In early September, we reported on the start of the 2022 Golden Globe Race, the retro, nonstop, solo sailing race across the globe honoring the first such feat performed by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in 1968. More than a month later, this test of endurance has claimed its first victims, leaving the remaining competitors to face the doldrums—mentally and physically, according to the Golden Globe Race website.
Simon Curwen from the UK leads the race, being the first to cross the equator, now cruising off the coast of Brazil. Curwen had taken the lead early on and hasn’t relinquished it yet. In his calls with race control, the experienced solo skipper appears to be dealing well with the physical demands of the race, as well as the mental aspect of loneliness.
He’s followed by a pack of four skippers including the only woman in the competition, South African Kirsten Neuschäfer, who, after a sluggish start, has sailed some of the fastest daily times ever since, which brought her into 2nd place, before recently being overtaken again by the Indian skipper Abhilash Tomy.
While Neuschäfer told race control that she “really enjoyed the solitude,” other entrants are struggling with the challenges of the race. Guy Waites from the UK and the Austrian Michael Guggenberger are suffering from swollen feet and other ailments caused by the humidity and hard work. The Irishman Pat Lawless even believes he broke a rib after a fall caused by the mainsheet catching him in the shoulder and throwing him inside the cockpit. Other participants are questioning why they are there, and wondering “whether it is possible to continue with the severe lack of family contact.”
The Canadian Edward Walentynowicz took this decision early on in the race when he decided to retire only a few days after departing from Les Sables d’Olonne in Western France. Also, Mark Sinclair called it quits upon reaching Lanzarote, while American Guy de Boer grounded his ship in Fuerteventura when approaching a drop-off point for film materials.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, as the story of the Frenchman Damien Guillou proves. After departing from France with a six-day delay due to necessary repairs to his ship, he has gone from dead last to 6th place, leading the fleet of pursuers and trying to catch up to the leaders of the race. With many more months on the high seas to go, there is plenty of opportunity for the race to take more unexpected turns as the fleet hopes to leave the mid-Atlantic doldrums behind and hit the Southern trade winds that will carry them eastwards towards the Cape of Good Hope and beyond.