Golden Globe Race skipper Gregor McGuckin shares his experiences of ocean storms, providing lessons for all of us about how to cope with heavy weather

Sometimes luck, or the lack of it, is a factor when it comes to handling heavy weather, and that was certainly the case for the only Irish entrant in the 2018 Golden Globe Race, Gregor McGuckin.

He was sailing his Biscay 36 Masthead ketch, Hanley Energy Endurance under bare poles and trailing warps in a Force 10, doing between 3-4 knots, when he lost his main mast in the same Southern Indian Ocean storm which hit Abhilash Tomy.

It also destroyed his windvane and his engine wouldn’t work.

Irish Golden Globe Race skipper Gregor McGuckin

Gregor McGuckin made a series of ‘Oh Shit’ cards to help him deal with emergencies while sleep deprived or stressed. Credit: Nick Jaffe/PPL

‘The boat was doing what it was supposed to do but the seas were huge cross seas. In those kind of conditions, when you have breaking waves from three different directions, you are either lucky or you’re not,’ noted the Irishman, who has thought long and hard about whether his warps were long enough.

‘The boat wasn’t surfing so maybe I could have put out more, but I don’t think it was that that caused the knockdown. The boat was pointing where it was supposed to be pointing; it was stern-on to the majority of the waves. What happened was when the cross seas hit me from the side the boat didn’t surf or broach, it didn’t get pushed beam on; it was just a phenomenally big wave that took me. I don’t think longer warps would have made any difference,’ he told Yachting Monthly

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McGuckin had already lost his mizzen mast in an earlier knockdown, in which he hadn’t been trailing warps.

He had previously tried a drogue, but the sheer effort of pulling it in almost made him cut it free.

The delivery skipper said he had thought about the worst case scenarios while refitting the boat, installing a watertight hatch over the companionway and putting batteries in a watertight sealed box.

The Irish entrant for the Golden Globe Race Gregor McGuckin on board his yacht

Gregor McGuckin had previously done long distance sailing, but not solo. Credit: Gregor McGuckin/GGR/PPL

He wished he had put in a fourth reef on his main sail, to make it easier to handle.

He had also installed two large steel plates on the back of the boat purposely for his warps, which he used on a byte.

McGuckin also made a series of ‘Oh shit’ crib cards to help him deal with an emergency onboard even when sleep deprived and stressed.

‘Assume you will be delirious with tiredness which, I found was the case,’ he noted.

This helped him, especially when he was left with one slightly bent spinnaker pole to make his jury rig.

Gregor McGuckin is now out of the Golden GLobe Race after he was dismasted in a storm

Gregor McGuckin only sustained bumps and bruises after his experiences. Credit: Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR

He eventually managed to use the foot of the mast to brace the spinnaker pole before making shrouds and tensioning them.

McGuckin said he was relieved when the crew of the French fisheries patrol boat, Osiris picked up Tomy as he knew there was little he could do once he reached him, given the state of his boat.

The captain of the Osiris was presented with a bottle of Glendalough whiskey, one of the last remaining bottles from a case McGuckin had onboard.

The whiskey in the cask on Hanley Energy Endurance’s deck remained untouched.

Read the full report Storm Tactics From The Golden Globe Race in the Summer 2019 issue of Yachting Monthly – Available here: