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Golden Globe Race: ‘It was a no brainer to stop after my self-steering broke’

Pat Lawless shares his plans for the future after being forced to retire from the 2022 Golden Globe Race when his boat's self-steering system broke, leaving him hand-steering his Saltram Saga 36

A self-steering system on the back of a Saltram Saga 36 boat
Pat Lawless is planning to enter the 2026 Golden Globe Race. Credit: Eitenne Essikommer/GGR

Pat Lawless has shared his self-steering gear woes which led him to retire, 7,824 miles into his Golden Globe Race.

A bushing came out of its socket on his Aries self-steering system, disengaging the gears and leaving him unable to race competitively.

The Irish singlehanded sailor explained the windvane steering was impossible to fix at sea, as it was ‘an engineering job’, and he had no option but to  retire at Cape Town.

‘I had a few days broad reaching with no self-steering. I was gybing a bit but it was fine, and it was blowing a Force 6 and I could manage to sail the boat with no problems; I stopped racing once I lost my self-steering. For the first day or two, I only had a small jib up and I was trying to fix it [the self-steering gear] and look at it, so I wasn’t really moving much. But fairly quickly I realised I wouldn’t be competitive without the self-steering; I could sail but I wouldn’t be competitive. And then in a storm, I would end up broaching so it took a day or two to accept that I was out of the race,’ Lawless told Yachting Monthly.

‘It was solo nonstop or nothing for me. If I was home bound I would go into the Chichester class [for entrants who make one stop], but I would rather put the effort in trying to get into the next race,’ said Green Rebel‘s skipper, who was also hoping to become the first Irish sailor to sail non-stop around the world solo.

Pat Lawless Aries self-steering gear

Pat Lawless’s self-steering Aries system before the race start. Credit: Katy Stickland

His Aries self-steering gear is currently being fixed in a machine shop before he starts his long voyage home aboard his Saltram Saga 36, Green Rebel.

He plans to overwinter the boat in Europe.

‘It was terribly disappointing for the first week but now I have accepted that my race is over. Yesterday morning I woke up, and I thought I was in the race. I got very disappointed. So you still get moments. But, Cape Town is gorgeous. It is my first time south of the equator and the people here are so, so nice.’

Despite the disappointment, Lawless is already looking ahead and has hopes of taking part in the 2026 Golden Globe Race, which is now open for entries.

Pat Lawless took several days to make the decision to abandon the race, realising that without working self-steering gear, he would not be competitive. Credit: Kieran Ryan-Benson

Pat Lawless took several days to make the decision to abandon the race, realising that without  working self-steering gear, he would not be competitive. Credit: Kieran Ryan-Benson

He will be 70 years of age when the fourth edition of the race starts.

‘I have unfinished business. I have learned a lot from this race. I think I would be faster the next time and I would be better prepared,  but there is a serious health test to go through so I wouldn’t like to go looking for sponsorship until I was sure that I could do it. So it will probably be at least two years before I decide if I will be back for 2026; I would certainly like to be,’ said Lawless, who is a cabinet maker.

The former deep sea fisherman said he had learned ‘plenty of lessons’ during his nine and a half weeks racing, and believes that if he carried less weight, his boat would be much faster. He would also leave more preparation time, admitting he was ‘rushed’ before the race start, although the furniture polish he remembered to pack was invaluable in the Tropics.

‘It was really handy for getting rid of the mildew. You get a lot of mildew in the Doldrums and the Tropics in the heat with moisture and if you clean it, put furniture polish on it, it doesn’t come back so quick,’ he shared.

Continues below…

Lawless would also take dehydrated food in the next race and  carry less water; he took 450 litres of water in the 2022 race.

‘You can fill the boat with water in the Doldrums in the torrential downpours. The water goes off unless you put a lot of chemical into it; it gets cloudy. You would catch water and you could eat dehydrated food so you’d be saving weight. You would also get water coming back so you would just need enough water to get you from the Tropics, back to the Tropics,’ he explained.

He said he received no weather forecasts via the weather fax from either Rio or Cape Town, where the aerial is broken. But he did receive the High Seas Forecast via his SSB Radio and relied on looking at the sky and recording his barometer readings, which he shared with most of the rest of the fleet.

Pat Lawless shows off his infected knee

Pat Lawless suffered a knee infection earlier in the race, which needed treatment with antibiotics. Credit: Aida Velceanu/GGR

Lawless also enjoyed the celestial navigation, spending four hours a day taking sights and working out his position, which at times could be up to 10° out. He said he plotted his course waypoint to waypoint, sailing the shortest course between the two, and would take big scale charts to help him plot next time.

‘I was very nervous before I got to Lanzarote that I would look foolish and miss it in front of everyone. Taking part in the Golden Globe Race feels a bit like a reality TV show because you feel that you are being watched, and you don’t want to make a fool of yourself,’ he said.

‘I did miss my grandchildren and my family, more than I expected. You have plenty of time to think and you think of home. Music moved me, which I didn’t expect. Some songs would remind me of my wife or my grandkids or my mother. I got more emotional and I got softer as the race went on. It was nice. It was healthy. I really knew I was lucky that I had a loving family to go home to and that set you a target to get home as quickly as possible, but you overthink things because you are on your own.’

Pat Lawless is not the only 2022 skipper to have faced self-steering problems.

Damien Guillou is the fifth skipper to retire from the 2022 race, leaving just 11 skippers in the race. Credit: Nora Havel/GGR

Damien Guillou is the fifth skipper to retire from the 2022 race, leaving just 11 skippers in the race. Credit: Nora Havel/GGR

French favourite Damien Guillou has also abandoned the race after further issues with his Hydrovane.

The 39-year-old initially returned to Les Sables d’Olonne days after the start when the starboard screw/axle windvane attachment at the transom broke while sailing in 30 knots of wind and heavy seas in the Bay of Biscay.  Under GGR 2022 rules, he is allowed to return to Les Sables d’Olonne to make repairs and restart the race without any penalties as long as he left by 1600 UTC on the 11 September 2022.

Once fixed, he began racing his Rustler 36, PRB hard to catch the leaders, and was the sixth skipper to make the Cape Town gate.

But having started heading into the Indian Ocean in rough seas, he reported the loss of his Hydrovane rudder to Race HQ.

Modifications to Damien Guillou's Hydrovane self-steering gear. Credit: GGR/Nora Havel

Modifications to Damien Guillou’s Hydrovane. Credit: GGR/Nora Havel

His team has previously modified the rudder shaft, drilling out the original single securing pin hole to 7mm and threading it, to screw in two machine screws, one each side securing the rudder. The original pin was discarded.

One of the machine screws came loose and the rudder slipped off the shaft. The rope safety line that secures the rudder to the boat also came undone, and the rudder was lost.

Although Guillou had the original damaged rudder blade on board, he didn’t want to sail into the Southern Ocean with it. Replacing the rudder at sea would also have been extremely difficult.

Meanwhile, race leader Simon Curwen is now almost an entire weather system ahead of the rest of the fleet; the winner of the 2018 Golden Globe Race, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede was also in a similar position after Cape Town, which prevented the rest of the skippers catching up with him until his Rustler 36, Matmut pitchpoled in the Southern Ocean.

Michael Guggenberger is now heading into the southern Indian Ocean. Credit: Nora Havel/GGR

Michael Guggenberger is now heading into the southern Indian Ocean. Credit: Nora Havel/GGR

Austrian Michael Guggenberger passed through the Cape Town gate this weekend, with UK-Turkish sailor Ertan Beskardes and South African, Jeremy Bagshaw expected in a few days time, as they battle through light winds.

Current positions of the Golden Globe Race 2022 skippers on 14 November 2022 at 1200 UTC

Simon Curwen, (UK), Biscay 36, Clara
Tapio Lehtinen, (Finland), Gaia 36, Asteria
Kirsten Neuschafer, (South Africa), Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha
Abhilash Tomy, (India), Rustler 36, Bayanat
Michael Guggenberger, (Austria), Biscay 36, Nuri
Ertan Beskardes, (UK), Rustler 36, Lazy Otter
Jeremy Bagshaw, (South Africa), OE32, Olleanna
Elliot Smith,  (USA), Gale Force 34, Second Wind
Ian Herbert-Jones (UK), Tradewind 35, Puffin
Arnaud Gaist, (France), Barbican 33 Mk 2, Hermes Phoning
Guy Waites (UK), Tradewind 35, Sagarmatha


Edward Walentynowicz, (Canada), Rustler 36, Noah’s Jest
Guy deBoer, (USA), Tashiba 36, Spirit
Mark Sinclair (Australia), Lello 34, Coconut
Pat Lawless, (Ireland), Saltram Saga 36, Green Rebel
Damien Guillou, (France), Rustler 36, PRB

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The post Golden Globe Race: ‘It was a no brainer to stop after my self-steering broke’ appeared first on Yachting Monthly.

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