GGR – Distance narrows between race leaders

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede predicts a Jan 23 finish. Image: Christophe Favreau/GGR/PPL

Mark Slats rounded Cape Horn just before 06:00 UTC on 2 December, eight days behind race leader Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, having narrowed the lead by 351 miles over the past seven days.

The second placed Dutchman is now within 1022 miles and needs to average 0.75knots faster to finish back in Les Sables d’Olonne at the same time.

This takes account of the 18-hour penalty that Van Den Heede must serve before crossing the line for using his satellite phone for non-safety purposes after suffering mast damage to his Rustler 36 Matmut four weeks ago. Since then, the 73-year old Frenchman has climbed the mast five times to check repairs, which he says are holding up well. But while he has no qualms about pushing the boat when the wind is aft of the beam, Jean-Luc says he must ‘nurse’ the rig upwind to avoid the boat from slamming and sending shockwaves up the mast.

Shortly before rounding the Horn, Slats said he is now going all-out to win, pushing his Rustler 36 Ohpen Maverick as hard as he can. Van Den Heede can only push as hard as he dare, hoping his lead will be sufficient. He says his priority is simply to finish without breaking his mast.

Perhaps the greatest advantage Slats has over Van Den Heede is the ability to go where he wants, while the Frenchman must try to keep the wind aft of the beam. Ohpen Maverick is the faster boat upwind anyway, having the advantage of bigger hanked headsails without the weight penalty that Matmut carries with her roller furling systems. This tactical advantage alone could save Slats a week.

In a message to Race HQ, Jean-Luc was in good spirits and predicted an ETA back to Les Sables d’Olonne on 23th January giving him an elapsed time for the circumnavigation of 206 days. That compares to 312 days set by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston 50 years before.

The race for 3rd place remains equally tense with very little give or take between Uku Randmaa’s Estonian Rustler 36 One and All and Britain’s Susie Goodall sailing another Rustler DHL Starlight.

Australian Mark Sinclair and Russian skipper Igor Zaretskiy, heading for Adelaide and Albany respectively to haul out and scrub barnacles off their boats, should arrive at their new destinations this week. For Sinclair, 135 miles SW of his homeport, the Australian couldn’t have cut it finer. He is now down to his last 6 litres of fresh water – 2 days supply. Both will be relegated to the Chichester Class for making one stop, leaving just six or the original 17 starters competing in the Golden Globe Race.