Austrian skipper Michael Guggenberger has come third in the 2022 Golden Globe Race, having been one of the most prepared entrants in the race
Michael Guggenberger first started sailing in 2011 and it soon become his biggest passion.
At 0742UTC this morning, the 44-year-old carpenter crossed the finish line of the 2022 Golden Globe Race, to take third place in one of the toughest solo round the world yacht races. He had been alone at sea for 249 days, 17 hours and 42 minutes.
Originally, Guggenberger wanted to take part on the 2018 race but was short on preparation time and felt his lack of sailing experience would put him at a disadvantage.
Instead, he spent years preparing himself and his Biscay 36 ketch, Nuri for the 2022 event, which has now paid off with a podium position behind second placed Abhilash Tomy and the 2022 Golden Globe Race winner Kirsten Neuschafer.
In total, he sailed 29,895nm during the race; this was less than Kirsten Neuschafer, who sailed 30,290nm, and Abhilash Tomy who sailed 30,246nm.
Compared to many of the other entrants, Guggenberger had no major problems with his boat; replacing chaffed halyards, solving an electric issue with his engine and a contaminated water tank were some of the worst issues he faced.
As a carpenter, he had refitted Nuri himself, remounting the interior to make it more secure and installing a new electric system; luckily he secured the sponsorship of Nuri Sardines just months before the start.
From the start of the race, Guggenberger wanted to sail competitively. He left the Bay of Biscay in the middle of the fleet, favouring a southerly exit.
He was the 7th skipper to pass through the first of the race’s gates at Lanzarote before navigating the doldrums, where the humidity resulted in him experiencing swollen hands and feet.
‘I’m dancing a lot on board to keep fit and cure my ailments!’ tweeted Guggenberger at the time; he had taken boxes of cassette tapes and a glitter ball with him when he left from Les Sables d’Olonne.
After passing Trinidade, he was in the first half of the fleet and took a more southerly route on approach to Cape Town, where he posted similar speeds as the Rustler 36s sailed by Abhilash Tomy and Damien Guillou.
He was again in 7th place when he reached the Cape Town gate.
But, by the 1 December 2022, he was one of just eight skippers left in the race; 16 crossed the start line in France.
‘I am a little bit surprised I am still here but, you know, I prepared really well. I like my position. It’s amazing how few boats are left so I am kind of amazed I am still in the race and not having any big issues,’ he told Yachting Monthly.
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As he raced across the Indian Ocean, Michael Guggenberger posted strong average speeds, achieving his best 7 day speed record in the race of 1,101.77nm and 24 hour speed record of 174.8nm.
He was also already thinking ahead to the Southern Ocean and the boat improvements he could make.
Guggenberger prepared well for the heavy weather, fitting an inches-thick submarine door to his companionway to keep out the worst of the weather. He took 225m of 25mm rope to use as warps.
By the time he reached Hobart, he was in 4th place.
Having experimented with use the mizzen sail in heat weather to stabilize the boat, Guggenberger spent 48 hours in Tasmania, allowing him to sew a second reef in his mizzen sail to further improve the balance of the boat in storms.
In the Pacific, he also modified his mainsail, attaching webbing to his reefing hook so he could drive the whole sail 40-50cm higher when reefed; this also lifted his boom too, keeping it out of the water when the boat heeled.
These were prudent moves, given the days of 60 knot winds and 8m seas he had to sail through on approach to Cape Horn.
Typically positive, he tweeted during the worst of the storm: ‘All well on board! current wind.. a LOT!!!.. waves are super BIG.. main and mizzen lashed tight to the boom both on lee and low. Storm jib is pulling on the bow. Have about 40 to 50m rope with about 20 kg chain at the end holding the stern. Happy sailor! lots of water and a pos. All well for now! aye!!’
Michael Guggenberger coaxed solid speeds out of Nuri across the Pacific, matching the speed of Simon Curwen’s Biscay 36, Clara.
The failure of Curwen’s windvane steering system, which forced the British sailor to divert to Puerto Montt in Chile for repairs, meant Guggenberger was in third place when he rounded Cape Horn, 175 days after leaving Les Sables d’Olonne.
Like many of the skippers in the 2022 Golden Globe Race, Guggenberger, who is an RYA Yachtmaster Offshore, struggled to receive weather fax while sailing up the Atlantic.
He endured weeks of light winds – alternating between light genoa, spinnaker or code zero to keep the boat moving – before making gains on the race leaders in the trade winds.
He continued to make steady progress through the doldrums and into Biscay, with stable weather helping him to sail the boat towards the finish line.
For Michael Guggenberger, the 2022 Golden Globe Race was more of a mental challenge than a sailing one.
He told Yachting Monthly that he missed people; missed the opportunity to laugh and had ‘become very used to being very emotional’.
‘It never really takes a lot of energy. If I am sad, I will cry for a few minutes and then I think okay, I’m sad, and then I’m not sad anymore. The craziest thing is that I can not read [fiction] books on this trip, because I read one story with a really harsh scene, and my brain makes pictures and then they don’t go away. So, I only read technical books about sailing and weather and listen to music,’ he said.
Michael Guggenberger will certainly be enjoying time back on dry land surrounded by friends and family; only time will tell if he will miss the solace of being alone at sea, ‘at one with his boat’.
Positions of the Golden Globe Race 2022 skippers on 12 May 2023 at 0745 UTC
Kirsten Neuschafer, (South Africa), Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha – FINISHED 1st
Abhilash Tomy, (India), Rustler 36, Bayanat – FINISHED 2nd
Michael Guggenberger, (Austria), Biscay 36, Nuri – FINISHED 3rd
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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