Michael Guggenberger talks to Yachting Monthly's Katy Stickland on his experience taking part in the Golden Globe Race 2023
Originally, Michael Guggenberger planned to take part in the 2018 Golden Globe Race, but delayed until the 2022 edition to allow more time to prepare. This paid off for the Austrian carpenter, who started sailing in 2012. He had little gear failure during his 249 days at sea. His biggest issue was when part of the drive unit of his Hydrovane self-steering slid out in the Pacific. ‘It looked like an unfixable problem at first, especially in 7-8m waves, but in fact it was an easy fix which took 10 minutes. All I had to do was put the pin back in.’
Each morning, Guggenberger walked the deck of his Biscay 36 ketch, Nuri, using binoculars to inspect his mast and rigging before checking the bilge and that his batteries were charging. He had a chafe-management programme for his main and mizzen halyards, and would cut sections every six weeks to move the wear points.
During the race, Guggenberger changed his heavy weather sailing tactics. He had planned to lash his mizzen sail and boom to the deck in winds over 40 knots to reduce windage on the stern of the boat. Instead, he found that keeping the mizzen up helped stabilise the boat in heavy weather; in Hobart he added a second reef to the mizzen to balance Nuri even more.
Guggenberger sailed the tradewind route, and as a result, sailed fewer miles than Kirsten Neuschäfer and Abhilash Tomy. He rarely received useful information via his weather fax, and relied on details from Neuschäfer and Peter Mott of Passage Guardian. To ‘keep my spirits up’, Guggenberger would regularly exercise and dance, and found himself becoming more emotional during the race.
‘Letting the emotion out certainly helped me keep going. If you swallow them down you would quit, as you would not be able to take it anymore.’ When his water tank became contaminated, he
had to rely on rain water. ‘My aim was to finish but not at the expense of my body. I had been planning on going into the Falklands if I didn’t catch the 60 litres of water I caught at Cape Horn. I then thought about diverting to Rio, as I was down to my last 50 litres but then it started raining. I never ever expected to come third.’
Guggenberger has put Nuri up for sale and plans to do ‘something with boats’ in the future.
North Atlantic knock down
Passing the Azores on the way to the finish delivered the worst heavy weather experience for Guggenberger in the race. ‘It was not the biggest or longest but it was strong,’ he said. ‘45 of southerly wind and 4m seas with short period waves and then a cold front passing with squalls.
I sailed through 50-60 knots in the south again and again, and this one was a lot more, although I couldn’t put a figure on it. The squalls came in 20-30 minute blows and I was knocked down as the seas were steep.’ Nuri was running under bare poles with 70m of 25mm rope as warps, which also had three pieces of chain attached.
‘The Hydrovane steering dead downwind was the only time I felt something like fear in the race. The quick wind changes made it so difficult,’ he said.
Guggenberger used Seajet 038 and had few problems with barnacles, using a scraper on a stick to remove any patches of fouling. He put this down to following the instructions for application as closely as possible.
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