
‘Getting angry and getting sad will not change anything. I just have to make the best of it. I am at the point of no return. It is equidistance from home [Cape Town] so I may as well carry on. It will be fun and I can do it in a much more relaxed way as there is less at stake,’ he said.
‘I do not have enough food to go around the world at 3 knots, so I would have had to call in somewhere so I may as well do it here [Hobart] and enjoy the rest of the trip, rather than sweating it across the Pacific.’
Bagshaw, 60, has battled with barnacles on his hull for much of the race. He moored at Simon’s Town in False Bay, South Africa after passing through the Cape Town media gate to remove the crustaceans from the boat’s hull with a BBQ grill scrapper before continuing into the southern Indian Ocean.
Under race rules, competitors are allowed to moor or anchor if needed, but are not allowed to receive any outside physical assistance.
The hull of Olleanna was painted with Coppercoat before the race start.
‘The other day [on approach to Hobart], we had zero knots and the sea was like a mirror. I put a waterproof torch on the end of my boathook and I held it underneath and the hull lit up like a David Attenborough or National Geographic show; all of these beautiful molluscs and barnacles and all with their little fans out filter feeding at night. The boat is carpeted with it,’ he said.
Bagshaw said his cockpit tent has been invaluable. He can attach it to the spray dodger, allowing him to keep dry.
‘The days I’ve sat behind it and warmed myself inside – it is like a greenhouse – and you watch the waves breaking on the transom and I am just wearing shorts and a pair of socks to keep my feet warm.’
He said he has enjoyed the celestial navigation, experimenting with cooking and reading, and as well as stocking up on food and water, he planned to find a second hand bookshop to purchase some new books for the Pacific Ocean.
He believes once he leaves Hobart, it will take him 96 days to reach the race finish at Les Sables d’Olonne in France.
‘I have learnt a lot on the trip about myself, and about sailing. I will be able to push a lot harder on the next leg.’
UK skipper Ian Herbert-Jones is still 70 miles from Hobart, but favourable winds means he should reach the gate within the next 24 hours. He is planning on spending a few day in the Tasmanian port.
Current positions of the Golden Globe Race 2022 skippers on 17 January 2022 at 1400 UTC
Simon Curwen, (UK), Biscay 36, Clara
Abhilash Tomy, (India), Rustler 36, Bayanat
Kirsten Neuschafer, (South Africa), Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha
Michael Guggenberger, (Austria), Biscay 36, Nuri
Ian Herbert-Jones (UK), Tradewind 35, Puffin
Jeremy Bagshaw, (South Africa), OE32, Olleanna
Guy Waites (UK), Tradewind 35, Sagarmatha
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
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