Golden Globe Race skipper Tapio Lehtinen has activated his Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) and is in his liferaft, after his Gaia 36 sank approximately 450 miles south east of Port Elizabeth in South Africa

Tapio Lehtinen is currently in his liferaft after his Golden Globe Race boat, Asteria, sank stern first, approximately 450 miles south east of Port Elizabeth in South Africa.

A rescue operation is underway for the singlehanded sailor.

He manually activated his Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) at 0654UTC today at 39. 06.07 S 03.20 44.1E, and is communicating with Race HQ via his YB3 Tracker-Texting device from his liferaft.

The 64-year-old Finnish sailor has his grab bag and is in his survival suit, although he has no glasses so is finding it hard to read and send messages.

He reports that his beloved Gaia 36 sank in five minutes, stern first.


Tapio Lehtinen on his boat wearing a black cap in the dark

Tapio Lehtinen was the third solo skipper to arrive at the race’s Cape Town Gate before heading into the southern Indian Ocean. Credit: Aida Valceanu/GGR 2022

Weather conditions in the area are 15-20 knots and 3-4 metre seas. Forecasts suggest moderating conditions over the next two days.

The crew of the bulk carrier, Darya Gayatri have diverted to assist, and are currently 250 miles northwest of Lehtinen’s position, with an estimate time of arrival of 1200 UTC tomorrow (19 November 2022).

Fellow entrant Abhilash Tomy, who is approximately 170 miles southwest of Asteria‘s last known position, initially diverted to assist but has now been stood down as South African sailor Kirsten Neuschafer is closer; she is just 95 miles south west of Lehtinen’s last know position, and is now motoring towards him, and is expected to reach Lethinen tomorrow morning.

The rescue operation is being co-ordinated by MRCC South Africa.

Commenting, Golden Globe Race founder, Don McIntyre, said: ‘Our thoughts are with Tapio, his family and friends during this challenging time. The South African Maritime Rescue Coordination Center is doing an excellent job of coordinating the rescue efforts. Tapio is an experienced seaman, well prepared for these conditions. We thank everyone for their messages of support for Tapio and those who are right now involved with his rescue.’

Tapio Lehtinen is a highly experienced sailor, with strong offshore and racing credentials.

A Gaia 36 yacht heeling in the water

Tapio Lethinen enjoys sailing solo and was not worried about spending months alone at sea. Credit: Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR

He is a veteran of the 1981-82 Whitbread Round the World Race, the Round Gotland Race, now AF Offshore Race, the Azores and Back Race (AZAB).

He also took part in the 2018 Golden Globe Race, coming fifth in Asteria, which was built in 1965 and designed by Sparkman and Stephens.

He spent 322 days alone at sea due to problems with his antifouling, which resulted in the boat’s hull becoming covered in gooseneck barnacles.

Asteria has an inside steering position, allowing Lehtinen to sit under a dome at the main hatch and close the washboards behind him, protecting him from the elements.

Tapio Lehtinen shows how he steers Asteria in heavy weather, with his specially made stirrups.

Tapio Lehtinen shows how he steers Asteria in heavy weather, with his specially made stirrups. Credit: Katy Stickland

He also has pedal steering, allowing him to steer the boat standing up if needed.

Speaking to Yachting Monthly before the race start in Les Sables d’Olonne, he said: ‘I can actively take the waves, so when I am at a crest of a breaking wave, I can turn the stern directly against the breaking wave and then when I am coming down the wave, I steer 15-30° off the direction of the waves to avoid a pitchpole.’ Asteria was the only finishing boat in the 2018 event which didn’t suffer a knockdown.

Continues below…

For 2022, Tapio Lethinen made changes to the boat’s rig and the windvane steering system, and fitted a new electrical system.

In his last tweet, sent yesterday, he shared how he was struggling to find wind to keep Asteria moving.

Tapio Lehtinen last tweet in the golden globe race 2022


Tapio Lehtinen arrived at the Cape Town Gate on 8 November 2022, and shared how he preferred to be out in middle of the ocean, rather than close to land.

‘It’s funny how I hadn’t sailed the boat for 3 years after the last race. After the start, I gradually got accustomed to her again and it was like continuing the previous race. I love being at sea and sailing her. (…) I know this gate is part of the race, but the proximity of land stresses me, I am a lot happier a hundred miles out,’ he said.

Under race rules, all skippers in the Golden Globe Race must carry the following in their grab bags: YB3 tracker, sat phone, GMDSS VHF, aviation transceiver, sea sick tablets for seven days, one thermal protective aid, a second sea anchor for the liferaft (not required if the life raft already has a spare sea anchor in its pack) (recommended standard ISO 17339) with 4 swivel and 36>30m line diameter >7.5 mm, a safety tin opener, first-aid kit including 1 tube of sunscreen (all dressings should be capable of being effectively used in wet conditions. The first-aid kit should be clearly marked and re-sealable), signalling mirror, high-energy food min 20, 000kJ and 20 rehydration electrolyte tablets, nylon string, ziplock polythene bags, a watertight handheld aviation VHF transceiver, three 1 litre security sealed water containers and a security sealed survivor 06 hand-operated desalinator with lanyard and clip, a second handheld satellite telephone with waterproof cover and internal batteries plus spare 12v charge cable, a strobe light, medical supplies for any pre-existing medical conditions, a spare unbreakable pair of spectacles if needing them, wet notebook with captive pencil, a powerful whistle, SOLAS flares, digital or pyrotechnic (in date for at least 12 months: 6 red hand flares, 2 white hand flares, 2 orange SOLAS compliant smoke flares, five cyalume-type light sticks), a watertight, high-powered LED torch and spare batteries, the GGR emergency GPS Safety Pack, a SART (Search and Rescue Transponder), a GMDSS VHF radio with a long-life battery and a second 406 EPIRB.

Current positions of the Golden Globe Race 2022 skippers on 18 November 2022 at 1200 UTC

Simon Curwen, (UK), Biscay 36, Clara
Kirsten Neuschafer, (South Africa), Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha
Abhilash Tomy, (India), Rustler 36, Bayanat
Michael Guggenberger, (Austria), Biscay 36, Nuri
Jeremy Bagshaw, (South Africa), OE32, Olleanna
Elliot Smith,  (USA), Gale Force 34, Second Wind
Ian Herbert-Jones (UK), Tradewind 35, Puffin
Arnaud Gaist, (France), Barbican 33 Mk 2, Hermes Phoning
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

Enjoyed reading Golden Globe Race: Tapio Lehtinen needing rescue?

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