Racing yachts around the world use computerised weather routing programs to optimise courses against satellite weather data. It’s the norm! Both are banned in the Golden Globe but the current leader and only woman in the race, South African Kirsten Neuschäfer, found the perfect solution for her best route home to Les Sables d’Olonne after rounding Cape Horn.

She consulted Ocean Passages of the World with its 200-year-old weather routing charts, historical weather and suggested routes from the original clipper sailing ships. Following that advice is now paying strong dividends sailing through the tricky horse latitudes! She sailed out to the east and is now in a commanding windward position as she reaches the South East Trades ahead of the rest of the fleet.

700 miles inshore to the west, Abhilash Tomy, currently second and 350 miles behind Kirsten, is now locked on starboard tack in northerly head winds. With the coast just 400 miles ahead, he must soon start tacking north. Kirsten on the other hand, 1,000 miles offshore, has easterly winds on the beam and could make one long 1,500 mile starboard tack through the trades, all the way to the northern tip of Brazil. That may give her another 300-400 mile advantage over Abhilash. Combined with her current 350 mile lead, that’s potentially a big break going into the doldrums and crossing the equator. But she will need it!

Abhilash’s Rustler 36 ‘BAYANAT’ is lighter and faster to windward than Kirsten’s Cape George 36. The north Atlantic is a real climb upwind back to France. Kirsten is 4,600 miles from the finish and just crossed her outbound track of four months ago “tying the knot” for the first time. She reports all is well onboard with no major issues! It is clear she is working hard to press ahead. To have a chance of being the first ever woman to win a solo race around the world, she must be well ahead coming out of the doldrums!

Kirsten’s following has increased dramatically over the past months with many impressed by this sailors sailor, who just happens to be a woman. Well known Canadian singer songwriter Lennie Gallant has penned a tribute song to Kirsten titled “On the Minnehaha” and it is going crazy!

“I haven’t had much weather info lately. I had one relayed from Peter by Puffin a couple days ago but hadn’t had any since then. I picked up some southeasterlies yesterday and it’s gone further south-east now. I’m hoping that gives me a push after many slow days. I don’t know how far I’m behind now but hope it will hold now!”

Abhilash Tomy (IND) has resumed his northern route after more repairs onboard Bayanat, detailed in his weekly safety call including climbing up the mast to replace a broken running backstay with his guardrail wire, getting badly bruised in the process. His mainsail ripped completely in two from luff to leach below the first reef point that was a huge effort to hand stitch together. More importantly, he caught another 30 litres of rain water which is always welcome on Bayanat!
“I have been working quite a lot, non-stop for around 24 hours. I replaced the broken running backstay with a guardrail, and replaced the guardrail with the emergency HF antenna! I spent 3 to 4 hours up the mast and started to work on the mainsail. It was long and tedious but the sail is back on and looking good, better than the boat which is a complete mess.”

Abhilash has been challenged with ongoing repairs aboard Bayanat, including stitching a four metre rip in his mainsail. Image: Abhilash Tomy / GGR