Simon Curwen, who is leading the Chichester Class in the 2022 Golden Globe Race, has made remarkable gains, putting pressure on the skippers at the front of the fleet. He shares his Atlantic sailing strategy
Golden Globe Race: Simon Curwen shares his Atlantic sailing strategy
When solo skipper Simon Curwen left Puerto Montt in Chile having made repairs to his Hydrovane windvane steering, 2022 Golden Globe Race leader, Kirsten Neuschafer had already rounded Cape Horn and was approaching the Falkland Islands.
The Mini Transat veteran passed the landmark on 25 February 2023, 10 days after Neuschafer, and has told Yachting Monthly that he doesn’t ‘think there is the faintest possibility of catching up.’
But Curwen, who was leading the Golden Globe Race fleet before his Hydrovane issues, has made serious gains as he sails up the Atlantic towards the doldrums, and there is every chance he and his Biscay 36, Clara could take line honours in the race.
He said the boat ‘is in good condition’, and ‘the sails are still in good shape, the antifoul [Nautix] looks still to be in good shape, and when I get to the doldrums, I will have a look over the side and see if I’ve got any more friends clinging to the topsides to get rid of. Everything on board is good.’
Curwen is around 400 miles behind Neuschafer, having enjoyed days of ideal conditions, and has just 3,542 miles to sail until the finish. Second placed Indian sailor, Abhilash Tomy is just 3,453 miles from the finish line.
‘My strategy for the Atlantic was based on the Great Circle Route, the shortest route, so getting in a fair amount of east early on [after rounding Cape Horn]. I was keeping all options open depending on what weather we got. It quickly became apparent I was going to be forced to go east. I had north westerly-northerly winds for much of that period, so was forced quite a long way wide of the Falklands. It wasn’t necessarily the route I was planning, but it’s the shortest route steering about 60° True from Cape Horn,’ explained Curwen.
As he continued with his Atlantic sailing, Curwen put more north in his course which enabled him to get ahead of a ‘fantastic high pressure’, which pushed him through the variables in the Horse Latitudes.
‘I had great winds which allowed me to get up there really quickly and steer the course I wanted,’ he said.
Since then, he has ‘picked up very feeble sort of mixed trade winds which were shutting off in the afternoon’ but these have improved. Now, he is at 10°South, Curwen said the winds were ‘basically easterly with a tiny bit of south.’
‘It would be too much to hope for that I now get nice northeasterly trade winds as well. So now, I’m trying to get in a little bit east, just so I’ve got a better angle through the northeast trade winds. But there is a catch 22 as far as I am concerned with that, because the further east you go, the more north there tends to be in the trade winds. If you go further east, then actually you end up having to bear away further to come back west,’ he said.
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Neuschafer has chosen to sail an easterly route up the Atlantic, away from the rhumb line. Tomy is west of Curwen, closer to the rhumb line.
Curwen, who still can’t transmit on his HF radio, last received a weather forecast four days ago. He can tune in to listen to the weather information being relayed to the rest of the fleet by Peter Mott at Passage Guardian, although bad reception has prevented this recently.
‘To be honest, the weather is so consistent here in the trade winds that it isn’t really important. When I get into the northeast trade winds, I’m just going to sail what I get if I can’t get any forecasts. There should be northeasterlies; I just hope there’s not too much north in them and there’s a bit more east. Whatever there is, I will sail it, but I will be keeping as far east as I can through the trade winds and then catching a direct line as I can to The Azores.’
He said being unable to communicate with the rest of the Golden Globe Race fleet was not affecting him, as he had prepared mentally for the loneliness of solo ocean racing.
‘This was about a solitary circumnavigation, and I was prepared for the solitude and I’m quite happy with it really.’
But Curwen, 62, is looking forward to crossing the finish line.
‘I’m looking forward to it. I am obviously looking forward to seeing Clare [his wife], family and friends. I am absolutely looking forward to getting back into Les Sables d’Olonne because they put on such a welcome. I need to get back to civilisation because I left so many things which I am not able to deal with [here].’
Currently, Curwen’s finish time is expected to be 0522 on 24 April 2023.
Current positions of the Golden Globe Race 2022 skippers on 24 March 2022 at 0600 UTC
Kirsten Neuschafer, (South Africa), Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha
Abhilash Tomy, (India), Rustler 36, Bayanat
Michael Guggenberger, (Austria), Biscay 36, Nuri
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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