Jean-Luc Van Den Heede is now within 450 nautical miles of the Golden Globe Race finish line and expected to receive a huge welcome home in Les Sables d’Olonne on Monday 28th January.
The 73-year old Frenchman and his Rustler 36 yacht, Matmut, have led this 27,000 mile solo circumnavigation since rounding the Cape of Good Hope on 23rd August last year. He stretched this out to a 2,000 mile lead before suffering a capsize and serious mast damage during a southern ocean storm on 8th November, 1900 miles west of Cape Horn.
Since then, second placed Dutch rival, Mark Slats (41), sailing another Rustler 36, Ohpen Maverick, has been catching up.
On 15th January, the difference between the two yachts was just 50 miles. But since then, the French veteran, who is about to complete his sixth solo circumnavigation, has extended his advantage to 412 miles by 08:00 UTC today.
Now the Frenchman, and more importantly, the damaged mast on Matmut, face one more test. A storm is due to blow across the Bay of Biscay producing a 45-55 knot north-westerly wind and viscous seas with waves building to 9 -10m.
Race Chairman, Don McIntyre, says: “Jean-Luc is a great seaman with vast experience and he knows what’s coming. This is his backyard.
“The Bay of Biscay has a fearsome reputation, so he will have to be very careful. If he needs to run off downwind for safety, he will be heading away from Les Sables d'Olonne and the finish line, and will then have to sail back more into the wind once the storm has passed.
“This all adds time and distance, so his ETA is still not clear. This morning we are looking at sometime between 10:00 and 14:00UTC on Monday, but this is like a game with this storm presenting one last roll of the dice.
“The challenge in the next few days is great, and the opportunity for Mark is real. While Jean-Luc is struggling to make the finish line, Mark will be sailing hard and fast in wonderful weather, ready to exploit any further damage that Matmut might sustain.”
Position of skippers at 08:00 UTC 25.01.19
Skipper Distance to finish VMG during last 24 hours Approx. distance behind leader
1 Jean- Luc VDH (FRA) Rustler 36 Matmut 454 5.0 knots 0
2 Mark Slats (NED) Rustler 36 Ohpen Maverick 866 6.1 knots 412
3 Uku Randmaa (EST) Rustler 36 One and All 4008 5.7 knots 3554
4 Istvan Kopar (USA)Tradewind 35 Puffin 4776 1.7 knots 4322
5 Tapio Lehtinen (FIN) Gaia 36 Asteria 8127 4.1 knots 7673
6 Robin Knox-Johnston (GBR) Suhaili virtual race pos. 1969 (19 Jan) 8743 3.4ks 7713
Igor Zaretskiy (RUS) Endurance 35 Esmeralda – stopped Albany, WA – retired
Ertan Beskardes (GBR) Rustler 36 Lazy Otter
Kevin Farebrother (AUS) Tradewind 35 Sagarmatha
Nabil Amra (PAL) Biscay 36 Liberty II
Philippe Péché (FRA) Rustler 36 PRB
Antoine Cousot (FRA) Biscay 36 Métier Intérim
Are Wiig (NOR) OE32 Olleanna
Abhilash Tomy (IND) Suhaili replica Thuriya
Gregor McGuckin (IRE) Biscay 36 Hanley Energy Endurance
Francesco Cappelletti (ITA) Endurance 35 007
Loïc Lepage (FRA) Nicholson 32 Laaland
Susie Goodall (GBR) Rustler 36 DHL Starlight
Mark Sinclair (AUS) Lello 34 Coconut
Race tracker and all information: www.goldengloberace.com/