The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Golden Globe Race 2018—It Didn’t Have to Be That Way, and How to Fix It

As most of you who have been readers of AAC for a while know, we started off as huge fans of the Golden Globe 2018 race, a retro re-creation of the race around the world single-handed non-stop run 50 years ago, and won by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.

Didn’t Go Well

But as the competitors entered the Southern Ocean and the casualty rate started to mount, I became increasingly disturbed. Yes, sailing around the world in the Southern Ocean in a small boat is a potentially dangerous endeavour.

Didn’t Have To Be That Way

However, it’s also a voyage that has been completed repeatedly without drama or disaster by seamanlike and well-prepared sailors. Most lately by our friend Susanne Huber-Curphey, one of the most accomplished sailors of our time, who has just completed her Longue Route voyage.

Susanne is now in Tasmania having sailed non-stop from Maine, USA, making one-and-a-half circuits of the Southern Ocean in the process, without even a knockdown.

And that includes being in the same storm very close to Abhilash Tomy and Gregor McGuckin, who were both capsized, and the former horribly injured.

How did Susanne make this voyage without problems? Good seamanship and a self-built series drogue to Don Jordan’s design.

Five times my life depended on the gorgeous ‘Jordan Series Drogue’, a total of 162 hours! Susanne Huber-Curphey

Her experience, when added to that of Trevor Robertson, Tony Gooch, and many others, shows that capsize risk can be reduced to near zero, even in the Southern Ocean, by deploying a series drogue before the waves get dangerous.

And, yet, five Golden Globe racers were forced out by capsize, and both the first- and second-place finishers were keel side up at least once.

Racing is Harder

By the way, it is important to point out that racers are faced with an intrinsic and difficult conflict that cruising voyagers are not: balancing survival and speed. And, no, I don’t have a good answer to that.

That said, perhaps even the great Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, who finished first, would have had an even faster time if he had used a series drogue, and so not pitchpoled, which damaged his rig and slowed his boat significantly for the last third of the race?

How Can We Fix the GGR?

So what can be done to save the Golden Globe Race so there can actually be another running in 2022, something, I for one, would like to see, as long as the casualty rate can be reduced?

I have lots of ideas, including making the start a bit later so competitors reach the Southern Ocean later in the astral spring and finish later in the northern hemisphere spring, and I will make specific gear and training recommendations in a moment.

It’s All About Culture

But before we get stuck into the technical stuff, I think the culture of the 2018 race was at the root of the problem..

So how can the GGR culture be changed to one that will organize a reasonably safe and seamanlike race that will attract sponsors and not incur the ire of the authorities?

McIntyre Must Move On

My suggestion is that Don McIntyre, Race Founder and Chairman hand over the leadership to someone with a more sober and measured approach.

Now, before I go any further, I need to point out that MacIntyre deserves huge credit for coming up with a great idea and then seeing it through to reality, as well as spending a pile of his own money to make it happen. I get that and I truly wish him well.

Damage to All Ocean Sailing

That said, I’m also angry at MacIntyre for the damage I feel he has done to the reputation of ocean sailing:

  • MacIntyre’s blog posts and videos gave the impression that ocean sailing in small boats is intrinsically dangerous. It’s not.
  • And, worse still, his position that capsizes and pitchpolings are just a risk of being out there is simply not true.

Let’s focus on the latter, because it’s the root of the former.

In my opinion, MacIntyre has a propensity for making bold pronouncements without citing any sources to back them up and, further, simply ignoring real-world experience and good science that conflicts with what he says.

Two egregious examples are his “slow pitchpole” theory and his repeated assertion that the race had a dismasting problem best solved with stronger rigs.

To the first I would say “cite your source” and, to the second, “that simply makes no sense at all and is analogous to saying that the answer to a plane design that crashes is to strengthen the wing spar”.

Basic Science

Sure, masts for the GGR should be built extra strong, but to recommend building them strong enough to withstand repeated capsizes is totally impractical, given that water is over 700 times denser than air—building a structure to withstand impact with the former, will make it impractical to operate in the latter.

The solution is to solve the core problem, which is capsize. 

I’m Not The Only One

But if you think I’m upset about this, have a chat with Susanne Huber-Curphey. She is incandescent about the way the tone of the GGR 2018 press releases and videos has influenced the general public into thinking that long-distance single-handed sailors are a bunch of danger-seeking yahoos who need regular rescuing at vast expense. (Susanne and I have been carrying on a satellite-based email conversation over the last few months, ever since she rounded the Horn.)

I bring Susanne into this because I’m sure there are those who will say that since I have not sailed in the Southern Ocean I’m not qualified to comment—perhaps a fair position. But no one is more qualified than Susanne.

Don’t get me wrong, I have huge respect for the actual competitors in the GGR 2018, including those who were capsized and retired. They were racing and they knew the risks and took them, that’s fine with me.

(Of course, that still leaves the thorny question of the cost of rescue, and potential danger to the rescuers, but that’s another discussion, so I’m not going there now.)

The problem is that, instead of acknowledging that things were not going well and mistakes had been made—perfectly understandable, given that this was the first running of the race in 50 years—MacIntyre doubled down on the myth that repeated capsizes are just part of the game.

Fatalism Leads to Disaster

Not only has MacIntyre’s position damaged the reputation of the very race he founded, it has also increased:

  • The chances that others will venture offshore with this dangerous attitude of fatalism, instead of properly preparing themselves against capsize, the number one cause of abandonment.
  • The risk that national authorities will place ever more restrictive regulation on all of us who wish to go offshore.

What About Susie?

At this point I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Yeah, but what about Susie Goodall, a series drogue didn’t work for her?”

Not relevant. The cause was a construction issue and had nothing to do with the fundamental effectiveness of the series drogue as designed by Don Jordan.

My Suggestions to Save The GGR

So where does all that leave the Golden Globe Race, going forward? Here’s what I recommend:

  1. The Golden Globe organizers should consult with unbiased outside experts-by-virtue-of-success, like Susanne, Tony and Trevor, on the anti-capsize gear to require, and wisdom on when to deploy it.
  2. The results of said consultations should be made available to all competitors in the form of an obligatory capsize prevention seminar.
  3. All competitors in future Golden Globe races should be required to carry a series drogue and install the chain plates to attach it.

(For the rest of us, the Golden Globe 2018 has been the best possible demonstration of the dangers of not carrying a series drogue.)

This Matters

I am absolutely convinced that if these three steps had been taken before the 2018 GGR, there would have been no need for me to write this rant now and, infinitely more important, Abhilash Tomy would not be living the rest of his life with titanium rods in his back, having only just survived one of the most horrendous experiences in the history of offshore sailing.

(By the way, Abhilash tells me by email that his recovery is going well and he hopes to be out sailing again soon—he is one brave man. If the same happened to me I would be looking at real estate…in Saskatchewan.)

Got a Better Idea?

One final point. To the series drogue naysayers like Macintyre I say:

Got a better idea? Because, let’s face it, the track record of your recommendations and pronouncements ain’t good.

Further Reading

We have a full Online Book full of storm survival tactics and gear that works, based on real-world experience from the Southern Ocean veterans mentioned above, and others.

The Book includes in-depth chapters on what you need to know to buy, fit, and deploy the series drogue as designed by Don Jordan, as well as other experienced-based chapters on heaving-to.

Full access is included with membership, but you can view the Table of Contents prior to joining.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Oliver Schonrock

Hi John

Quite agree with 99% of this. I have made the same arguments myself, also to McIntyre directly. Specifically, but not limited to, this one..multiple times:

“masts for the GGR should be built extra strong, but to recommend building them strong enough to withstand repeated capsizes is totally impractical, given that water is over 700 times denser than air”

He does make really unfounded pronouncements on many subjects. Unfortunately he is not showing a great ability to reflect and adjust. Therefore I have little hope that he will “see the light” and listen to others with more experience/knowhow. And for that reason I agree with your recommendation “that he move onto going sailing”.

Except…He won’t. He has already said he will stay ashore for 2022 (if it actually happens). Any sponsor will want him ashore, because he is a “good talker” and “entertains the crowds”. He loves all that drama. Fame and notoriety are the same for him. He is financially invested and can’t get his “money back” unless he runs a financially more liquid event. He can’t do that from the Southern Ocean.

So while you are right, I suspect that McIntyre will stay. Won’t pivot or adjust in the way he needs to, and if it runs again (probabilty < 30% at a guess), then it will suffer from many of the same issues – and some new ones.

I already know a major equipment sponsor who is seriously considering whether to supply entrants in any future editions. Not on a sponsored basis, and not on a paid basis, because they disagree with the way McIntyre is running it.

PS The race / adventure duality which you touch on, is a major problem as well. The GGR doesn't know what it is, and it needs to….


P D Squire

” Any sponsor will want him ashore, because he is a “good talker” and “entertains the crowds” ”

Really? My interest in the race was very very high but I could not watch any of his video updates right through. His appallingly slow delivery combined with his apparent compunction to tell us all about their video production difficulties and other problems totally unrelated to the race had me escaping early from every video I tried to watch.

William Balme

I didn’t really follow the GGR closely but certainly heard of the carnage it produced!

It sounds like adding anti-capsize equipment and training is a very good idea, but I would question the requirement of having a series drogue specifically. There are other drogues out there that are not quite so dramatic in their deployment – that have the intention of slowing the the boat and regaining control, rather than almost stopping the boat it in it’s tracks. The Galerider is one, the Shark another – being put to good use by Randal as he circumnavigated Antarctica in his Figure 8 trip (in Tony’s old boat).
I certainly agree with your thinking to make the race safer and rather more responsible – just wary of being quite so specific with the kit!

Stein Varjord

Hi William,
I’ve never used a JSD, but my impression is that when it is prepared for ocean passage, deploying it is quick and without any difficult operations. It can be made as easy as just pull a release line and it will do the deployment with no need for attention. Since it is deployed from the stern, unlike the less desirable classic sea anchors, no change of course is needed, assuming the weather is severe so we’re already on a downwind course.

For a race scenario, there is indeed a problem with the JSD: It takes a significant amount of time and effort to get back it in, unless the weather has calmed down a lot. A single element drogue, just for reducing speed, is much easier to get in. However, they don’t do the same type of task. One is for survival. The other is for adjusting boat behaviour, no more.

In a race like the GGR, survival conditions were experienced many times by all participants. All all logic and all accounts I know of tell me that there is only one remedy that will reliably and drastically improve our chances in those conditions: A correctly made and prepared Jordan Series Drogue. No other options exist. (Except for running fast with the weather, if the boat is made for that and the crew very capable.) Thus, making the JSD mandatory seems like the obvious choice.

Jumping out of a plane, or even more so, base jumping, is definitely far more “intrinsically dangerous” than crossing oceans in sailing boats, even participating in the GGR, (with a JSD). If one wants to jump out of a plane or base jump, a parachute seems like the obvious option, but there are some alternatives. The wing suits are perhaps the most extreme one. It gives the option to maneuver and go fast, but you can’t use it all the way down to the ground. It can be a nice extra option to have, but if you jump in a wing suit, you must also have a parachute.

As I see it, the JSD is a parallel to the parachute that will actually take you safely all the way down to the ground. Many of them need zero skill. Just pull the line and hang there until you’re down. Just like the JSD. All ocean passagemaking boats need one, albeit vastly less urgently than someone jumping out of a plane needs a parachute.

Drew Frye

I really like this article. Culture is a factor. But I think it is more than just JSDs.

I understand the interest in racing smaller, affordable, conservative, and hopefully, safe boats. But some of the technology restrictions were pointless and cruel. Why not sat phones and video? Several sailors suffered horribly from isolation in the first running. Isn’t solitary confinement used as a punishment (and I like solo sailing!)? Why not weather information, perhaps a restriction on 3rd party routing? Perhaps they could have skirted the worst storms. I can see rules intended to preserve the character of the boats, but not declining basic technology that keeps mom and pop boats safe. It’s arbitrary and adds nothing to the race, unless preserving historic hazards is one the goals. If so, I’m not interested.

No, this is like sending climbers into the Himalayas with wooden ice axes and no oxygen. Silly on the face of it. Add a competitive urge, and the formula is bad.

Or perhaps, as you suggest, some 3rd party advisors, if listened to, could show an interesting, safe path that we have not considered. I’d like that.

Marc Dacey

Attempting to be the Elon Musk of dubious sailing stunts is not a great life goal, in my view. I thought this was supposed to be a tribute to the original race’s Corinthian aspects, not a series of unfortunate (and easily avoidable, given available tech) events. And so horribly inconsistent, given that the JSD wasn’t available in 1968 as far as I know, and restricting satphone use just to headquarters is stupid and arbitrary.

Richard Elder

Hi Drew,
I hesitate to add to this thread, being well aware that I haven’t been there and done that! However I did work with Colin in an unsuccessful attempt to get a boat that I built approved as an entrant in the race. The boat met all the published requirements for acceptance but had 33′ of waterline length and probably 15% greater speed potential than all the eventual entrants. As it turned out the race devolved into a virtual one design contest, the majority of the best prepared skippers choosing to sail Rustler 35’s—- which just happened to be the boat Don MacIntyre owned and originally planned to sail in the race.

Abhilash Tomy * commented that the start time was somewhat of tune with the weather patterns, which leads me to two suggestions for any future race.
1- Speed = safety—- If Valiant 40’s and Fast Passage 39’s were the vessel of choice (both with a historical tie to early single handed racing) rather than short waterline 35 foot boats, they have enough extra speed capability so that storm avoidance becomes a possible tactic. With blister V40’s available for 40k and requiring the same extensive refit as any older sailboat. the cost of entry would not be markedly different than a Rustler.
2- Combine a bit of extra speed, somewhat more capsize resistance, and real time access to weather forecasts (not shore based routing) and you might have a recipe for an Golden Globe that begins to resemble an extremely challenging Global sailboat race rather than a destruction derby.

With JSD’s of course!

abhilash tomy

Hi Richard,
Don was planning to race a Tradewind 35 which he later sold to Kevin.

The next race has a better start timing – there is more time to prepare in France before setting off and the Race starts mid-September. That would not only help with arriving in the Southern Ocean in summers but also help participants to be back in the Bay of Biscay after winters (unlike this time).

The routeing has been made longer with more waypoints (Trinidade and Cape Town), less restriction on Southern Latititude etc.

There is also a requirement to sail their GGR boats for 2000 miles as part of entry process. This was not part of the previous race requirements.

abhilash tomy

Here are some of my views about what could have possibly caused so many issues during the race:-
– Time of the year – we were too early in the Southern Ocean
– Time to prepare – The visit to Falmouth was very forced and we sailed to LSO and had just about 12 days there to finish all last minute preparations. We were loaded with social activities and press and briefings and these were not really accounted for when I was budgeting time. When I embarked on my first non-stop circumnavigation I could plan my time exactly as I wanted right up to the departure. Of course, it is true that one must be prepared well in advance and shouldn’t leave things to last minute but try building a boat in India and getting it to a race from the EU facing bureaucracy and all that. A lot of 1968 stuff is not available in India and some of the things that I ordered on E bay and had them delivered in UK wouldn’t work when I laid my hands on them. EU customs won’t let food from India through. The difficulties were innumerable. The French and the English had it way easier. One of the reasons why Capt Coconut discontinued his voyage was because he was wary of having to bring his boat all the way back to Australia at the end of the Race.
– I have no problem with extended periods of isolation. BUT PSTN networks which were the norm in 1968 no longer exist and it is difficult to impossible to place a phone call through to your family.
– We could get weather only from government weather services, sometimes retransmitted through HAM stations. These give only gale warning and one day’s weather forecast in the form of a synoptic situation which needs to be plotted and you do your own weather predictions. All this is real fun. But there was no prediction or associated low in these messages about the storm that we faced on 21 Sep.
– We had a warning from Don saying that there would be storm which wont last long. Which was quite true but you need to understand that there is more to a storm than just saying that there would be a storm. What we had was a fast moving storm which created cross waves topping at 15m. Hand steering did not help because you could only cater for waves from one direction and it is not easy to move a long keel boat like a dinghy.
Nehaj appears to have been in the same storm but quiet possible the storm had a different character at the point where she was.
– Perhaps a pictorial representation of weather could have helped us take better decisions and avoid the cross seas?

abhilash tomy

Hi John
I can tell for sure that my experience of the Southern Ocean was different from my last circumnavigation.
For a long while after rounding Cape of Good Hope we kept getting headwinds (sometimes upto 40+ knots at about 40S). Curiously we had the lows above the highs as if they had interchanged their positions.

Jeremy Percy

I am grateful that you have put into words what many of us have thought throughout the race. It seemed almost entirely dominated by the commercial interests of the organisers who sat in splendid isolation whilst others risked life and limb.
Your point that; “I’m also angry at MacIntyre for the damage I feel he has done to the reputation of ocean sailing” is entirely relevant and I’m sure that insurance companies will also be taking a closer look at us from now on. I was frankly disgusted by the whole thing and especially when there were heroes out there, doing the same thing yet in a far quieter and more restrained way via the Longue Route. Thanks again.

Ken Ferrari

I, literally, just took delivery of a dyneema JSD from Ocean Brake 2 days ago. We’re heading off across the pond in a few months. What’s the construction issue?!?!

Is Ocean Brake aware of the issue?

Ken Ferrari

No worries. I read the article, left my comment, and then figured… why not just ask Angus. He replied within minutes. lol

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Hi John,

I agree, if Tomy had and if he had deployed a JSD this whole mess most certainly wouldn’t have happened, or at least in a substantially less critical way.

However, as a side issue, I found this note presumably reported by Tomy himself: “When the first knockdown happened, I was swept off my feet. I fell down to the mast and put my hands around it. I got swept outward to the tip of the mast. And then a few seconds later when the boat straightened, I found myself hanging from the top of the mast”, where he subsequently fell down onto the boom. Which I believe would only be possible if he wasn’t strapped on to a lifebelt! So as good as a sailor and seaman Tomy might be (which I am not one to doubt) not being strapped to the boat in such a situation is a huge failure, IMHO.


abhilash tomy

Hello Ernest,

This was not exactly the way it happened. But yes, I was not strapped on and I do feel safer that way on certain boats and in certain circumstances. Its a personal thing I guess. The rest of them suffered far less physical injury perhaps because they were inside the boat, except Susie who apparently was knocked down unconscious.

Ben Logsdon

You stated:

MacIntyre’s blog posts and videos gave the impression that ocean sailing in small boats is intrinsically dangerous. It’s not.
And, worse still, his position that capsizes and pitchpolings are just a risk of being out there is simply not true.

I completely agree with the intent of your statement; however, it’s not stated correctly.

Sailing IS intrinsically dangerous. Especially in a such an inhospitable environment of the open ocean. Properly prepared (by following the advice of this forum) sailing is not a reckless venture.

Pitchpoling and capsizes ARE a risk regardless of the boat and/or gear. But by choosing proper boats and gear, we minimize the risk to an acceptable level that most people feel that it is, again, not reckless.

Of course all this is subjective since the risk of ocean sailing can’t be quantified and we’re dealing with people’s opinions based on their feelings. Driving a car is crazy dangerous…but since so many people do it, it’s normal regardless of the number of people that are injured or killed each day.

Laurence Holden

Yes, and yes to all the criticisms of race organizers. But for me, they finally don’t stand, because finally it is the sea that is in charge – the last wild place left where rules are only frail human made efforts at control. This not a Romantic view. At last the sea decides, and from the very first it is only, and completely, the individual responsibility of each solo sailor to decide what to do and how to do it. The organizers were in charge of the event, not of the sailors. It is the sailors themselves who have the only responsibility to choose what rules to follow or not to, to ensure the safety of their boats and themselves.

Richard Elder

Hi John
We had a similar discussion regarding responsibility wherein a manufacturer dangled a bag of money in front of a delivery skipper to persuade him to deliver a production catamaran up the Pacific coast in the middle of the winter in order to display it in the January Seattle boat show. Skipper and crew were never seen again, and the inverted catamaran eventually washed ashore on an Oregon beach.

I support the freedom to take risks–even extreme risks. Indeed life is boring and incomplete without that freedom to explore and seek out challenge. If someone chooses to jump off a Norwegian cliff wearing a squirrel suit that is their choice–even if I think they are nuts. And if someone chooses to enter a non-stop global sailboat race in any type of vessel, from John Guzzwell’s 21 ft Treka to a 120′ carbon trimaran that should be their prerogative. I’m sure that whatever his faults, Don MacIntyre did not intend to create situations that put his competitors in greater danger. In fact his de-factor weather routing was an attempt to mitigate some of the danger they found themselves facing. And ultimately the skippers were in command of their vessels and responsible for the choices they made—including the choice to enter the Golden Globe.

What I do not support is for adventure seekers to expect others to put themselves at risk to rescue them when things turn to caca. Wing suit flyers don’t expect an air force of helicopters with safety nets to be prowling the valley below, and sailors venturing into the Southern Ocean in a sailboat race should not expect the naval force of the closest nation or a commercial vessel 500 miles away to come to their aid when they loose the contest with the forces of the sea.

P D Squire


McIntyre denies skippers the right to use or access an extensive list of normal sailing solutions but does not accept any liability for those restrictions. He places the risk with the participants:

“…the entrant … agrees and accepts that even with these restrictions … that the Entrant can keep themselves and their boat safe…” 2022 GGR NOR

Dick Stevenson

Hi Ben,
We could get into definitional debates for eons, I suspect.
Suffice it to say that I do not take myself, nor my loved ones, on any activity I consider “intrinsically dangerous”.
And I am uncomfortable with my choices being portrayed in this manner: mostly because I believe the portrayal in-accurate. In addition, I would not want those making the same choices my wife and I made: taking our children on sailing trips, to face the veiled and sometimes overt criticism we faced.
Finally, such bold statements as : “Sailing IS intrinsically dangerous.” tend to get embedded in the in-experienced person’s mind and repeated undigested. Cruising is such a rich and rewarding activity, that I would not want anyone to be unrealistically dissuaded from participating.
Reading your whole post, I leaned toward understanding your statement as more that “Life is intrinsically dangerous” or that bad things can happen anywhere/anytime: a sentiment I would agree with whether on the highway or at sea. And that proper preparation brings the activity out of the reckless arena. Again, I agree.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Ben Logsdon

Thanks for putting that into perspective. I hadn’t considered the ramifications of how people interpret a statement. Yes, my point was to illustrate that all activities have a degree of risk and humans have a very difficult time assessing risk.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Ben,
No worries, understood. And I agree that many have a hard time assessing risk. I have written about that here and elsewhere. Risk assessment is a skill and benefits from practice. I actually think our modern world gives far less practice at developing the skill of assessing risk. That said, I was chuffed yesterday to join a large group of parents and children (with my 3 yo grandson) and see the freedom exhibited allowing the children to play in a small stream, get good and muddy, clamber up a steep-ish bank, balancing walk on a log across the stream, and stumble and fall into cold water.
My best, Dick

Simon Wirth

Hei Ben, thx for the clarification.
I was a bit worried about where your line of argument might go in the public eye.
In general, I agree with your argument, and I’m a strong advocate of the “theory” that life is dangerous and everybody has to take responsibility for their own life (sorry for the sarcasm).
But I’d like to point something out that I think is important regarding responsibilities in such an event:
“Group pressure”, or in this case, the race challenge.
History is full of preventable accidents that happened as a result of some form of peer pressure. Under those circumstances, people in general tend to get more reckless compared to what they would risk if they where alone.
So therefore, in my humble opinion, any organizer of a race or event has to take this into consideration, and it’s his responsibility to mitigate it.


Steve Holloway

I think you’ve completely lost the plot with this John!
In fact I think you should be ashamed of the post you wrote.
To look at this race and pick holes in it retrospectively is nonsense. Yes Jean Luc and Mark were much faster than anyone thought they would be, but only one person has ever done this and that was 50 years ago, so I think we can understand the error.
We all know from your posts that you consider yourself a bit of a coward and put safety before everything. Nothing wrong in that, I am exactly the same.
I, like you haven’t got what it takes to compete in the GGR. That doesn’t mean however that we should deride it and those that chose to take part.
It seems you are imposing your views on all that competed in the GGR and most of all on Don who organised it.
Don was bringing back a classic race, a race that WAS woefully unsafe by todays standards, Chay Bylth was sailing a bilge keeler similar to one my father owned in the 70’s and we considered not seaworthy enough to go beyond the river estuary of the Blackwater where we kept it. And Chay couldn’t even sail when he left, he followed a friend out of the Solent and watched what he did!
Don set about making the race safe so it could be re-run. That didn’t mean creating a race for multi-million pound boats packed with every safety device known to man and a top notch shore team, we already have that, it’s called the Vendee Globe.
This race is not for people into cutting edge racing, I’m really surprised you don’t seem to get that.
For the racers themselves it was about a greater personal challenge. Jean Luc and Philippe Peche both told me that was precisely the appeal for them, they have massive experience in top class racing yachts but wanted this personal challenge. It was up to them what they took aboard their boats, if they wanted a droge they could take one. No they couldn’t have GPS, but they had it on standby in a sealed box along with modern comms. They were happy with this with their hugh experience of the Southern Ocean, why do you think you can tell them what to do?
Other less experienced skippers like Susie and Kevin hadn’t been to the Southern Ocean before, but that does not mean they should be denied the opportunity to go there. There has to be a first time and you or I shouldn’t say they can’t do it in a way they deem safe.
Kevin has climbed everest 3 times, he’s very used to risk assessment!
The main point though is the race organisation and your criticism of Don. Well from what I witnessed (as a journalist, I have no personal connection to Don) he was so stringent on safety equipment he faced continuous rebellion from skippers who were struggling with the cost and just shear space to pack it all into a 36 foot boat. Many dropped out before the start for exactly this reason.
The only negotiation with racing authorities before the race was on waterproof bulkheads which modern specs require to be on every cabin. This was not practical on a 36 foot yacht so a concession was made to have one crash bulkhead forward. Actually that’s not true they also wanted to impose the modern rules about water supplies for a while as well i.e. you have to have enough for the whole voyage which would equal enough to sink a 36 foot boat at sea for 8 months!
We should all look at safety & coming up with ideas and suggestions is great, but we should not dictate or criticise other peoples safety regimes in this instance.

Oliver Schonrock


I agree that the race organiser did many things to improve safety over the 1968 edition. Proven designs, lots of comms kit inside and outside sealed boxes, bulkheads etc. Nothing is 100% safe and each skipper is ultimately responsible for themselves.

However, where I agree with John, is that some critique of the race organiser is appropriate:

– He has repeatedly shown that he just seems to lack understanding and/or the right experience on important matters. Pretending and repeatedly communicating that “making rigs stronger” is key so they can “survive rollovers” is just nonsensical. These errors were pointed out by many, but the nonsense continued. This calls into question Don’s judgment, and that I believe, is Johns key point.

– There are also many instances where it has been clear that the race organiser has allowed his personal and commercial incentives to cloud his judgement and decisions. There was no “separation of roles”, which disqualifies the GGR as any kind of “race” in my view, despite pretenses. Don put the race outside of all common regatta frameworks. He ruled supreme, alone and with arbitrary will…

– These personal/commercial incentives also clouded the flow of information and will likely continue to do so. This affects learning by the wider community and that affects safety. In the GGR and outside of it.



Mixed thoughts on this topic. I dont question the benefits of a JSD and thinkvit ( or similar) should be required. However, given this is a race, I question how many would have used it.

P D Squire

John, in your safety book you’ve explained why a larger boat can deploy it’s JSD later in rising conditions than a smaller boat. What would you consider the sweet-spot size range for this type of race? The balance points seem to be cost & manageability vs safe overall speed.

Oliver Schonrock

Hi John

Some further thoughts to my points above, about the race organisers’ decision making.

– Your suggestion of a, potentially compulsory, JSD would be an excellent step in the right direction in order to improve the safety record and reduce the failure rate of any future edition.

– Paul Cardarelli makes a good point above, that it’s not 100% clear good seamanship would prevail, and the JSD deployed, “because it’s a race”. This chimes with my comments that the GGR needs to be clear about what it is: “A race or an adventure?”. Once this is clear, the NOR, rules, guidance, liability etc can be adjusted to suit and this may help in getting entrants to do the right thing.

I would also like to draw attention to the second biggest safety related failure point of the race. Maybe it’s even the first. This failure point is Windvanes. The subject is highly relevant, not just for the GGR because:

1. While the “windvanes only, no APs” rule may seem slightly arcane to some, I would argue that windvanes continue to be highly relevant on long distance cruising and racing of displacement boats. Windvanes have, or should have, very high reliability and maintainability at sea. Electric autohelms struggle to replace them on small to medium sized vessels and achieve the same reliability. Case in point: Tapio sailed 90% around the world with only enough electric power to recharge his satphone.

2. There is arguably a resurgence among the serious cruising community towards windvanes. More “green/renewable”, more reliable, less complex boat systems due to lower power requirements. Colin’s boat is a great example. Opinions will diverge here, but it’s hard to argue that windvanes have no place in serious modern offshore cruising / racing of displacement boats.

Windvanes in the GGR, while they worked, not only steered the boats around the world silently and without power consumption, they are also an important safety device, especially on a single (or short) handed vessel. When self steering is broken, the skipper is pinned, as colourfully illustrated by Susie in the storm South of Australia. As the storm began, her Monitor “safety tube” broke and she hand steered for over 24hrs. Not safe. Could have been washed overboard in a knock-down. And not scalable. Everyone needs sleep eventually.

No one, who is genuinely realistic about the capabilities of Windvanes (or APs for that matter), will claim that they can steer through “any conditions”. There comes a point when all such systems fail to perform, and only a human can continue. But that human is fallible too and has ultimately limited resilience. That’s the moment for the JSD. Up until that point the windvane is _the_ safety feature that keeps crew and vessel on course, safe and making progress.

The “acid test” for windvanes presented by the single handed GGR boats taking a very challenging, non-stop route has unfortunately exposed some serious weaknesses in many types of windvanes chosen by the entrants. I won’t list all the details of the failures here. Some were related to plain structural quality, eg on the Beaufort where all units failed before they reached the Southern Ocean proper. Some, like the Monitor and also, this is less known, the Hydrovane, had multiple “overload safety device” failures. Often, as Murphy would have it, at critical points in time. These intentionally weaker connection members / pins etc are designed to protect the entire windvane system from more serious damage, like a fuse. But if they fail at the “wrong time” and are hard to replace in a storm at sea, those “overload protection devices” become an Achilles heel.

I won’t get into the finer details of the various types of “overload protection”, but suffice to say that the designs vary a lot and there has been significant development in this area since the 1970s and 1980s, but only on some models. There is an excellent Article from Peter Förthmann which delves into the details:

We should always interpret any manufacturer’s opinion with some caution. However, Peter’s knowledge and experience with windvane design and engineering is unrivaled in the industry today. He tries very hard to stick to the scientific facts and his expertise is well worth listening to. The particular point to pay attention to is “_sideways_ overload protection”, ie athwartships.

The jury is still out on the exact mode of failure of each system and the conditions and circumstances when it failed. Some were related to installation issues and this all needs investigating further.

Interim assessment: Only the Aries, Hydrovane and Windpilot made it around. Of those, only the Windpilot systems remained undamaged. Mark Slats’ Aries nearly broke off the back of the boat, and Jean Luc’s Hydrovane had to be held together with half a mile of lashings. Istvan’s issues were related to his steering, not the windvane. Need to keep an open mind on the reasons, but “overload protection” which can prevent failure, and, if designed incorrectly, also be a source of problems, is a key aspect to consider.

Sorry for the long comment.

TL;DR Windvanes are still relevant today and are a critical safety device. However, depending on the particular model’s design windvanes can become a weak link themselves. Pay attention to “sideways” overload protection.


Marc Dacey

We have a Canadian-built windvane, the Voyager, plus an Octopus hydraulic AP with a Navico head on our steel 12 metre pilothouse cutter. Operationally, we intend to motorsail with the autopilot, and sail with the windvane, which involves bypassing the hydraulic pump (a simple ball valve turn) and rigging Dyneema lines to a rather long tiller attached to the top of the transon-hung rudder.

However, deliveries in heavy weather and large seas have clearly indicated that windvanes blanketed by waves don’t work well, and that autopilots can’t always steer safely in, shall we say, “dynamic” conditions. I’m not talking “survival” conditions, but in true winds beyond, say, 30-35 knots or seas more than perhaps four metres.

In addition, I’ve been present when windvane control lines have parted and when autopilot motors have sheared through their mounting bolts. So there’s a logic in resorting to hand-steering to preserve gear, which, once disabled, cannot be repaired or serviced until conditions improve. But of course, there’s a limit to what the solo sailor can do without heaving to, which is why solo sailor races of this type can become freak shows.

Matt Marsh

I wonder how many of these problems have their roots in the design process for the equipment we rely on.

“….when windvane control lines have parted and when autopilot motors have sheared through their mounting bolts….”
Why are such critical things failing at all? Are we really blaming it on wear-and-tear, or on excessively harsh conditions? Or are we going to recognize that a significant fraction of our equipment was designed by “one guy with a clever idea and no budget”, and simply does not have anywhere near the degree of engineering refinement that goes into even the most mundane component of a car or a plane?

Look at the JSD, for example. Most of the engineering work behind one of these things comes from one guy – Don Jordan – who, while certainly a smart fellow, was still limited to basic math with pen, paper, & slide rule when it came time to do the numbers. Has anyone ever done a systematic series of CFD-FEA multiphysics simulations of JSD performance on a range of boats in a range of storm types? I’m guessing not….. and even that detailed analysis would be only a fraction of the effort that went into deciding how the exhaust manifold of my car’s 2.0L four-cylinder should be shaped.

In the sailing world, we routinely accept equipment failure rates that would be considered scandalous in other industries. A car’s wheel and suspension bearings must run smoothly for a hundred million load cycles while caked with salty mud and being pounded by potholes; if they falter, the manufacturer’s warranty must handle it. An intercontinental airliner’s engines are allowed no more than one fault causing loss of power per hundred thousand hours (12 years of continuous running, or 36,000,000,000 revolutions), while ingesting a barely-subsonic -50°C wind on one end and producing 1800°C at 30 atm pressure in the middle. If they fail to meet that reliability, the plane loses its ETOPS-180 rating and gets banned from crossing many oceans.

Here we are, with the oldest form of transport known to humankind, knowing when we set out that a substantial fraction of the equipment we rely on is likely to bend, break, chafe through, seize, rust, leak, shear off, rip, or succumb to sunlight over a mileage that’s less than the unrefuelled range of that airplane. Then we get a situation like Golden Globe ’18 – parts snapping and falling off all over the place, lines chafing through, self-steering systems being rebuilt with plywood and rope in mid-ocean, half the fleet getting smashed up in some way or another – and it gets really hard to shake the idea that, collectively, we’re having a really hard time learning our lessons about what does or doesn’t work.

Oliver Schonrock

Hi Matt

That’s all correct. Full budget engineering is probably never done for sailing products.
But the reason is obvious is it not? Just plain commercials. Market size makes anything sailing so niche that it will just not bear this kind of high budget design and testing.

Not sure about you, but the prices on anything marine are high enough for me without the extra development budget for the sort of process you are describing.

That is also why we often rely on tech which is decidedly “old school”. Or at least we should, and John heavily advocates for that. Old school is cheaper because it leverages knowledge acquired by trial and error over very long time periods. It uses knowledge of “solved problems” from within sailing and from outside. Fandangled new things come with many unknowns which would require the sort of process you talk about.

Even the low tech, and already expensive, stuff breaks as you say?


Matt Marsh

That’s exactly the point, though. You’d expect “old school” stuff to have evolved close to perfection over many iterations…. but in a lot of cases, it hasn’t. The sailing community tends to write off failures as “oh, that was an extreme weather event” or “that’s just normal wear and tear”. Only in a handful of high-profile cases do we take a systematic look at what went wrong, and implement genuinely useful ways to prevent the same things from going wrong again.

It’s partly a matter of resources, true – but only partly. I think it’s also a matter of the culture and philosophy that govern design decisions. Our industry is quick to adopt materials and technologies from aerospace, automotive, defence, etc., at least in the high-dollar segments, but is much more reluctant to adopt fault tree analysis, failure modes & effects analysis, and other engineering practices that have evolved from better-funded sectors and could be of huge benefit here.

abhilash tomy

Are lost his boat due to autopilot failure. Susie too to a certain extant.

I used a Windpilot for about 12000 nm and I was very happy with it. I had an occasion where I had to change the link rod in a bit of a gale (must have been about 5m seas and 30+) kn. Took me about four hours but it wasnt too tough.

One advantage that windpilot has is that the paddle swings sideways and can come up nearly vertical. Even after all the accident that I had the Windpilot was hardly damaged!

I never had to slow down the boat to pull up the paddle. I would push the sensor to one side and pull up the paddle in one swift motion. At times I had to make more than one attempt. But that wasn’t too tough really. The only time this did not work was when a lot of trash (nets and ropes and all) got stuck in the paddle. I think I used a bucket and line to clear it off after dragging it behind me for half a day.

Marcelo Pires


One of the best videos of the JSD in action that I have seen were made by GGR entrant Shane Freeman aboard his Tradewind 35 Mushka, and they were taken (2 videos) during his passage to France to start the GGR. Its incredible to see how quickly the drogue engages when the boat accelerates…
To his detriment, the bridle got caught under his windvane padle and rendered it irreparable, and not too far from the Horn – an error that he himself commented that could have been prevented.
He had to proceed without self steering and unfortunately capsized, got injured and was rescued by a Chinese ship. Whether or not he had the JSD deployed at the time is unclear to me, and I believe I read somewhare that it was not deployed.
In any case, the mishap could have been avoided by using a bridle of floating lines, but I don’t remember seeing this mentioned as an option, perhaps due to the preference of most cruisers to autopilots, but I think this need to be taken into account. Thoughts?

Ernest E Vogelsinger

I thought I’d add the link to Shanes Youtube channel, both videos Marcelo refers to are linked just on top:

Marcelo Pires

Thanks Ernest….I meant to include the links. One of many senior moments….

Coenraad Strydom


It surprised me to see that Shane had the SD deployed and was still making 4+ knots with a storm jib up. Is this the recommended way to use the SD? I have no experience with conditions encountered here, but thought the point was to slow down when moving down the face of the wave. Am I missing something obvious here?

Hans Boebs

Hi John,
I’m using a Windpilot and I’m happy with it. When I deployed my JSD, one of the bridle arms, the port one, cought under the paddle in spite of being Dyneema. Luckily it did no harm because the paddle can be swung up out of the water and out of harm’s way. So all good ? Not quite, as the paddle can swing up only via the port side and if it were the starboard bridle arm to catch there’d be breakage for sure. So it’s best to swing the paddle up before deploying the drogue, relying on the Autopilot while doing so. Now boat speed has to be low to facilitate hauling up the paddle, I’d say no more than 3 knots, otherwise you just can’t pull it up. But boat speed is too high in a situation that calls for the drogue, that’s why one deploys it. Do you call that a conundrum in english ? I think it can be solved, by choosing a “slow moment” to pull up the paddle and then deploy the drogue.
When watching Shane Freeman’s videos I wonder why he found it necessary to steer while the drogue was out, or didn’t he ?

Oliver Schonrock

Hi Hans

Thanks for the details of your account. I am not aware of many detailed descriptions of the “best” way to deploy JSDs on boats with windvanes. It is not trivial, as you say, especially since these moment are often close to the edge of control anyway.

I believe “Windvane until it’s too much, then JSD”, is a very decent foundation of a storm strategy. So details on how to use/deploy this combination in sequence are very valuable. This is an area worthy of more investigation and information sharing.


Stein Varjord

A bit into video 2 he says aproximately: “… operator error. No one to blame for this but myself. Note to self: Take the paddle out of the water before deploying the series drogue.” That makes sense, of course, but I see the trouble with this as described by Hans Hinrich above.

As mentioned earlier I haven’t done this in real life, so it’s mere speculation if this is doable, but I envisage a way to lift the wind vane paddle remotely by pulling a few lines, so that it can be done from the steering position, while steering. I don’t know if any of the present wind vanes can accommodate this, but it shouldn’t be too hard to design a working system. When this is done, while hand steering, one could easily pull the release line that would drop the chain out of the already rigged JSD bag at the stern so the whole thing would deploy trouble free. Hand feeding it out of the cockpit seems more risky and makes steering simultaneously hard.

I’m also surprised by the reported speed of 4 to 5 knots. Maybe he refers to top speeds, not average speed? However, I do notice that the bridle looks surprisingly slack surprisingly often. Also that to my eyes, the cones seem smaller than I thought they should be…? He mentions that he has a 12 kilo chain at the end and that the JSD is more than a 100 meters long, plus rope. I don’t know if that’s all according to Don Jordans specs, but I’d assume that a heavier weight at the end would pull in the slack faster and give a more even tension.

Oliver Schonrock

Hi Stein

Your idea:

“As mentioned earlier I haven’t done this in real life, so it’s mere speculation if this is doable, but I envisage a way to lift the wind vane paddle remotely by pulling a few lines, so that it can be done from the steering position, while steering.”

Not sure that can work, because the problem is not “pulling paddle out while steering, and not being able to reach”. The problem is that when you start pulling the paddle to one side it will twist around its own axis, because it is interlocked with the steering signal from the wind direction sensor blade via the “bevel gears”.

And because it “twists” it will start to experience a very strong re-centering force, due to the flow of water past it. This is the same force that moves your main rudder, under normal operation. You would be effectively pulling against the “servo action” of the paddle. Force estimate: 200kg (2000N for those inclined that way) easily. This at speed right to down to about 1.5kn boat speed, when you can just about battle against it.

Hope that helps


Stein Varjord

Hi Oliver,
Good points. I should have thought of that. Still that is also surpassable. Again, I speak not from experience but by imagining. This seems possible:
1. Disconnect the wind steering gear from the steering.
2. Disengage the wind vane from giving steering input.
3. Give a steering input to the disengaged paddle so it lifts to the surface.
4. Pull it all the way up with a line.
All these operations should be possible to do remotely, if the wind steering gear is rigged for it?

Oliver Schonrock

Hi Stein

I am following your logic. But I am afraid there is another fly in the ointment:

“Give a steering input to the disengaged paddle so it lifts to the surface.”

Even if you remove the wind direction vane (the one sensing the airflow), so that you don’t have to fight the storm blowing on it, you still can’t it tip it more that 45degrees, because it hits mechanical stops. And the reduction of the bevel gears is 2:1 so if the windvane tips 45 degrees, then the paddle in the water will move 22.5 degrees from it’s central position. Not enough to lift it out of water.

This is all by design, so the paddle stays engages with the water and steers the boat. This is also true for all major pendulum windvane systems. They all use 2:1 and are limited to 22.5 degrees.

Currently I can’t see any way to lift up the paddle without stopping the boat. Which probably means deploying JSD first, then lifting the paddle, as the boat speed with JSD out should be much lower, near zero in some parts of the wave cycle.

This way means you have the help of the windvane to keep boat on course during JSD deploy. However, this is also not ideal as windvane is exposed during the JSD flow out. And once out, the bridle might be in the way of the paddle when you try to swing it up.

Slightly theoretical discussion of a very practical challenge. It might be one of those things, best trialled in a practical way in less than Armageddon conditions. The geometry and behaviour of each vessel will be different too.

I have plenty of experience with pendulum windvanes, but not of deploying JSDs with a windvane. I will keep thinking, and perhaps we can find more people who have done it in practice.


Stein Varjord

Hi Oliver,
Hm. In that case, it seems like the wind vane steering systems have a fundamental flaw in their design. I would not want a system that cannot easily be deployed and retrieved in any conditions while having considerable boat speed. In my mind that means releasing the connection between wind vane and servo pendulum so that the servo can be put at an angle of attack to the water that will not be depending on the vane motion at all. I agree that no matter what method, this is one of the many things we should experiment with in calm weather. 🙂

As an aside, related to my “fundamental flaw in design” comment:
Wind vane steerings have some common properties that I thoroughly detest. They are put on boats like an afterthought. That means they are protruding like an oil rig on the stern, with stays, gears and transmissions looking like it comes from an inventors workshop on a hangover day. Their reliability track record fits their looks; very poor. This ugly and vulnerable contraption is accepted because it does such an important job and alternatives are missing. For the pier strollers, they’re accepted because they give cred: “Look, a long distance traveller!”

It’s fair to say that on a long distance vessel for short hand crew, this contraption is mission critical. Not quite on the level with the rig, the keel and rudder, but still quite close to those. Why not treat it the same way? Why not integrate it in the boat design. Why not design so the loads are carried in a way that will not make engineers tear their hair out?

I’m no engineer, but having broken a large amount of items through several decades of racing, I can easily spot some types of weak design. Every single wind steering I’ve seen tick several boxes for bad engineering, with breakages just waiting to happen. I’m not mainly talking about not beefy enough. My main issue is that loads are mostly poorly aligned and rely on the bending stiffness of tubes. Very bad solution. The servo pendulum needs to be at the stern, but why put all the other items the same place, into this oil rig?

Now, that’s a rant, if I ever saw one. 🙂 So if I’m such a besserwisser, why don’t I make something better? Good question. Maybe I should? I’ll have it ready in just a couple of decades, I think. 😀

Oliver Schonrock

Hi John

I am surprised by this, because as far as I am aware the wind sensor blades are limited in their angles to about 45 degrees either side of center – hard stops. To my knowledge this is the same on all major brands of pendulum windvane.

Due to the 2:1 reduction of the bevel gears, this means max of 22.5 degrees off center for the paddle before it starts to twist around its axis off the “inline with keel / waterflow” direction, and hence starts to experience significant force if any water flow is present.

Does that stack up with what you see on your stern?


Richard Elder

Hi Stein
re “Oil Rig”
I believe the proper term is “agricultural equipment.” At least that is the phrase used by the mechanics at Lotus Racing the summer I spent hanging out there.

Stein Varjord

Hi all,
This is an interesting article with an interesting discussion and pretty impressive credibility among the present direct and indirect participants, including one of the actual participants of the GGR. As I’ve noted on earlier occasions, where else would you find this level?

Of course I agree with all John has said in the article. I’ve never met Don Macintyre, but what I see gives me the impression that he tried to solve a problem by pretending it was no problem and “all is as expected”. This is a normal knee jerk reaction, which I could easily get into, but a bad strategy when dealing with a media intensive world and especially so when it’s so obviously not true. My impression is that he’s an amateur who found himself in deep water. I hope I’d have done some issues better, but I’d probably have compensated by messing up a lot more in others. He put his head on the block. Let’s not chop it, quite yet.

In the comments it’s hard to avoid going into technical discussions about the JSD, the wind wane steerings, and such. All interesting. I keep picking up useful knowledge. However, I feel this is an opportunity to also discuss beyond that and get into perhaps discussing what should the next GGR ideally look like? What is the core of its attraction? What can be changed without loosing that core?

I think the main reason the GGR appealed so much to so many is that it is on a human scale. It’s the opposite of the Volvo Ocean Race, The Americas Cup, the Vendee Globe, etc. Those are like science fiction. The GGR feels available to anyone who wants to do it. True, several extremely experienced professionals participated, and one of them won, but that didn’t remove any of the attraction, rather the opposite. It added glory, not distance.

So what with the rule about nothing that wasn’t available 50 years ago? Boat types? Tech? Are those core values? Actually I think no, not at all. Not even slightly. Those issues were cool for this jubilee version, but they weren’t even close to reality. None of the boat designs used, except Abilash Tomys replica, existed 50 years ago. Lots of the gear on the boats also differed substantially. I really think that part of the rules should be completely ditched for later versions of the race.

So what i’m saying is: Allow access to full weather info. Allow modern navigation. Allow modern equipment like digital cameras to share the experience. And most importantly, allow using the knowledge gained in 50 years to be used also in the actual boats. The Rustler 36 proved to be the best choice of the ones allowed, but judged with modern boat design knowledge, it’s a horribly failed design for that use. It’s slowness makes it a sitting duck for any severe weather, and totally defenceless against big waves, just like all the bother boat types entered.

To make sure this gets a discussion started I’ll say it even more provocatively: To be able to sail in race mode (!) in the southern seas:
– Long keel is an absolute no go.
– The boat needs to have straight enough lines and wide enough stern to plane properly.
– Thus, any design more than 10 years old is failed.

That should do it. 😀
Hang on a moment, just getting my pop corn bag….

Stein Varjord

Hi John,
It seems I over estimated my ability to trigger much resistance from the general participants here. 🙂
Again I agree with all you say. Perhaps a core issue you mention, which I thought of but forgot to write in the previous post, is a one design class of modern and properly fast but not extreme boats. The Mini Transat 6,5 class is an example of the opposite of that, which is also a big success and appeals to much of the same spirit of availability for normal people, but this class and boat type would not at all cut it for a GGR type race, of course. Maybe a longer list could look like this?
– Strict one design class, production only, no self builds, no modifications.
– Strictly same core equipment on all boats. (Rig, sails, engine, navigation, etc.)
– Monohull.
– Fin keel. (No tilting keels and extreme foils.)
– Straight enough lines and enough aft volume to plane well. Fast, but no extreme racer.
– Robustly built with modern materials and building methods from racing boats.
– Modern equipment, including JSD and weather communication.
– Connected boats to enable nonstop news and stimulate public interest during the race, as well as making the participants less lonely but rather more aware of all their followers.

Bruce Cuthbert

Berrimilla , a Brolga 33 was sailed 2 handed around the world with a Fleming wind vane.
Skookum, an Alan Payne 40 foot steel yacht has sailed extensively in the Southern Ocean with a Fleming wind vane. This is very strongly constructed , much of it 2205 s/s and the blade can swing almost vertical.
I am fully convinced by the published science supporting the JSD but have also seen Nehaj and she is a rugged Al yacht very suited for high latitude sailing.
When there are clearly safer options, it comes down to what the aims of the race are and what risks people will take. Who makes those decisions? My understanding is that in the Long Race competitors made their own decisions and perhaps that is most in keeping with the original race.

Bruce Cuthbert

Hi John,
Yes it is sobering to see what size wave can capsize one’s boat, but Berrimilla survived sailing the Southern ocean including a 70kn hurricane with no JSD without rolling- probably due to boat design, excellent seamanship and luck. She later rolled in 40+ knots in Bass Strait, perhaps related to relatively shallow water and wind against current.
Roll moment of inertia goes up with boat length and statistically boats longer than 40 ft are much less prone to capsize.
I would prefer a 40 ft, strong yacht with high range of positive stability and a JSD if in survival conditions.

Oliver Schonrock

Hi Stein

Replying to above (4 level limit):

Your “oilrig” comment: I think this impression might be based on the 1970s/1980s based designs which are still surprisingly common. Many of those brands have not been re-designed for decades. Some brands have moved on. Pic tells a thousand words:

or this lovely looking vessel:

On the other issue: Getting paddle out while moving. It’s challenging. I will come back separately.


Oliver Schonrock

Hi John

Replying to above (4 levels).

Sorry I think there is a misunderstanding.

I am not talking about stop to rotation of the pendulum. You are right, neither Windpilot nor Sailomat have those and that’s a very important feature, I agree.

I am talking about stops to the “tilt” of the wind sensor. The wind will blow it over when boat off course, but only until the wind sensor is tilted to ~45deg off vertical. The wind sensor does have hard stops on the Windpilot (and the Sailomat too I believe).

It’s mechanically not obvious unless you play with one in front of you, but these stops mean that even with the wind sensor hard over on its stop you cannot swing the pendulum paddle off-center by more than 22.5 degrees without it “twisting” against the waterflow – due to the 2:1 bevel gears.

Hope that’s clearer.


Hans Boebs

Hi all,
I support what Oliver writes about lifting the paddle out of the water. Peter Förthmann recommends slowing the boat down to something like 2 knots or so, not quite sure, but he states it in his instructions. Actually I have found it to be possible at higher speeds, maybe at 4 knts. max, by using sheer strength. I must have done it hundreds of times, whenever approaching a port or anchorage and switching from windvane to AP, still being under sail and getting ready for manouvering. It’s exactly as Oliver writes. I push the windvane hard over, the paddle wanders to port until it is aligned with the water flow. Now I pull it up further, but this tilts the paddle further, which means the paddle is pressed down by the pressure exerted by the water flow. When pulling up on the paddle one has to overcome this downward force and that is pretty much impossible above a certain speed. Even if I were an elephant and had more pulling power I’d be concerned to damage the gear, the bending forces on the paddle would be significant.
But as mentioned, waiting for a lull for pulling the blade up, would solve the issue, no big deal.

jan rytenberg

Hi all,

I’ve used a Windpilot Pacific for some thirty years. I do have a blade that is longer than the original and yes, it’s impossible to pull it up unless going very slowly.
Maybe the geometry of the Sailomat simply is different…


Peter Foerthmann

A multi-facted, and complex discussion, where theory and praxis can vary a lot.

Obviously, in an event like the GGR, no crew is available to support the single handed skipper other than his „transom ornament“, i.e. his windvane steering slave. Deploying and using a JSD in these circumstances will require either the skipper or the windvane – as APs were not allowed – at the helm until the JSD is doing its duty: Reducing speed and keeping the vessel’s stern to wind and sea.

There will hardly be time to lift a pendulum rudder out of the water, before setting the JSD, unless the skipper can work miracles or have 4 arms and hands. And once the JSD is in action, sideways lifting of the pendulum rudder will be difficult due to the huge lever of 160cm or more. If it can be lifted out, it will likely foul the JSD bridle. Lifting up the pendulum rudder in the aft direction – like on an Aries or Monitor – can cause different problems with large forces that can snap the overload protection devices. Finally, a pendulum rudder sticking up in the air at the stern is a perfect place for the JSD bridle to get caught when slack develops and/or the boat veers momentarily off course. In summary, none of this ideal.

A better alternative might be:

Using the windvane until JSD is in operation. Shane has demonstrated how to set up the rig and sails to ensure the horsepower is all at the front – just a tiny storm jib sheeted hard amidships. Once set up, the windvane will continue to work well with this setup. If the JSD is well sized for the boat, the vessel will be inherently stable and will not require aggressive steering action. Perfect conditions for the windvane and it will work to help the JSD.

The main challenge: How to prevent interaction between the pendulum rudder shaft and the JSD ropes. Susanne chose to build a solid frame around her Aries, a solution only possible on traditional Pendulum rudder units like an Aries and Monitor. Others – like the first owner of SV Mali, former Taonui, former Gjoa, former Asma, the venerable Clark Stede – chose to do the same around his Windpilot Pacific. The effect was that the liftup function was lost and the pendulum rudder had to be removed in port.

A small anecdote: Unfortunately Clark Stede didn’t recognise the importance of perfectly aligning the pendulum rudder with its shaft. The result was that the unit didn’t work well for him. He never bothered to read the manual, or enquire with the manufacturer. So he ended up changing to a Monitor. I found his Windpilot Pacific nailed to Hans Bernwall’s showroom wall in Richmond California some years later. A prestigious trophy. Not my best day, but I had a great dinner on Hans´ terrace overlooking Sausalito Bay.

Disengaging a wind vane at any moment is easy, just release the clutch on the wheel drum or unhook the chain from the tiller, and vane will be powerless and follow the vessel like a dog on the leash. Just need to keep the JSD ropes clear of the unit on the stern and it will always be ready to go back to work in a second. On a Windpilot there will be no sideways limit for the pendulum – unlike on the Aries or Monitor – so there is very little potential for damage.

John has described the differences between sailors in racing or cruising mode perfectly and there is nothing more to add. The comparison between LLR and GGR tells the whole story. I like the fact that a French Contessa 32 made her way round in just a few days longer than Jean Luc without any sensational Yellow or Red Code Press release. A joy to see for the cruising soul.

Overload protection

Oliver has referred to OVERLOAD PROTECTION on windvanes and added the link to my homework essay on this subject. Perhaps I should add the following link, which expands further on this subject:

Its seems to me, storm tactics, like the use of the JSD, are similarly important as the discussion about sideways overload protection on servo pendulum systems to improve safety for the sailors at sea. In tough conditions, all links in the chain must work together.

Disregarding the stressful 290 days and some very particular human experiences, the GGR event has provided me with some useful lessons. In the end, I am grateful for these.

Abhilash’s, Hans‘ and John’s comments about lifting up of the servo oar are perfectly practical. However, they require some care and good technique. A general comment about this will never be found in a manual, as this might result in a situation where yachtsmen try lifting up the pendulum rudder with winches or other inappropriate means, which would likely result in damage.

And there we have the difference between theory and practice.

Peter Foerthmann

Richard Hudson

The discussion around getting servo pendulum rudders out of the water to prevent their being snagged by a series drogue is quite interesting to me. Those of us using auxiliary rudders for windvane self-steering (ie, those with hydraulic steering on the main rudder), however, don’t have any practical way (that I can think of) of removing the auxiliary rudder at sea.

Being deeper in the water, I would think an auxiliary rudder would be less likely to be snagged by a series drogue bridle, but that would seem to depend on:
* how deep the rudder is in the water
* how much the boat pitches
* how steep the waves are

I’ve not had to deploy my series drogue yet, so my thinking is all theoretical.

To prevent possibly snagging the auxiliary rudder, I am thinking along the lines of floats lashed to or around the bridle lines. I’m also thinking that the shorter the bridle legs, the less possibility of snagging the auxiliary rudder.

Stein Varjord

Hi Richard and John,
I’d also think shortening the bridle is not a good idea, since with a long bridle, a relatively small angle change will put all the load on one bridle leg and correct the boat course. With a short bridle, one would need a bigger angle before all load is on one bridle leg alone. Not good, since the bridle isn’t there to spread the load but rather to steer the boat.

To solve the problem with the bridle fouling and damaging the windvane self steering; maybe one could use the same method as used with the backstay on racers with a fathead mainsail? They attach a very flexible glass fibre batten at the top of the mast. The other end is attached a short bit down on the backstay. When the stay is tight, the batten is bent in an arc over something like 90 degrees. When the stay is released, the batten straightens out and lifts the stay above and aft of the sail head so the stay can be tightened on the new windward side of the sail. This works very well.

This could be done by having two 1,5 metre / 5 foot battens with a loop attached on one end, which the JSD bridle leg runs through. Then the battens are attached more or less along the deck line of the boat. Perhaps angled slightly outwards or upwards? I’d chose thin round fiberglass battens, so they can bend easily any direction.

Their job is only to lift the bridle leg when there is no load, and flex in any direction when there is load. This arrangement would give the boat “artificial width” when there is no load, lifting the bridle away from the windvane steering, and contribute some to keeping the bridle legs tight at all times. At the same time it would not interfere in any way with the function of the JSD.

Marc Dacey

That is a very impressive idea worth trying out, I think, although I suspect the batten might fail in harsh conditions. But I like the reasoning.

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Hi Stein,
I was thinking about a similar solution using some of these elastic rubber ropes mounted 2-3 meters up the back stay(s) that could pull up the bridle parts that are closest to the stern – but actually the idea with the fiberglass battens is way better. Will keep a note on that when I get around to install a JSD to my own boat (in some time in the future)

Oliver Schonrock

I also had various wild ideas of elasticated/springy things to keep the tension on the bridle / keep it out of the way.

A friend pointed out that anything springy can easily turn into a “catapult” in the wrong conditions. Having one of of those on the stern, might not be so great.

One such idea which remained, is some form of take up elastic from the Bridle joint (say 20m behind boat) to a point halfway from there to the stern, ie 10m behind boat, on both halves of the bridle. This would keep the “lazy half” of the bridle taught at the stern, exponentially reducing chance of tangle. And the elastic springyness would be so far from the boat that any “failure of the elastic” or similar problems, does not produce catapulting bits of rope/rubber/batten on the stern…

If this idea finds favour, then the kind of elastic solution would need investigating. Perhaps a rigger/sailmaker or even one of the JSD constructors can help?

There are some ropes with elastic cores….

Oliver Schonrock

Hi John/Stein

I can see challenges with all the proposals, but believe more ideas are always good. But they all just that, ideas. All of this needs testing in practice.

Testing is tough, as any proper test involves storm conditions, large seastate and at least one (voluntary) deployment and recovery of the JSD. But still conditions which are “in control” otherwise it’s not a test, but a “blind run”.

I would prefer to keep an open mind until tests can be done.


Wil Bailey

Good idea! I’ve already decided to have a light-ish line attached to the bridle/rode ‘Triple Point’ to help bring that point into the boat for JSD recovery. Use of a flexy 5mm round batten, with an angling ferrule whipped on the top, would facilitate that. One could cheaply/easily fit TWO, well splayed, if that seemed appropriate. I already have the kit lying around.

Stein Varjord

😀 😀 John!
You’re welcome to steal the idea and claim credit too, since it’s not really my idea. 🙂 As described, I already stole it from the mast top of a lot of boats. So the idea is old, just repurposed.

Thinking about it some more in this context, it does indeed seem to solve the issue without introducing any problems, but testing might show unforeseen issues. Anyway, testing will be useful for deciding length, angles, attachment system, the best end loop, and probably more.

Scott Arenz

I agree it’s a great idea! Perhaps some hardware from the sport fishing industry could be used to hold the battens: At least for prototyping, adjustable outrigger mounts or more simple rail-mounted fishing pole holders could be used to help find the best angle and length for the battens. A quick search on Google reveals many examples that would seem to be adaptable to the purpose.

Would the battens be needed during the whole time the drogue is in use, or just during deployment?

Atlanta, GA

Stein Varjord

Hi Scott.
The battens will be needed the whole time. Every wave cycle presents a risk of fouling the vane gear. The videos linked in this thread showed me that this is a bigger issue than I was aware of. The mentioned type of rod batten can tolerate incredibly many repetitions of bending, so if they are reasonably well attached, they should last longer than any JSD. Your suggestion about fishing hardware is a great idea for attachments. So much stuff exists that any boat can find what is necessary. It doesn’t need to be excessively strong, even though it should be possible to make a both strong and simple attachment on any boat. Even lashings might be a good attachment method for experimenting. Fishing rods could be used, but they’re much more expensive and much less robust than a fibre glass batten rod.

Rob Gill

Hi Stein, to add my 2 cents worth to your good work…I agree with fishing rods possibly being problematic, but not for cost reasons. You can buy carbon reinforced fishing rods on AliExpress for 10 USD each:
Soft tip rods would be pretty ideal I would think, as the bonded cork or hard foam handles would provide a secure attachment point to the rail and the end eye an attachment for the bridle using a soft shackle. But the issue might be, such rods are usually designed (and reinforced) to be fished and therefore to bend, in one direction only. Either on top of the rod (traditional boat reel) or an “egg beater” reel, mounted underneath. If seriously bent over by the bridle straightening, in the wrong direction, the rod could split or snap off. A rod should be relatively easy to secure in the correct rotation to a toe rail or push-pit, as long as the owner understood what type of rod they had bought.
An advantage of being slender is the rods would be impervious to wave strike. A dis-advantage being if a two-piece rod came apart with vibration being water lubricated. I would consider a permanent Locktite bond for two part rods, even though stowage is harder.
We love things on Bonnie Lass that have at least two purposes. Our extending boat hook has a de facto standard screw thread which takes a boat hook, a mooring snap-hook with attached mooring line, a deck scrub brush, a soft head brush and a floor mop. It also takes a sanding pad and a paint roller. So I think it’s pretty cool having two rods for lure or soft-bait fishing that could have another use. Might even have to get a self-steering wind-vane, haha.
BR. Rob

Richard Hudson

Thanks for the ideas!

I was originally thinking along the lines of floats like John linked to, and perhaps a fender (more floatation) right at the bridle-leader joint itself.

Similar to what Ernest mentioned, I have used bungee cords to my stern arch when running with a speed-limiting drogue. I wasn’t convinced it helped keep the drogue line significantly further away from the auxiliary rudder, but this has great deal to do with individual boats and the attachment points on them.

I hadn’t really thought thru the relationship that shortening the bridle legs would mean the boat would need to turn farther off course before the bridle would tighten and steer it back on course as Stein pointed out. I really like the idea of flexible battens to hold the bridle legs away from the auxiliary rudder when the bridle is slack and am thinking about the details.


Tim Newson, Practical Sea School

As an entrant of the 2018 Golden Globe race I can say that one of the best decisions I have ever made was to abandon my race campaign in Dec 2016. I recognised back then that, although a wonderful idea, there was a attitude held by the organisers that made me deeply uncomfortable. That attitude can generously be characterised as carelessness. It is an attitude that has cost me a lot, but others a lot more. As a sailing instructor I joined the race because I saw it as a way of opening up sailing and changing its reputation here in the UK, instead it has succeeded in consolidating some of the worst stereotypes. It’s a great shame and, while the present culture remains, I believe the 2022 Golden Globe Race should be actively boycotted by the sailing community.

Petri Flander

Intersting post. A bit late to party, but anyway:

On other high-risk sports like F1 racing, there’s rules that take care of damage control. Sail racing equivalent to pace car and flags would be ‘rule modes’. Something like:

– Warning mode: tailormade HF-SSB wx fax feed comes available, updated every 2h
– Storm mode: more wx info, realtime HF-SSB net
– Defence mode: compulsory JSD deployment, satphones on
– Survival mode: ‘gloves off’, all safety and survival means available

Just like pace car and flags freeze the race situation for hazard duration, employing mode rules stops the racing for duration of capsize threat.
JSD durability and retrieval is just a matter of proper gear.
Fleet will be stretched, so these rule modes should apply to local conditions. Mode-change trigger should be forecasted breaking wave probability or boat’s local measured wave conditions. Black box with beeper will do.

Communications on GGR18 were not restricted to SAT, many skippers chatted daily on HF-SSB ham nets to each other and to shore based operators. I think some of them also got phone patch to relatives by a ham operator. This kind of voluntary network could take care of communications, and also deliver WX FAX and text-based notifications.

It would also be responsible to provide GGR at least some means of self-rescue capacity. Paul Allen and others have humongous yachts with heli decks just lying around and doing nothing :F Of course on survival conditions anything short of CVN won’t be able to fly anything, but it’s not enough reason to not try. Cheers.

P D Squire

Was the GGR any worse than the Vendée Globe, which seems to have had it’s share of DNFs, capsizes, dismastings, injuries, & rescues?


So now that GGR 2022 is in the final stretch – What do you think? Seems like the later start had some benefits – if I recall correctly one boat sank (auto-pilot broke off?) otherwise barnacles seems to be the biggest issue… and kudos to Kirsten!