A hero’s welcome in the legendary channel of Les Sables d’Olonne despite a late arrived trapped by no wind. (Credit Rob Havill/GGR2022)

GGR Day 229: 800 miles to a Hero’s welcome in Les Sables d’Olonne

Abhilash Tomy and Kirsten Neuschäfer trading places one week from the finish after 229 days and 29000 miles. First GGR sailors in Les Sables d’Olonne expected for Labour Day week-end, 29/30th April. Come and welcome them into the Channel! How is the fuel allowance and time compensation granted for Tapio’s rescue work? Captain Gugg, third, served his 4,5 hours penalty now headed to Les Sables d’Olonne. Ian Herbert Jones back on land in Cape Town today

21 April, 2023

229 days from the start with just one week till the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne with 29.000 miles under the keel, Abhilash Tomy (IND) BAYANAT and Kirsten Neuschäfer (ZAF) are now separated by only a few miles. This is an incredibly tight finish for the two fantastic sailors who have led the fleet since February after Simon Curwen (GBR) HOWDENS moved into Chichester Class.

On paper, the situation looked dire for Kirsten Neuschafer last week. She had lost all of her lead in the very wide doldrums, and Bayanat the Rustler 36 of Abhilash Tomy is a better boat for the all-round conditions of the North Atlantic, with upwind, downwind in the medium to light conditions. Abhilash had made a bold move over the last weekend, tacking to the NNE with negative VMG, in pursuit of the low pressure that was pushing the high away. He did lose precious miles in the operation, but the payback was well worth it as he sailed in more wind, longer, and a better angle, catching up on Kirsten and finally snatching the lead on Wednesday! Nursing a wounded boat home, Abhilash is skirting the low pressure, constantly arbitrating between speed and safety, keeping the boat together for a safe return. Today, he tweeted that his starboard runner broke but that he was doing a repair.

Kirsten still has a few cards up her sleeve however. The wind will be fair and downwind for both sailors after April 21st once the low pressure north of Abhilash has gone east. They will then surf the Atlantic swell all the way to Cape Finisterre and the entry of the last -but not least- stretch to Les Sables d’Olonne. They will be side by side entering the Bay of Biscay and that means Kirsten will be virtually one day ahead of Abhilash when you account for Kirsten’s 23-hour net time compensation from Tapio’s rescue.

The Bay of Biscay presents plenty of challenges in the last 400 miles to Les Sables d’Olonne, with highly localised and fast changing weather systems and where both fishing and shipping traffic are intense. The skippers cannot let their guards down after more than 230 days at sea. There is sure to be true suspense as both navigate this last obstacle that will decide the winner of the toughest game on the planet!

Minnehaha is in fine form and Kirsten is pushing as hard as she can, flying the spinnaker on her bowsprit and racking up miles. In fact, she has posted the best 24-hours and 7-day distance of the last 30 days as per the GGR Underground page curated by Jonathan Endersby. Also, she has proven time after time how resourceful she is in making most of the cards she’s dealt with, and not shy of bold options that have paid-off more often than not.

A tale of three heroes…In the blue corner, Indian Navy Commander, Abhilash Tomy nearly lost his life in the GGR 2018 in the Indian Ocean after his Suhaili Replica got rolled over in a storm. He was left hanging from the spreaders by his watch strap, which eventually gave in, falling on the boom, breaking his back in the process, unable to move, until rescued by the French navy ship Osiris.

With welded vertebrae and several years of hard work to be able to walk, fly planes and sail, Abhilash was back in 2022 with unfinished business, but the road was not easy. Bayanat suffered a collision with a ship during the SITRAN Challenge from Gijon, nearly ending his race before it started. He then suffered from PTSD after the start, unable to eat or sleep in the Bay of Biscay due to his past trauma. In Cape Town he delivered an extraordinary outburst to organisers suggesting the GGR was not a race anymore, he was not enjoying it and he was no longer racing. This all changed on passing the position of his GGR 2018 rollover and rescue, apologising to organisers. After Southern Ocean storms he spent most of 2023 repairing his yacht showing incredible DIY skills and ingenuity in the process.

To see him leading the GGR is a testament to his skills as a sailor but equally to his incredible resilience and resources.

In the red corner, professional sailor Kirsten Neuschäfer has by far the most miles at sea than any other sailor in the fleet, in excess of 250.000 miles working on deliveries and skipper with sailing legend Skip Novak (USA) Pelagic expeditions in the most inhospitable places of the southern Atlantic. At 22 years of age, she cycled back alone from Europe to her home in a 15.000 kms voyage which enabled her to pick French on the way.

She is made for this stuff. Out there, she is at one with the sea, whales and marine life, she loves the solitude at sea without ever being lonely, and being cut from technology. Her ongoing fight for the lead is nothing short of extraordinary and the mental toll of ignoring and not knowing where the competition is, is real. For the other sailors, she never was the “woman in the Race” but a fierce, experienced sailor, feared and respected.

In the middle, Simon Curwen (GBR) is “fast cruising” in Chichester Class as he says himself, and now out of the rankings. The most Francophile of British sailors, terror of the Solent onboard his J/105 Voador, and in the Mini Transat which he finished second in 2001, behind Yannick Bestaven (FRA), the Vendée Globe 2022 winner. “L’Indétronable” as the French called him had been leading the GGR from Cape Finisterre until the fateful day when his Hydrovane broke in a storm on the way to Cape Horn, but never lost his humour or his competitive spirit.

Without spares to affect a repair, he made a 2000-mile round trip to get them and stopped three days in Puerto Montt, then another two days waiting for a weather window on anchor. He eventually caught-up and passed Michael Guggenberger (AUT) at Cape Horn and is now playing the shifts and the Joker between King Abhilash and Queen Kirsten, potentially arriving first in Les Sables d’Olonne.

Whatever happens in the next week, they all battled overwhelming odds to be leading the fleet of five, and will be duly celebrated by the people of Les Sables d’Olonne, the Vendée and the Pays de la Loire together with the extended GGR family.

We’re expecting an early arrival on Friday 28th of April and all three could be docked and on dry land by Labour Day.

Saving a life…and time credits

It is a long-held tradition of the sea, that if a mariner is in Distress and declares a “Mayday”, all other mariners will use their best endeavours to immediately assist if they are safely able to do so. Such was the case for Abhilash on Bayanat and Kirsten on Minnehaha when asked by GGR control to assist in the rescue of fellow GGR entrant Tapio Lehtinen (FIN) on Asteria. Both altered courses immediately and stopped racing on receiving the request. The rescue was successful.

To calculate time compensation for both sailors all the factors affecting both sailors were considered, focusing on the primary impacts of: Time away from the course; Changing and new weather systems on resuming the course; and Position at the start and finish of their diversion.


Abhilash acknowledged the rescue message at 0930 UTC and was subsequently released at 13:50 UTC, (4:20 hours). He confirmed he resumed sailing at 1400 UTC (total 4:30 hours) and he also stayed on a higher course (80° approx.) for the duration of the rescue in case he may be needed. Engine: did not use the engine. Distance 27.5 nm @ 50°, approx. Lateral 23 nm/vertical 15 nm

Kirsten acknowledged the rescue message at 1303UTC and called to confirm transfer to vessel at 0745+1 but stayed on scene until 1000 UTC before proceeding under reduced sails: total 22 hours. Engine hours: 2 beginning, 2 middle, 3 at the end for a total of 7 hours. 5 hrs @ 1.8K rpm=3.5 l/h= 17,5lt and 2 hrs @ 2.4K rpm=5 l/h = 10lt. Total 27.5 litres; Distance 100 miles @ 38°approx, lateral 57 nm/vertical 83 nm

The following time compensation has been determined by GGR team: Kirsten Neuschäfer 35 hours + 30 litres of fuel; Abhilash Tomy 12 hrs.

Abhilash and Kirsten both commented that it took some time to let the adrenaline go and get back into racing mode. Although released from rescue effort, Abhilash was emotionally involved and remained on a more northerly course than normal for the duration of the rescue, asking to be regularly updated on progress and Kirsten had steered Minnehaha all night and manoeuvred at close quarters to the vessel for Tapio’s transfer.

“While it seemed far-fetched at the time, that they would be neck to neck for victory in Les Sables d’Olonne several months later, there had been a precedent in the Vendée Globe for Kevin Escoffier’s rescue. While such calculations are always subjective by nature, we have been extremely careful in the fairness and equity of the compensation between Kirsten and Abhilash, but also in comparison to Simon who was leading in good winds at the time of the rescue.” SÉBASTIEN DELASNERIE, GGR RACE DIRECTOR

South Atlantic closing…

It’s closing time for the fleet with various misfortunes in the “Mental Bermuda Triangle” a term coined by Jeremy Bagshaw (ZAF) Chichester Class, in his last safety call. Closing the fleet, Olleanna and her skipper are continuing their“longue route” now crossing the equator. He did not turn right to save his soul or even towards home in Simon’s Town, clocking miles before getting into the doldrums. Jeremy has sailed an exemplary race, and the doldrums he is entering this weekend look particularly narrow, only at the end will we know if his personal goal of the best time between Hobart and Les Sables d’Olonne will stand!

Michael Guggenberger (AUT) NURI who has been struggling for weeks in trade winds he doesn’t recognise! Unstable in strength and direction, alternating calms, squalls, rain, humidity, and heat, he suggests they are only an extension of the doldrums, and a purgatory for Nuri on the way back. But will they lead to heaven?

It was not that simple earlier this week when Race Control sent him a message informing him, he must serve a 4.5-hour penalty (for sailing into the Pacific exclusion zone) in a penalty box. To achieve that, at 1200 TU on a given day he must turn south and not cross north of that point for at least 4.5hrs. He refused to do it. After it was explained that if he did not, he would be deemed “not to have completed the course” and therefore disqualified from the GGR. He eventually complied and continues in 3rd place of the GGR.

“Since before Cape Town we have had several conversations with Michael as he expressed frustrations with the race course and communication systems used. We know that the isolation and challenges of such a long arduous voyage can play havoc on the mind and emotions of all entrants. We understand that and take the mental well-being of our entrants seriously. But the Rules of the Notice of Race are the GGR itself and must be adhered to.” DON MCINTYRE GGR FOUNDER & CHAIRMAN

PUFFINS Tracker has now lost power so we do not know where she is, but happy Ian is on the dry land in Cape Town!

Ian Herbert Jones arrived safely in Cape Town today onboard the ZI DA WANG having been rescued from Puffin following her dismasting during a rollover on April 10th. It was previously reported that Puffin was scuttled and had sunk, but Ian did not have time during the “Do or Die” rescue that took place. She was known to be drifting as her satellite tracker lost power, but her status is unknown. Ian is very grateful to all involved, especially the exceptional hospitality of the master and crew of ZI DA WANG during this repatriation voyage to Cape Town.


GGR Day 232 – Kirsten likely to break all records. ETA Les Sables d’Olonne Friday 28th!

Kirsten is holding a strong lead in the GGR. If she is first home to Les Sables d’Olonne, she will create many firsts! Lead trio slowed down by light winds on Sunday and will again on Wednesday! How to welcome the three heroes in Les Sables d’Olonne? The film of the GOLDEN GLOBE RACE 2018 is now available for pre-order

25 April

The trio of Simon, Kirsten and Abhilash are close now sailing within 170 miles of each other as they approach the Bay of Biscay and the final run toward Les Sables d’Olonne. But the Race is on for Kirsten Neuschäfer (ZAF) who is leading by 90 miles on her runner up. With a 23-hour compensation for Tapio’s Indian ocean rescue, she looks unbeatable, but it’s not over! First they need to negotiate the heavy traffic in the Bay of Biscay after months sailing empty oceans, and Abhilash Tomy (IND) on Bayanat is not slowing down!

Both have steady downwind conditions, but on Wednesday winds drop and become much lighter from the West and then South on Thursday. The two different boat designs act differently in different weather, so there could be last minute surprises! But with just a few days to run in light westerlies from Thursday onwards, it is a huge challenge for Abhilash. The finish will be under a spinnaker and a timid sun, so it all points to a Kirsten!

ETA’s are still to be refined after Wednesday’s light winds and will be updated on the GGR website. Kirsten continues to push hard with at times 8.1kt speeds. She could cross the line on Friday the 28th in the morning, followed by Abhilash less than a day later. Simon Curwen (GBR) in Chichester class could arrive in Les Sables d’Olonne as early as Thursday 27th.

If Kirsten was crossing the line in first place, she would be the first woman to win a round the world race by the three great capes, including solo and fully crewed races, non-stop or with stops, and the first South African sailor to win a round-the-world event! She would join the famous Bertie Reed (ZAF) in the South African Hall of Fame, and Isabelle Autissier (FRA) who in 1994 famously led the BOC Challenge after her win in the first leg before dismasting in December in the Pacific, 920 miles SE from Adelaide. She would also join Sir Robin Knox Johnston (GBR) and Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (FRA) the winner of the Golden Globe Race.

“Who would have guessed that after 233 days alone we have a photo finish. Everyone who reaches the finish line of the Golden Globe is a winner yet Kirsten and Abhilash have played out an epic battle right to the end. The GGR is all about the stories and this one is EPIC!!! Don McIntyre, GGR Founder.

A guide to the heroes’ welcome in Les Sables d’Olonne

Don will update the ETA daily on the GGR Facebook Page. Once the competitors cross the line, they will be towed into the Channel so as to not use precious fuel, and enjoy the legendary welcome from the people of Les Sables leading into Port Olona. There, they will moor in the Vendée Globe dock where they will be welcomed by Yannick Moreau, the Mayor of Les Sables d’Olonne, Don McIntyre, the GGR Founder and Chairman and Jean Luc Van Den Heede, the 2018 winner, the media and the public.

They will then cross to the stage next to the Centre des Formation Maritimes des Sables d’Olonne where the GGR Race Control is housed. They then move to a quiet room to see their family and friends for 30 minutes before heading to the Press conference. Should they dock after 10.00 pm, the press conference will be held the next day.

No doubt the people of Les Sables d’Olonne will give a hero’s welcome to Simon Curwen in Chichester Class who led the GGR fleet from Cape Finisterre until January 31st when he was forced to divert to Puerto Montt for repairs. Simon has no line crossing as he is not racing, but will take his own time for his incredible round the world voyage.

He will moor on the Vendée Globe dock where he will receive the same welcome as the GGR competitors on the marina, open to the public before heading to the GGR office to meet with his family, friends and members of the media. Simon is in great form.

The film of the GOLDEN GLOBE RACE 2018 is now available for pre-order.

        The Voyage of Madmen is the story of Don McIntyre’s 50 year anniversary recreation of the infamous race and his quest to attract amateur sailors to compete in small boats, taking on the perils of the sea entirely against the odds. It’s a race without modern technological aids where actually surviving a non-stop lap of the world is the achievement. Of the 18 solo sailors to depart France in 2018 – five solitary skippers cross the finish line – the final finisher spending 322 days alone at sea.

This is the story of the longest sporting event in history. A display of brutal individualism by characters longing for a by-gone era who are hell-bent on recreating the longest, loneliest and most gruelling sports event on the planet.

“Buying this film helps and supports us greatly…THANKS and we hope you really enjoy it. To us the 2018 edition of the GGR will go down in history for many reasons. It is a tribute to the 18 sailors who risked all to follow a simple dream!”

        Don & Jane


GGR Day 236 Kirsten makes history, Simon first boat home, Les Sables gearing up for Abhilash Tomy Bayanat Welcome

Kirsten Neuschäfer wins the Golden Globe Race in 233 d 18h 43m 47s. Clara/Howdens was the first boat home in Les Sables d’Olonne. Abhilash Tomy expected in the LSO channel Saturday 29/04 @ 10:00 am local (0800UTC). 28 April 2023

It’s been a long time in the making for Kirsten Neuschäfer who got becalmed just hours before going through the finish line, off the coast on the world’s solo sailing capital Les Sables d’Olonne. Several boats joined her 8 miles offshore and this is when she learnt that she was going to be the winner of the GGR.

Earlier in the same day, Simon Curwen GBR sailed up the Channel as the first boat home despite his stop in Puerto Montt to repair a broken windvane, and came up the channel with his wife Clare, cheered by many supporters under a slight drizzle under the Howdens spinnaker.

He was welcomed by Yannick Moreau, the Mayor of Les Sables d’Ollonne, GGR 2018 winner and International Association of Cape Horners’ President Jean-Luc Van Den Heede and GGR President Don McIntyre and presented with the Cape Horners ensign have done a fantastic round the world trip, leading the fleet from Cape Finisterre until the 31st of January.

At 19:43:47 on Thursday the 27th Minnehaha crossed the GGR finish line before going up a channel lit in red, where the people of Les Sables gave her the warm welcome, she deserved for coming first in the gruelling GGR 2022-2022. She had spent 235 days at sea, with an official time of 233 days, 18 hours, 43 minutes and 47 seconds after her 35 hours of compensation awarded for Tapio’s rescue were discounted, and no fuel penalty since she only consumed 30.7 litres of fuel in her round-the-world voyage.

Kirsten Neushafer received a hero’s welcome in the Channel of Les Sables d’Olonne where thousands of Sablais, Sablaises and fans from all around the world greeted her. She hugged her mother Annett on the dock after many months away, saw her friends and Eddie Arsenault (CAN) from Prince Edwards Island who guided the refit of the Victorious Cape George 36, which did not suffer any significant failure in the voyage.

Vendée Globe legend Catherine Chabaud (FRA), came specially to greet and congratulate Kirsten on her historic win. “Kirsten is at the image of the race which promotes simplicity and sobriety, and it’s led her to victory” she said on the stage were officials joined Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, Yannick Moreau and Don McIntyre to congratulate her: Kirsten becomes the first woman to win a round the world race vias the three great cape!

Abhilash Tomy (IND) is expected to cross the line on Saturday 29 of April around 10:00 local time. The Indian Navy Commander who got heavily injured in 2018 came back with unfinished business in 2022. It was not an easy battle since his Rustler 36 Bayanat had a collision with a bulk carrier during the Prologue from Gijon and suffered from PTSD in the first week of the Race, later passing the point of his Indian Ocean rescue and sailing a superb race into the leading group of the GGR.

Not only has he shown incredible skills in keeping his Rustler together but sailed a very competitive race ahead of the fleet, briefly sweeping first place to Kirsten only arriving a day and a half later, after 236 days at sea.

No doubt that the people of Les Sables will give him a warm welcome up the Channel after a line crossing expected around 10:00 am.


DAY 237 “Abhilash Tomy’s Remarkable Comeback: From Broken Back to 2nd Place in the Golden Globe Race”

30 April 2023

Retired Navy commander, 43 year old Abhilash Tomy, the renowned sailor and first Indian to complete a solo non-stop voyage around the world in 2013, made history on Saturday by securing an outstanding second-place finish in the gruelling 2022 Golden Globe Race. Tomy’s yacht, BAYANAT crossed the finish line at 06:46hr in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, after an intense 236-day 30,000mile journey around the globe. This incredible achievement is especially noteworthy given the numerous setbacks Tomy faced leading up to and during the race, making his triumph a true testament to his exceptional skill, determination, and perseverance.

In 2018, Abhilash Tomy experienced a catastrophic accident during his first attempt at the Golden Globe Race when a violent storm in the Indian Southern Ocean caused his yacht to roll, losing both masts and resulting in a broken back unable to move and trapped below. An international rescue effort followed and then major operations and rehabilitation before walking then sailing again. Undeterred by this harrowing experience, Tomy set his sights on returning to the GGR, displaying immense resilience and unwavering commitment to the dream.

Tomy’s entry into the 2022 Golden Globe Race was fraught with challenges from the beginning. As the last participant to join the race he was pushed for time to prepare. He faced a collision with a ship just two weeks before the start, which severely damaged the bow of his yacht. Despite this significant obstacle and rushed Euro 50,000 repair, Tomy remained steadfast in his determination to complete the race. Once underway he was often struggling to cope with the memories of his 2018 accident, until he passed the spot in the ocean where it all happened. A huge weight lifted from his shoulders and in his mind and the world looked a better place!

Throughout the race, BAYANAT was beset by a series of breakdowns in his rigging and windpilot windvane. However, Abhilash Tomy earned the nickname “Mr. Fix It” for his tireless efforts to keep his vessel afloat and on course. He demonstrated extraordinary resourcefulness and ingenuity, solidifying his reputation as one of the world’s leading sailors.

Abhilash Tomy’s remarkable journey in the 2022 Golden Globe Race highlights his unwavering passion for sailing and his dedication to overcoming even the most challenging obstacles. We offer our heartfelt congratulations to him on his impressive second-place finish, the highest placing for any Asian sailor in any major sailing event. His success serves as an inspiration to aspiring sailors around the world.