Golden Globe: The final five

By | December 18, 2018

Day 170: Jean-Luc Van Den Heede is living the slogan, to finish first, first you must finish. After gaining the Golden Globe Race lead over four months ago as the fleet descended the South Atlantic, he has been forced to restrain his Rustler 36 Matmut ever since sustaining mast damage during a storm 1,900 miles west of Cape Horn.

Dutchman Mark Slats, who is in second but was over 2000 nm behind at the time of the incident, has been reducing the deficit, most recently taking a further 154 miles out Van Den Heede over the past 7 days, reducing the gap to 794 miles with 4,300 miles still to run before the winner returns to Les Sables d’Olonne at the end of January.

As they now ascend the South Atlantic, both have had their share of problems during the past week. Slats, who was suffering severe stomach problems until tracking the source to rotten milk, was forced to lie hove-to for the first time during this race after running into heavy headwinds.

Two days ago he texted: BAD WEATHER GUSTING 40 KT AND 5M SEAS ON THE NOSE. NO FUN!

Followed 5 hours later with: HOVE TO NOW. FIRST TIME I STOP SAILING BECAUSE BAD WEATHER

Since then, business has returned to normal but Slats has to endure another 500 miles of northerly winds before beginning to experience the easterly air flow now benefiting Van Den Heede 13 degrees to the north.

These headwinds gave Van Den Heede equal concern at the end of last week when the pounding in moderate conditions extended the crack in Matmut’s already damaged mast. The 73-year old Frenchman was forced to climb the mast a sixth time to reinforce the temporary binding that is all that holds the lower shroud attachment points to the spreader above.

Now that he is back to reaching conditions, all seems okay for the moment but he knows that to finish, he must sail very conservatively.

In third place, Estonian Uku Randmaa is within 230 miles of Cape Horn and looking forward to rounding some time on December 19. He is experiencing boisterous 40 knot following winds at present, but the forecast suggests that this could die to almost nothing within the next 48 hours.

Fourth placed American/Hungarian Istvan Kopar has repaired the failing bearings within the steering pedestal aboard his Tradewind 35 Puffin, and having successfully dodged the storm that threatened to overtake him last week by heading south into the NO-GO Zone, now faces the prospect of running the gauntlet before another low pressure system in three days’ time.

This storm threatens to be the biggest storm to-date with 60-70 knot winds and 12-15 metre seas. Race HQ has advised Kopar to thread his way south of the first small storm but not drop below 53°S latitude before December 20.

Finland’s Tapio Lentinen’s Gaia 36 Asteria remains covered in barnacles and trails in 5th place among the Golden Globe racers some 6,300 miles behind the race leader.

Igor Zaretskiy, who dropped down to the Chichester Class after stopping in Albany Western Australia last week to rid his hull of barnacles and make repairs, announced today he will return to Moscow for a health check before continuing in the race. In 2010, the Russian sailor suffered a heart attack after winning the Jester Challenge solo transatlantic race, and after undergoing a further health check in Australia last week, has been advised to return to Russia and see if further surgery is necessary.

There is no time limit for Igor to restart in the Chichester Class – Francis Chichester stopped for 48 days in Sydney during his one-stop circumnavigation in 1966/7 – but there are practical limitations. After the end of March, the onset of winter storms in the Southern Ocean makes it unadvisable to attempt a Cape Horn rounding until the following Spring.

After arriving in Punta Arenas on December 14, Susie Goodall thanked all those involved in her rescue and suggested that she can’t wait to get back to sea. In a statement she says:

“If you asked me if I would do this again, now knowing what it’s really like, I would say yes in a heartbeat! But as I said to the Chilean Navy captain who brought me ashore from MV Tian Fu, ‘I created so much work for everyone involved in the rescue,’ to which he responded ‘Of course you must do it again!'”

You may ask why?! Some people just live for adventure – it’s human nature. And for me, the sea is where my adventure lies. Having grown up admiring Tracy Edwards and Ellen MacArthur, I just knew that one day I needed to try to do this too. Every seafarer understands the risks involved but that’s what makes us stronger and able to overcome other challenges in life.

I can’t tell you what is next beyond spending time with family and friends over Christmas and enjoying a glass of grog, but that fire in my belly is far from out, so watch this space…!”

NOTE: The Golden Globe Race issued a time penalty against Jean-Luc Van Den Heede as a result of his actions when he sustained mast damage during a storm 1,900 miles west of Cape Horn. Details.

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Background:
The 2018 Golden Globe Race started for 17 skippers from Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday July 1, 2018, with the inaugural solo non-stop around the world yacht race expected to take 9-10 months to complete.

The event marks the 50th anniversary of the Sunday Times Golden Globe solo non-stop round the world race in 1968-69 when rules then allowed competitors to start from ports in northern France or UK between June 1st and October 31st.

A notable twist to the 2018 Golden Globe Race format is how entrants are restricted to using the same type of yachts and equipment that were available in that first race, with the premise being to keep the race within financial reach of every dreamer.

The rules allow for one breach of the strict solo, non-stop un-assisted circumnavigation without the aid of modern electronic navigation aids regulations that make this Race unique. However, those that do move down to the Chichester Class as if, like Sir Francis Chichester in 1966-67, they have made one stop during their solo circumnavigation.

Those who breach the rules for a second time are deemed to have retired from the GGR Event and the organisers have no responsibility or obligation to them.