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Jeremy Bagshaw’s Golden Globe Race

by Ingrid Hale

South African’s Kirsten Neuschäfer and Jeremy Bagshaw flew our SA flag high in the Golden Globe Race (GGR).   Not only did Kirsten WIN the race, the first South African and the first woman to do so, but both sailors earned the respect of the international sailing community with their achievements, and their grit and determination. We caught up with them both after the fanfare had died down to get an insight into their races.

While the winners are well respected for their achievements, often the hardest race is fought at the back of the fleet. Jeremy’s detailed account of his race provides great insight into the challenges he faced.

Jeremy’s never give up attitude

Jeremy Bagshaw’s account of his time at sea really brings home the intensity of doing a race like this. The planning, the stresses, the disappointments and the courage required to lap the planet in the GGR are all very evident in his story. Our admiration and respect for him is high. His determination to complete his solo circumnavigation after all his set backs is remarkable!

Why enter the GGR?

“There was no single overriding reason that made me enter the race, it was more like an accumulation of reasons that developed a momentum of their own. I guess primary amongst them was the realisation that I’m not getting any younger and while I was still fit and healthy, it seemed like a good time to do something like this given that it’s arguably the longest endurance sporting event on earth. The other pieces had to fit in as well as I didn’t have a big budget for the event and when Olleanna (my 1973 OE32 boat) became available at a price I could afford, I decided that it was a sign from the universe and I filled in the race entry form. There was no long-standing desire to sail in anyone’s footsteps or anything that romantic apart from the fact that I just fell in love with the boat on sight! I needed a project and the Golden Globe Race just appealed to me. Olleanna had been sailed as far as Cape Town in the 2018 GGR before the Norwegian entrant, Are Wiig capsized and dismasted 400 miles SW of Cape Town. He set up a jury rig and sailed unassisted into Cape Town. I felt that the boat deserved another chance to get around the planet”.

His prep

Jeremy had not done any solo sailing offshore before signing up for the race. His experience was mainly quite a bit of short handed and double handed sailing, both cruising and racing. He discovered that he thoroughly enjoyed sailing with small crews. “In fact, the first night I ever spent solo at sea was the night I left Cape Town on 29 April 2022. I was confident in my solo sailing ability after spending a lot of time sailing in False Bay during the build up to the race even though those were short day sails. All I needed was a dependable and capable self-steering system and I would be fine. I decided on a Windpilot Pacific self steering system and I was so glad that I did as it steered perfectly in all conditions, even some pretty wild storms, for over 40,000 miles from Cape Town to Europe, around the world and back to Europe”.

The boat capsized in the Southern Ocean in August 2018 and Jeremy purchased her in December 2019. By then the new owner had done the basic structural repairs to the coachroof and had replaced the rig but otherwise the interior was still totally shambolic.

“I had to re-fit her from scratch including total re-wiring and upgrading the deck hardware and standing rigging. Given that we had to be totally self sufficient for up to 9 months, and stopping to re-fuel wasn’t going to be an option, battery charging considerations were very important. I fitted a Watt & Sea hydrogenerator as well as solar panels in order to not have to rely on engine-driven alternators. Eventually I ended up replacing the auxiliary engine as well after it succumbed to its immersion. Communications were limited to HF Radio which enabled competitors to talk to each other and to shore stations like Cape Town Radio when in range to get access to World Meteorological Organization weather forecasts. I had an HF Radio installed as well as an HF Weatherfax which unfortunately proved to be of limited value”.

Watch the full boat tour here.

Safety secured

The Race rules required the competitors to take comprehensive safety gear, from SART beacons and aviation frequency VHF, to multiple EPIRBs and PLB’s. “Those all had to be installed along with the radar and AIS alarms”.

With the race course taking them through the Southern Ocean from the Cape of Good Hope, past Tasmania and south of New Zealand around Cape Horn over a period of four to five months, it was clear to Jeremy that ‘standard’ equipment probably wasn’t going to be tough enough so he had the already substantial Sparcraft mast and boom further strengthened in key places.

The Notice of Race also required competitors to take courses in Survival at Sea and Advanced First Aid and they also had to pass a stringent medical examination within 3 months of the start of the race. “There was plenty to keep me busy on top of the refit and preparation of the boat. I decided to get professional help to brush up my celestial navigation skills as the race rules required that we navigated only by traditional means of sextant, timepiece and towing log. I had an 8000 mile sail from Cape Town to the start line in France so this was a good opportunity to test myself and all the systems on board before the race started”.

Although there was no requirement to take any extra courses a certain level of proficiency was expected by the Race Management. Prior to the start of the race each skipper had to provide proof that he or she had done a 2000NM passage using celestial navigation as the means of establishing their position. “Two skippers were in fact asked to make another, shorter, qualifying passage in order to satisfy this requirement.”

Provisioning for the GGR

Jeremy says provisioning for the race was an interesting exercise. “If I had to do another race like this, I’d certainly do the provisioning better than I did! I’m not necessarily the greatest forward planner and time frames of 9 months really rattle my brain! I tried the method of drawing up menus for a week and multiplying the quantities by 40 weeks that I expected to be at sea and that gave me a base to work from. I then tried to optimize those quantities for the times spent in warm, really hot and very cold areas with a bias towards hearty, energy intense meals for the majority of the time which would be spent below 40° South.

I focused on making sure I was going to be getting enough proteins rather than just carbohydrates, but pasta and rice did form the base for a lot of the cold weather meals. The sail to the start line didn’t contribute much to my knowledge for victualing purposes as it was all done in warm, mostly Trade Wind conditions and this may have in fact lulled me into a sense of false security. My provisioning for 250 days was light in two main aspects, firstly it lacked sufficient variety and I was bored of my meal choices after about three months; secondly, I had no idea how much I was going to eat in the cold climate of the Southern Ocean! I reckon I ate at least double what I usually eat and I was always hungry. I also did not take sufficient snack foods to reward myself and to just munch between meals. This meant that, despite an unscheduled stop in Hobart where I did a bit of reprovisioning, I almost ran out of food by the finish. The fact that I had developed a barnacle problem and later in the race, a rigging issue that slowed my progress and added almost an extra month to my time at sea did not help either”!

Getting to the start line

Just getting to the start was going to be tough. Three main challenges took their toll:                                                      1) the distance from SA to Europe meant that the time available to prepare the boat was reduced by the time needed to ship or sail the boat to the start. This was exacerbated by the COVID pandemic which effectively reduced the preparation time by a further six months or so.

2) Complying with the requirements of the Notice of Race was onerous unless the entrant had a professional team behind them. “I was fortunate to have two good friends filling the roles of Media Manager and Team Manager, who did an unbelievable job helping me tick all the administrative boxes and getting my ‘Green Card’, the official confirmation that all pre-race conditions have been met.

3) Arriving at the start line to just make up the numbers is difficult and expensive enough but to arrive on the start line in a well prepared and competitive boat was a much bigger challenge when you’re racing against European, British and American entrants with much larger budgets and often big sponsorship. “I would not have gotten close without the support of some very generous friends and of my home club, False Bay Yacht Club in Simon’s Town.

I was also extremely fortunate to be gifted a magnificent set of race sails made by at the last moment and without these I would not have made it all the way around”.

From start to finish

Jeremy’s GGR was full of events that would have deterred even the most hardy sailor from finishing the race.

“I felt I was well prepared to be competitive from the beginning and I certainly felt I didn’t need to be worried about the larger size of all the other competitors’ boats as I knew that boat for boat, I could hold my own with them all. It would come down to who could push their boats hardest and still finish the race. I probably started a bit too conservatively. We had some most unseasonal weather at the start of the race and I decided to sail exceedingly cautiously and also didn’t take the best tactical decisions coming out of the Bay of Biscay. This resulted in me being very mid-fleet by the Lanzarote check-in point. After that I started pushing the boat and myself a little harder and I was making good progress until I reached the area of the Cape Verdes Archipelago where I started to notice that boats that I had caught or was catching, were starting to pull away from me and I noticed that my boat was feeling very sluggish. A dive over the side during a calm spell revealed that about 70% of the hull was covered with small gooseneck barnacles! I spent a total of 11 hours underwater in two tranches of eight and three hours over the next week with a long handled braai grid scraper, attacking the clusters of barnacles. It was a demanding and exhausting job as I didn’t have any scuba gear and was obliged to free dive. After cleaning the hull, I started to pick up performance noticeably and managed to hang onto my position in the fleet even if I didn’t gain many places”.

Keeping positive

The psychological effect of giving away 20 to 30 miles every single day for nearly four weeks was tremendous and I had to dig deep to keep myself motivated. Between the Cape Verdes and Ile Trinidade, I had headwinds and was on port tack for at one stage, 19 consecutive days! This didn’t really fit the picture I had had for the race! Some 2000 miles later, near to Tristan da Cunha, I started feeling that I was not moving as fast as I should again and another dive revealed that the barnacle problem was back to almost the same extent as before. The conditions in this area were seldom suitable for me to be able to dive and scrape so I only managed two short, two hour sessions in an attempt to clean the hull. I realized at this stage that I would need to stop somewhere in a calmer environment quite soon and try and resolve the issue for once and for all. I decided to sail through the Cape Town check in gate and get to Simon’s Town where I could tie up to a mooring buoy in the anchorage and spend a day or more if necessary to attack the barnacles. I did this during one whole Saturday from early morning to late afternoon in 17°C water, all the while listening to all my mates having a great time braaiing on the clubhouse lawn not more than 100m away! It was very tempting to throw in the towel at that stage seeing that my mooring was only around 50m away!

At this stage I was still in the main race class as I had not infringed any race rules by being assisted or touching land etc. I left Simon’s Town that afternoon, destination Hobart, Tasmania. I had a great start to the Indian Ocean leg, rapidly gaining on the boats ahead with my clean hull and also a cheeky crossing of the Agulhas Bank at Cape Agulhas, saving me a few hundred miles over competitors who had decided to go due south from Cape Point before turning East.

A tough pill to swallow

Unfortunately this improved performance was short lived and within three weeks, my barnacle problem was back and unfortunately, worse than before. I was absolutely gutted and in the icy waters and robust conditions of the Southern Ocean there was no opportunity to dive and clean the barnacles off. I had to watch while I lost distance daily to the boats ahead of me and watched the back markers close up to me. During a particularly lively gale a few days west of Tasmania I realized that I would have to stop, haul out and do a proper shoreside job of attacking the barnacle problem. I had a following wind gusting to around 45 knots and a big following sea which should have given me perfect sailing at maximum speed but I could barely get the boat over three knots! The decision to stop in Hobart and haul the boat out was a very easy one to take as the numbers simply would not have worked. I would not have had enough food or water to continue the race at the speed that the barnacles had reduced me to. It was also one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make as by stopping, I was automatically moved into the ‘Chichester Class’ for race entrants making a single stopover for any reason, rather than completing the race non-stop. My Golden Globe Race was over. But there was still a solo circumnavigation to achieve.

I arrived in Hobart, Tasmania on 16 January 2023 and spent a fairly frenetic few days getting through Border Control and their very stringent bio-security rules, hauling Olleanna up a slip at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and getting a team of guys to help me scrape off all the barnacles before abrading the Coppercoat antifouling to activate it better. Fortunately the correct activation of the copper in the antifouling by the team in Hobart made all the difference and I arrived at the finish with negligible fouling.

See how bad the problem really was by watching the video below.

Olleanna was pulled out in Hobart Gate to sort out the barnacle problem. This view of her hull, shows the port side having been mostly cleaned and the starboard side untouched.

Jeremy Bagshaw Golden Globe Race

Picture credit: Don McIntyre

Getting going again

“After leaving Hobart on 19 January I was effectively in a class of one as four boats ahead and one behind me were all still in the race without having stopped. It was quite difficult to motivate myself to sail hard as I was racing only against myself so I set myself the target of making the quickest passage between Hobart and the finish line! The passage south of New Zealand and across the Southern Pacific Ocean is a really long and often quite wild one. We were allowed to drop down to 47° South, after having passed to the north of Bounty and Snares islands near New Zealand, until we reached 120° west where after we could start our approach to Cape Horn. The weather in this part of the Pacific Ocean is quite predictable and is essentially a series of low pressure systems that move from West to East bringing first, North West winds and then South Westerlies. These have the effect of building up some interesting seas. The race management play a proactive role in fleet safety and will usually warn competitors if they believe that conditions are likely to become extreme or dangerous. They would issue a weather warning to the competitors via text message delivered by satphone or YB3 tracker, together with a suggested course of action to minimize the danger. I received several of these in the weeks leading up to Cape Horn and on one occasion I was advised to head north of 52° South to allow a particularly intense system to pass south of me. During this time I had a very large wave come aboard from an unusual direction and land directly on my spray dodger at the very moment I opened my companionway hatch to move into the cockpit! My spray dodger was wrecked and several hundred liters of water landed on my chart table and galley! This was a defining moment in my race as I still had over 10,000 miles to sail in some pretty unfriendly conditions before the finish and now a completely exposed cockpit and deck.

It would seem from the race management statistics that I had the most severe weather conditions for the race of all competitors. It certainly felt like it without the protective effect of a spray dodger!

Rounding the horn

The actual rounding of Cape Horn was somewhat anti-climatic as I had zero visibility in the three days before the rounding meaning that I was never exactly certain of my position as I couldn’t take any sun sights. I had to navigate by dead reckoning and was very relieved to see the island of Diego Ramirez on my starboard bow early one morning, almost exactly where I expected to see it! From there I was able to lay a course for Cape Horn and in between constant rain and hail squalls and 100% cloud cover, I managed to get a glimpse of Isla Hermite, just to the west of Isla Hornos, in the late afternoon before eventually picking up the twin lighthouses of Cabo Hornos around midnight, local time on 15 March. From there, I had intended to sail to the west of Isla da Los Estados and hug the Argentine coast while heading north but the wind had other plans for me and I was met with a very strong North Westerly wind after passing the Horn and this forced me further East than I wanted to go. I ended up fighting my way north and eventually passing the Falklands to the east.

It was quite a relief to get out of the Southern Ocean and the reduction in sea state was very noticeable once I had passed the Falklands but even once north of the latitude 40° S, I was not out of the worst of the weather. It was tempting to think I could relax and pack away storm gear but in fact two of the worst storms I faced on the whole circumnavigation were between 50°S and 30°S off the Brazilian coast. The last one at 36°S was the worst of the lot with sustained Force 10 winds (according to the Brazilian Navy) and a belligerent sea state that resulted in a knock down and damaged (although easily repaired) windvane. image1.jpeg

Jeremy Bagshaw - GGR

Picture shows the remains of the Windpilot vanes after encounters with massive following seas. Picture supplied.

Toughing it out

“I had a relatively quick passage up the South American continent and managed to pick the best spot to cross the ITCZ (doldrums) and I was well on my way to achieving my goal of the fastest time from Hobart to the finish, having 4 days in hand over the next fastest competitor to this point, when I got to the Azores and the wind turned into the North East, exactly from the direction I wished to sail to! It stayed that way for the next 23 days and what should have taken me 12 days, took 24! During this time I also had the stem fitting or forestay chainplate fail and I was unable to set a foresail bigger than my staysail! But with only 800 miles to sail to the finish, I simply had to push on and just make a plan! I had to constantly revise my water and food budget as both were running low and I hadn’t factored in the completely contrary winds. I was already past the budgeted number of days at sea and had to cut back meal portion sizes and frequencies to ensure I had food until the last day. Water was a bigger problem as I had a 20L reserve storage container leak out after the knockdown of 1 April without me noticing it in the cockpit lazarette. It was not nearly as easy to catch rainwater as I had expected it to be. I didn’t carry sufficient water for the race and should have set off with more reserve cans. I was eventually forced to access my emergency watermaker, a hand operated desalinator that made approximately one litre per hour from 50 liters of sea water. Hard work and an almost zero sum activity as I am sure I perspired close to a litre to make a litre of drinking water”!

A worthy finish

I arrived back at the start/finish line at Les Sables d’Olonnne on 9 June, 278 days later, 13 kg lighter than I started and having eaten the very last of my food the night before the finish! The weather gods were not finished tormenting me though and in almost no wind as I approached within 400m of the finish line, the tide turned and pushed me back two and a half miles away from the line! Six frustrating hours later I was able to cross it in a freshening breeze and was met by friends and some supporters of the event! What a relief and what a great experience”.Golden Globe Race

The highlights were many, and they allowed him to forget the bad times. “The sunrises and sunsets were each amazing in their own way; the unbelievable starscapes on clear nights; the company of Albatrosses for months on end in the Southern Ocean; the dolphins and whales of the rich subantarctic waters; the occasional chats to fellow competitors and the reaching of various navigational landmarks were all special moments to be savoured. The solitude and the freedom to just become one with my surroundings and to be able to allow one’s mind to wander in a way that’s just not possible in this busy land based world was so liberating. The adrenaline rushes from those moments when nature gets your full attention with it’s power and intensity was a regular highlight”.

Jeremy has no plans for another solo sailing race just yet. “I don’t think I will do any future races. It’s too expensive and time consuming. When I next go sailing, it’ll be with company and at a much slower pace to take in all the beautiful places that I had to sail past without stopping this time”.

Since the end of the race, he’s been doing some maintenance on Olleanna and preparing her for sale to a new owner who wants to do the next Golden Globe Race in 2026. “I’ve been enjoying socialising in small groups of like-minded people and getting to know France a little. The sailing community is small and tightly knit. I was extremely fortunate to have a South African sailing family who live close to Les Sables d’Olonne and who basically adopted both my compatriot, Kirsten Neuschäfer and myself in the build up to the start and after the finish. They looked after us like family, ensuring that I had a rapid weight gain too”!

Kirsten’s winning account

While many reports can be found on Kirsten’s win in media all over the world, she kept it short and sweet with S+L as she was on her way back to France when we caught up with her.

Kirsten’s achievement is awe-inspiring – she’s the first woman and the first South African to win a solo race around the world!

When asked why she decided to enter the race she said that it was for the adventure. “It’s the biggest appeal. Also, I like single handing, and the retro aspect. It was a relatively easy decision after having followed the 2018 edition”, she said. Kirsten had no ocean race-experience but had done single-handed deliveries of sailboats. Remarkable that she went on the win the race!

The prep took commitment. “It took almost one and a half years to do a significant refit on the boat, and then I sailed more than 15000NM alone on the boat to familiarise myself with her. I had a fair bit of mechanical knowledge beforehand. As I did as much of the work as possible on the refit myself, I acquired the necessary skills just in that process. I practiced the celestial navigation on the 15000 + NM I did before the start of race”.

“The biggest challenge for me getting to the start line was that the refit was happening during the pandemic. Finances were always a bit of a worry, and then there was the time limit to get the boat 100% ready for such a big undertaking. All these factors contributed towards this”.

Her biggest challenges during the race? “It was the “calms” (light winds in the high’s just north of the exclusion zone in the Southern Ocean) and being becalmed in the doldrums on the way back up the Atlantic”.

“But there were many highlights too: encounters with wildlife, pinpointing small islands and finding them successfully with celestial navigation, padding Cape Horn, arriving to an amazing welcome and bring reunited with friends and family”.

For an insight into what Kirsten’s all about, watch 30 000 Miles From Home – a beautiful, behind the scenes story about what shaped her, what her dreams were, her dogged determination and the other unusual adventures she has embarked on.

She had winning the race as her goal from the start!

Watch the comprehensive boat tour and post-race interview below.


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