The Golden Globe Race starts on Sep 4, 2022 from Les Sables d’Olonne on France’s Atlantic coast. It’s a remarkable race, recalling the Golden Age of solo racing. The sailors face eight months of isolation, sailing 30,000 miles across five oceans non-stop, solo and unassisted. They have 1960s technology and only the sun and the stars to guide them on the route out and back to Les Sables d’Olonne next year.

All the information about the race, the route, the sailors, their boats and more is below the section on how the race started. Apologies, but please do skip down if history is not your thing!

Sailing boats at Les Sables d’Olonne for GGR 2022 wth boats with no sails at anchor in still blue sea
Golden Globe Race boats at Les Sables d’Olonne © GGR 2022

The inspiration behind solo, round-the-world racing…Francis Chichester

In 1966 British yachtsman Francis Chichester set out from England to sail solo around the world down to Australia where he stopped, and back. He went via the five Great Capes in his 16m Gipsy Moth IV taking 226 days.

Gipsy Moth permanently moored at Greenwich in concret with round tower behind
Gipsy Moth now at Greenwich © Alkivar/Wikimedia

The challenge? To beat the old Clipper ship records, and the captains who competed for the fastest delivery of grain, wool and gold.

The last clippers sailed in 1939. The route was made redundant due to the opening of the Suez and Panama canals and the introduction of marine steam engines. Sail gave way to steam.

The First Golden Globe Race

In March 1968 the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race was announced, the first non-stop, single-handed, round-the-world race. There was no entry fee and virtually no rules or qualification requirements. Nine men entered but only one finished, 29-year old Robin Knox-Johnson, in his 32-foot ketch Suhaili.

Suhaili boat of Robin Knox-Johnston side on showing three masted ketch against clouds and blue sky
Suhaili © Thomas Keyser/CC-BY-SA 4.0

The first Golden Globe race might have had its problems, particularly with the apparent suicide of Donald Crowhurst. But the race spawned the BOC Challenge (which has not been run since 2011-2012), and the fearsome Vendée Globe, raced every four years. The next Vendée Globe is in 2024.

50 years after that first extraordinary venture, the Golden Globe race was run again. In 2018 18 sailors started and five finished. It was won by Jean-Luc Van den Heede, who took  211 days at sea.

The Inspiration and Organiser of the Golden Globe 2022

Don McIntyre at the Golden Globe race 2022 on pontoon photographing Kirsten Neuschafter drinking champagne
Don McIntyre filming Kirsten Neuschäfer before the start © Mary Anne Evans

The race is run with extraordinary efficiency and good humour, as well as toughness, by Australian Don McIntyre. A lifelong adventurer and sailor, Don is one of Australia’s most experienced sailors. He came second in the 1990 BOC Challenge single-handed around the world yacht race, the highest placing for an Australian at the time. He’s the founder of the Golden Globe Race as well as the Ocean Globe Race which departs in 2023.

He was everywhere in Les Sables d’Olonne at the beginning of the 2022 race, at press launches, at interviews and always encouraging the sailors. He spoke to every single sailor before they set off on Sept 4, and is now overseeing the race.

Check Don McIntyre out at McIntyre Adventure.

The Route of the Golden Globe 2022

GGR 2022 Chart showing rougte around world and
Golden Globe Race 2022 Chart

The Golden Globe race takes the same route from the Vendée Globe, taking an east-about circumnavigation, like the Vendée Globe, starting and finishing in Les Sables d’Olonne.

The 30,000-mile race has 4 rendezvous gates where the sailors pass over films and letters and can be interviewed as they sail by (but don’t stop). The four gates are Lanzarote, Cape Town, Storm Bay in Tasmania and Punta del Este.

But I wonder if it’s good or bad for the sailors to have one fleeting moment (in Tasmania) to see (but go nowhere near) their families and friends?

Whatever they think and feel, the dropping off of their film gives us, the audience, the chance to see what they are up against.

The Boats in the Golden Globe Race 2022

These are not the sleek, hugely expensive and highly technical boats that competitors use in the Vendée Globe enabling them to circumnavigate the globe in under 80 days.

By contrast, the Golden Globe race takes around 250 days. These are small, old production fibre-glass boats between 32ft and 36ft overall (9.75-10.97m) in length and designed before 1988. They must have a full-length keel with the rudder attached to their trailing edge. They’re heavily built and strong and sailing them relies as much on the skill and endurance of the skippers as human strength. It’s notable that many of this year’s entrants are in their 60s.

What the Sailors need to enter the Golden Globe Race

Entry is by invitation only. Sailors must be over 18. They must have at least 8,000 miles ocean sailing experience, another 2,000 miles singlehanded in any boat. Finally they have to have an additional 2,000 miles solo in their Golden Globe Race boat.

It makes for a nerve wracking experience.

Pre the Golden Globe Race

Gijon Spain fountain in right front, with harbour and yachts behind start of GGR 2022
Gijón Fountain and Harbour © Alastair McKenzie

The American and Canadian sailors have to cross the ocean to get to the registration point to enter the 2022 Golden Globe Race.

Most of them rendezvous in Asturias for the 240 nautical mile SITRAN race from Gijón to Les Sables d’Olonne. It’s the first time the competitors race together, comparing speeds and techniques across the Bay of Biscay. This year 15 skippers took part and it was won by Frenchman Damien Guillou.

Night shot of Damien Gillou on boat in yellow jacket on boat in GGR 2022
Damien Guillou finishing first from Gijon to France © GGR@022/Nor Havel

The Golden Globe Sailors in 2022

There are 16 skippers registered including one woman, Kirsten Neuschäfer from South Africa.

The Golden Globe 2022
SailorNationalityBoat/Race no.Age
Jeremy Bagshaw South AfricaOlleanna/07 59
Ertan BeskardesUKLazy Otter/94 60
Guy de Boer (Retired)USASpirit/5666
Simon Curwen UKClara/04 62
Arnaud Gaist FrenchHermes Phoning/11 50
Michael Guggenberger AustriaNuri/17 44
Damien Guillou FrenchPRB/85 39
Ian Herbert-Jones UKPuffin/37 52
Pat LawlessIrelandGreen Rebel/2266
Tapio Lehtinen FinlandAsteria/0664
Kirsten NeuschäferSouth AfricaMinnehaha/5339
Mark Sinclair (Retired) AustraliaCoconut/8863
Elliott Smith USASecond Wind/2427
Abhilash Tomy Goa,IndiaBayanat/7143
Guy Waites UKSagarmatha/13 54
Edward Walentynowicz (Retired)CanadaNoah’s Jest/34 68

Here’s Kirsten Neuschäfer’s experience.

The Rules

The rules are the same as for the 1960’s era of Robin Knox-Johnston. The sailors use sextants and paper charts, wind up clocks and cassette tapes for music. They calculate the weather themselves, and hand write their logs. They receive no help as to their position unless it is a real emergency and if they do that there are consequences.

Of course there are more rules, many of them to do with technicalities of the boats. Find out more here.

Safety of the Skippers

The event organisers issue a standard Race Pack to each sailor to be used in extreme circumstances/accidents.  Among other items the pack includes a stand-alone satellite tracking system which the skippers cannot see. This is for web tracking updates. There’s a two-way satellite short text paging unit that only connects with race HQ. Two handheld satellite phones allow up to four short messages per day. And there’s a sealed box with two portable GPS chart plotters – strictly for emergency use only. 

All skippers are tracked 24/7 by the organisers for their safety but if in danger they can break open their safety pack with its GPS and satellite phone. Doing that however means they have retired from the main race. Like any skipper who makes one stop, they are then moved into the Chichester Class.  If the sailor finishes no later than 3pm on Jun 14, 2023, they receive a Chichester finishing plaque.

Any skipper making two stops is disqualified from the race.

Les Sables d’Olonne and the Golden Globe Race Village

GGR 2022 Plan of race village showing map with numbers for different sections
GG 2022 Les Sables d’Olonne Race Village Plan © ville des sables d’olonne

The village is where the action takes place. It opened on August 20, 2022 with a great ceremony and of course fireworks at the end. Each day there are notable events, from climbing a mast to concerts, from learning how to navigate via the star to a maritime carousel and of course a guingette (bar) that stays open to 2am.

It’s free and is enormous fun as well as giving everyone the chance to see the boats, and talk to the sailors.

News on the Golden Globe Race

I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to Les Sables d’Olonne on a trip that will take in both this delightful town on the west coast, and the Golden Globe Race start. So I’ll post about that great event, and keep you up to date throughout the next 250 days or so on the progress of those solo sailors way out in the world’s great oceans.

Here is the latest update and news which I will continue to update as the race progresses. Now the winner has come in – Kirsten Neuschäfer who sailed back into Les Sables d’Olonne on Thursday April 27, 2023, at 9.43pm.

But strangely she was not the first over the line. That honour went to Simon Curwen who sailed a magnificent race but broke a wind vane and had to stop for 4 days to make repairs. He was put into the Chichester Class. But being such a superb sailor he not only regained the lost sea miles but overtook everyone else to arrive at Les Sables d’Olonne earlier on Thursday April 27, 2023.

Simon Curwen back at Les Sables d'Olonne on his boat waving flares as someone who got on the boat after the finish line to help him in, steers.
Simon Curwen back at Les Sables d’Olonne

If you want to know more about the technical aspects of the race (in an easily digestible read), then click on Alastair McKenzie’s Mech Traveller piece – Golden Globe Race 2022 – Sailing ‘Old School’.

Discover more

Golden Globe Race website. The official website has some great links, including the live tracker.

More about Les Sables d’Olonne

More about Vendée Tourism

More about the fabulous French Atlantic Coast

Vendée Globe Race 2020

I travelled to France via Newhaven to Dieppe courtesy of DFDS. More ferries to France information. I was on a self-driving trip, visiting Les Sables d’Olonne as a guest of Vendée Tourisme and Les Sables d’Olonne Tourisme.