Van Den Heede serves 18 hour penalty

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede: frustrated by lack of winds and fast approaching Mark Slats in 2nd place. Image: Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR

French GGR race leader Jean-Luc Van Den Heede has served his 18 hour penalty (for improper use of his satellite phone in November) and is now clear to race the remaining 2,150 miles to the finish at Les Sables d’Olonne. He expects to arrive there on 26 January.

While Jean-Luc was serving his ‘time-out’ in the penalty box south of the 20°N parallel, second placed Dutchman Mark Slats was powering northwards through the SE Trades at more than 5 knots and closed the difference in ‘distance to finish’ to within 417 miles.

The two skippers are racing identical Rustler 36 designs, but Matmut carries a smaller rig and mast damage, which Jean-Luc does not want to overpress. Ophen Maverick has the benefit of a larger sail plan, but after 25,000 miles, she beginning to show signs of wear which could lead to breakages. These final two weeks promise to provide a nerve-racking finale.