Guy Waites is one of six British sailors hoping to be on the start line of the 2022 Golden Globe Race. He talks about his preparations and how he plans to cope with the challenges of the event
Guy Waites, 54, has been sailing out of Ramsgate in Kent for over 28 years, mostly racing and has a passion for solo sailing.
He has completed five singlehanded Atlantic crossings.
The RYA Ocean Yachtmaster has 100,000 miles of sailing experience and was a first mate in the 2017-18 Clipper Round the World Race before becoming the skipper of Dare to Lead in the 2019-20 edition.
He will be racing in the 2022 Golden Globe Race in the Suhaili class onboard his Tradewind 35 masthead sloop, Sagarmatha.
Guy’s Go Fund Me page to pay for his race expenses can be found here.
Why enter the Golden Globe Race 2022?
Guy Waites: It’s been a dream of mine for years and was an opportunity too good to miss especially when you think of the alternative solo nonstop races which were, until very recently, the Vendee Globe or nothing.
It also doesn’t require millions of pounds to put a campaign together.
How did you find your boat?
Guy Waites: I bought the Tradewind 35, Sagarmatha. which was Kevin Farebrother‘s boat [Kevin was one of the 2018 GGR skippers].
I was in the Philippines with the Clipper Race having been diverted there at the very beginning of the pandemic and I got an email from Don McIntyre [GGR race organiser].
He knew I was looking for a boat and he said Kevin’s old boat had come back up for sale.
It was the right boat, for the right price at what I thought was the right time.
The boat was in Panama as the Australian owner who bought it from Kevin was planning on taking it back to Australia via the Panama Canal, but the Panamanian authorities had closed the canal to all but commercial ships [due to COVID-19] with no indication of when they would open for private vessels and the owner got fed up with waiting.
It was an opportunity that came to light very suddenly and one that needed to be pounced on.
You’ve completed your 2,000 mile qualifying passage, how did that go? What did you learn about the boat?
Guy Waites: I sailed the boat back from Panama to the UK. Unfortunately, the boat wasn’t really what I hoped it would be in terms of her overall condition.
There were quite a few problems and I discovered very early on there was an issue with the mast which wasn’t just associated with how the standing rigging was set up. It was something more fundamental than that.
As soon as it was on the wind it was deflecting out of a column on both tacks so I decided to press on with the voyage but to really throttle back and reef early.
It was all going fine until I was less than 80nm from The Azores and I ran into an easterly storm, so I turned back out to the west to run before it under bare poles and trailing warps and the third day I was knocked down by a large wave which put a crease in the mast.
Although I realised early on in the voyage that the mast needed replacing, the knockdown meant I was nursing a damaged mast rather than a weak one.
I also lost the wind turbine; 3 of the 5 blades shattered off and the resulting imbalance in the wind turbine was tearing the stainless steel mast it was mounted on to pieces.
So I managed to salvage the wind turbine before I lost the lot, but that put me in the Azores for three months while I tried to find the materials to repair the mast.
In the end I wrapped the mast in carbon fibre and then waited for a suitable weather window to finish the journey home.
She is now out of the water at Whitby.
We are scrapping years and years of antifoul off the bottom of the boat which is just the start of the refit really.
It is only a year to go to the race start and I am only just scratching the surface of the refit. There are lots of challenges in this race before you even get to the start line.
The qualifying passage also changed my opinion about how the boat will be configured for the race although I am keeping that to myself for now.
What did you learn following the 2018 Golden Globe Race?
Guy Waites: My initial observation was that the 2018 Golden Globe Race started far too early and I think that has been born out [five boats in the race were dismasted]. I don’t think anyone thinks otherwise.
The new start of 4 September for the 2022 race is far more sensible which will have a big impact.
The race has also changed as access to weather information has changed dramatically.
Previous entrants had the benefit of essentially a private forecasting service over the amateur radio network which has been banned now and replaced by weather fax.
There is a lot of question marks over just how good the weather fax reception will be around the world regardless of how good your HF set up is.
The route is also different with extra media drop points which will affect people’s routing.
The level of experience of some of the entrants of the first race has clearly driven the introduction of a 2,000 mile qualifying solo passage [using wind vane only and evidence of celestial navigation logs] in the rules for the 2022 race, which is a very sensible step. [This is in addition to the 8,000nm documented ocean sailing experience and 2,000 mile documented solo ocean sailing experience which each skipper must have before entering the 2022 GGR]
A Tradewind 35 might not be the quickest boats around the world but is one of the boats more likely to get you through the Southern Ocean.
Did you pick up any tips from Jean-Luc Van Den Heede‘s win?
Guy Waites: He had the benefit of effectively a personal private weather forecasting service, as did the others, and that will be a significant change for this race.
I was surprised he went around with a sliding hatch and washboard in his companionway and he wasn’t the only person to suffer from that set up.
It is a modification I’ve made to previous boats of mine for single handed transAtlantic sailing, and I would not consider going around the world without making that change to the boat.
Jean-Luc Van Den Heede consulted meteorologists and studied the weather to choose the best route which helped him make early gains in the 2018 race. Do you plan to do this?
I’ve been studying the weather for a long time.
Overall the weather doesn’t change that much. You could look at a Volvo Ocean Race and a Whitbread Race and you don’t see much change in terms of the weather patterns of the world but what is interesting is severity of the weather is changing, and it is increasing.
This was highlighted by Vendee Globe skipper Miranda Merron and several others so it is much better that the 2022 race starts in September and not July as in the 2018 race.
What storm tactics do you plan to use?
Guy Waites: If I tell you that I would be giving away a lot of my strategy. The boat will be significantly safer than it was and the sail plan will change, although I don’t want to reveal that now.
Drogue or warps?
Guy Waites: I plan to use a combination of the two. I am not enamoured with the full on drogue but using just warps alone you need a very long warp to be effective, so I plan to use a combination of the two.
What are your refit plans for boat?
Guy Waites: There are three main changes I plan to make to the boat.
Number one, the boat will have a watertight hatch, not washboards and a sliding companionway.
The second is that the interior of the boat will be divided into significantly more watertight areas, not just the watertight crash bulkhead forward as stipulated by the race rules.
There will be a lot more divisions and partitions in the interior of the boat, making it watertight.
The third thing is a complete rewire of the boat as the electrics are just awful frankly.
I had a lot of electric and network problems while bringing the boat back across the Atlantic.
What self steering set up are you planning to use?
Guy Waites: I will stick with the Hydrovane as it is absolutely the right one for Sagarmatha.
One of the things I learned from the 2018 race was that there is nothing wrong with a Windpilot. I’ve crossed the Atlantic twice with a Windpilot but because of the type of steering system on the Tradewind 35 it is the wrong match; it would be like fitting bicycle tyres on a performance car.
The Hydrovane does fit the boat and the purpose very well.
I have no issue with it even though I lost the Hydrovane rudder on New Year’s Eve during my qualifying passage.
Luckily it was in fairly benign weather and the boat was going to windward at the time.
The conditions were such that I couldn’t get the rudder back on for two and a half days until I was in almost a doldrum for a few hours.
The Hydrovane rudder just fell off, so I will be taking some precautions to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
The Tradewind 35 is a long keel boat and one of the benefits of a long keel is that the boat will sail itself very happily on the wind.
At the time the rudder fell off we were sailing on the wind, so with balanced sails the boat just continued to sail in a straight line for two and a half days until I could refit the rudder so it wasn’t actually a problem.
What antifouling will you be using?
Guy Waites: I am looking at options but I haven’t made a decision yet.
How is your celestial navigation going?
Guy Waites: It is a bit of an enigma for most people but I took sun sights almost every single day when I came across the Atlantic [on his qualifying passage] and I already have the Celestial Navigation qualification, but any opportunity to get some more practice between now and race start will be taken.
It is one of those subjects where the cobwebs can grow when you don’t use it every day.
How are you feeling about sailing solo around the world? How will you cope with the isolation?
Guy Waites: I am very good in my own company and my own space and I don’t seem to suffer from loneliness while sailing. I enjoy the peace and quiet.
But the biggest difference undoubtedly is the duration of the race because my longest time at sea alone in a boat is 59 days and potentially that will quadruple, which is a huge step. That is the only unknown really.
I’ve seen what the Southern Ocean looks like.
I don’t feel as though I have a problem with a lack of solo experience but the biggest difference will be the duration so that will be the big step for me.
How will you cope with that step?
Guy Waites: That is something you can’t really prepare for; you just have to go out and experience it.
I am saying to myself, if I can handle it for 59 days with no problem then I just have to go and find out. It is the step most of the race skippers will have to make.
Tapio Lehtinen [came 5th in the 2018 GGR and is a 2022 skipper] knows he can cope; Mark Sinclair [who retired from the 2018 GGR and is a 2022 skipper] knows he can certainly cope with half the world so he is a step in the right direction.
You have got to say to yourself, I am comfortable climbing three steps of the ladder, now I am going to the top and you just have to go out there and do it.
How will you deal with challenges and how will you motivate yourself to keep going in the race?
Guy Waites: The biggest part of the race is the challenge, not the race itself.
I feel confident that I am a reasonably good problem solver when I don’t have anyone else to talk to or bounce ideas off, and when I can’t just stop and go to a hardware store to pick up the equipment I need.
I feel that through my experiences and preparation work that I’ve done to previous boats and what I will do to Sagarmatha, I will know the boat like the back of my hand.
I am relying on my experience of overcoming the problems that have come my way up to now, and there is no reason why I shouldn’t continue solving the problems I may face.
That is not to say that there won’t be an event that knocks me out of the race altogether.
We saw from the 2018 race that 18 started and only five finished so it is very much a possibility that not finishing is on the cards, and that is where the preparation comes in.
Do you have enough time to prepare for the 2022 race?
Guy Waites: I know already that I wish I had more time to prepare, but that is not a luxury I can’t afford now.
The biggest challenge for me at the moment is the funding.
Don McIntyre [GGR race organiser] will tell you quite regularly that it is not about the money, but right now it is about the money.
If need to raise money to buy the new mast, buy the sails I need, complete the rewiring, all buy all of the rule complying safety and communications equipment needed for the race; it all adds up.
I’ve had people talk to me about sponsorship but who are put off by the fact that they have to pay a sponsorship fee to the race.
I imagine its not a problem for sponsors like PRB as it is a tiny part of their budget, but for people like me who would be glad of someone offering me £5,000-£10,000 for the campaign, an additional entry fee of $14,000 Australian is a big chunk of money, and it is getting in the way of me getting to the start line at the moment.
While the search for sponsorship goes on, we have in the meantime the Go Fund Me campaign which has raised £13,000 out of the £50,000 I need to get to the start line, and the reason for this amount is clearly broken down on the Go Fund Me page.
In lieu of that, sadly I am currently away from Sagarmatha, working as much as I can.
If I don’t find sponsorship, then the only way to get to the start line will be to take it out of my own pocket.
I did sell my house to buy Sagarmatha so I already have made a financial commitment to the race.
Money is still a part of it whether it is a budget race or not.
Are you confident you will make the start?
Guy Waites: Yes I am. I am confident that one way or another it will happen.
It is just a question of whether I hit the start line as a race entrant, or hit the start line as someone who just wants to get around in one piece.
I won’t enter the race if I have any doubts about the boat. The boat will come first.
I know I can do it. I just need the boat to get to a certain level in terms of its preparation and I obviously need to comply with the race rules.
If I can do that, I will enter the race. If not, I will have to deal with that.
The start date is very much in my mind.
I suspect Sagarmatha won’t look very pretty on the start line.
She won’t have a shiny new paint job but the fundamentals will be done; the watertight areas, the rewire and all the things I need to get around the world in one piece will be sorted and if they are not, then I won’t be in the race.
Are you looking to win or get round?
Guy Waites: Even Jean-Luc Van Den Heede said himself that the primary objective is to get round.
No one wants to enter this and not get round the world in one piece and hopefully without having to stop somewhere.
The old adage that to win a race, first you have to finish could not be more true for a solo circumnavigation.
Can I win? The competition is pretty stiff. When there is a big sponsor in France [PRB] tapping a professional solo racer [Damien Guillou] on the shoulder to go racing in the GGR then you know you are up against it.
David Scott Cowper will be one to watch, as will Simon Curwen, Robin Davie and Tapio Lehtinen, who I imagine will come across as a different animal in this race, having built on his experiences and he is no slouch when it comes to racing either.
I am sure there are others out there that I haven’t mentioned who are more than capable of a good turn of pace.
I am preparing the boat as best I can, and I will give it everything I’ve got.
We will see where we are when we round Cape Horn; if I have a chance of catching someone or staying ahead of someone and winning then I will go for it, but essentially it will be a race down the Atlantic, then it will be a survival through the Southern Ocean and then we will see where we are and if there is a race towards the finish so be it.
What will you miss most while racing?
Guy Waites: We are allowed a refrigerator on board for this race but fresh food only lasts for so long, so I will miss anything fresh – fruit, vegetables – anything that doesn’t come out of a can.
I also won’t be relying entirely on canned food as it is too heavy and takes up too much space.
What treat will you be taking?
Guy Waites: Despite the fact we are not allowed a water maker and the amount of water we are allowed to take is limited, I will be taking something very dehydrating: fresh coffee.
Every day starts with a cup of fresh coffee for me.
GGR 2018 was a celebration of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. The GGR 2022 is a celebration of Bernard Moitessier. What words of wisdom from Moitessier will you be following in the race?
Guy Waites: I must have read every single book there is by someone who has sailed singlehanded around the world, and before my first solo transatlantic I had actually just finished reading The Long Way.
I think what captivates people about Moitessier is that he is a very romantic writer, and whether that matches the reality or not is only something that each individual can go and experience and find out for themselves.
He is a very inspirational character just because of his love of the sea and being out there on your own. If you want to sail single handed around the world and you don’t empathise with that, then maybe you are doing the wrong thing.