Breaking News from Golden Globe Race 2022

Major Windvane failure for leader Simon Curwen

“At 1815 UTC 27th January, 1200 miles Northwest of Cape Horn, Simon Curwen contacted GGR control to advise of the total failure of his Hydrovane steering gear. He had weathered the worst of a deep depression in 40 knots and 6-metre sea when the boat surged off a wave coming on the port side of his Biscay 36 Clara. This action appears to have sheared a shaft on the topside of the vane body connecting the wind sensor which appears irreplaceable. Simon did not take a spare on board to save weight and cannot replace the broken part with original components.” 

What is the Golden Globe Race (GGR)?

In 1968, knowing that a few sailors from both sides of the Channel were perparing for it, British newspaper Sunday Times offered the Golden Globee Trophy to the first single-handed sailor to sail from a port in UK,  leave three Capes, Good-Hope, Leeuwin and Horn to port, and come back to the same port without stopping, a feat that had never been accomplished. Nine sailors left; only one finished, Robin Knox-Johnston aboard his ketch Suhaili.  Bernard Moitessier, abard Joshua was also in the race, but to “save his soul”, he refused to come back to Europe and sailed on to Tahiti.

In 2018, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of this event, Australian sailor Don McIntyre organised a race on the same route, named Golden Globe Race (GGR).  It is presently repeated 4 years later,

Rules of he new GGR are more demanding; notice of Race states: “celestial navigation (no electronics), boats designed prior to 1988, hull length between 32ft and 36ft, full-length keel with rudder attached to the trailing edge” (Notice of Race, 5.1.2).

NoR 5.1.5 K also requires that “Supplies and equipment to affect an emergency rudder and steering must be on board. This emergency steering must have been previously installed by one person from the boat and used by the skipper (with the main rudder locked) in the open sea on the entered boat for at least five hours with average wind over 15 knots on a triangular course and a full detailed report on its operation and satisfactory performance, with photos, must be submitted with the Race Organiser”

Carrying an emergency rudder is prudent on a boat with spade or even skeg rudder (CapeHorn makes one).  Give me a single example a boat having lost a rudder attached to the keel! Don McIntyre, founder and president of the GGR, replied: “Suhaili nearly did”.

The only auxiliary rudder self-steering gear commercially available happens to be Hydrovane.  Hydrovane is a GGR sponsor.

Could the loss of Hydrovane self-steering by Simon Curwen have been avoided?

Before the CapeHorn came on the market, a prototype had been tested on Yves Gélinas’ Alberg 30 Jean-du-Sud on this same route. He could not do it non-stop, as he was capsized and dismasted in the Southern Ocean. Under jury rig, the gear he had designed kept steering.


To witness, watch up to 2:46

This was, in 1983, the second gear in history to steer through this route without a single failure; the first was the trim tab on the trailing edge of the outboard rudder on Moitessier’s Johua (Knox Johnston’s Suhaili had many self-steering failures).

The CapeHorn does not need spare parts and is guaranteed for one circumnavigation or 28 000 miles against any damage caused by the wind or the sea.

The GGR Notice of Race does not mention self-steering.  Yet, a few skippers reported that their choice of a CapeHorn had been refused because the rudder on their boat was too small; to be safe in the Southern Ocean; an additional rudder was needed (!!)

McIntyre denies: “You are completely WRONG in your assumption that we restrict windvane choice. In fact you may be interested to know we approved your CAPE HORN VANE for the GGR with a 2018 entrant” (his capitals).

Was the rudder on his boat larger than most? We will never know, he did not make it to the starting line.

Be that as it may, for what reason should a self-steering gear be “approved”?

We asked Don McIntyre if in the present race, there is a self-steering gear other than Hydrovane.  He did not answer.

GGR 2026 has already been announced.  Will there be a CapeHorn in it?  Who knows, this could permit the leading skipper to stay in the lead.  Or even increase his lead: over 28 000 miles, drag of a servo-pendulum paddle - 10% of the rudder - being lower than drag of an auxiliary rudder - at least 30%.

There will be if this post is widely shared in the sailosphere to force GGR to cancel useless and abusive clause 5.1.5K.

Failing that, to rename it Hydrovane Golden Globe Race!