French Golden Globe Race skipper Jean-Luc Van Den Heede has decided to fix his damaged mast at sea rather than head to the Chilean port of Valparaiso

08 November 2018

French Golden Globe Race skipper Jean-Luc Van Den Heede has decided to fix his damaged mast at sea rather than divert 2,000 miles to a port in Chile to make repairs.

This will mean the 73-year-old, who currently has a 1.500 mile lead over second placed Mark Slats, can continue in the race. If he had stopped at Valparaiso as initially planned, he would have moved into the Chichester Class for entrants who make one stop.

The mast of Van Den Heede’s Rustler 36 took a pasting when the boat was knocked down to about 150° in a storm. This damaged the connecting bolt attachment to the mast that holds all four lower shrouds resulting in slackened rigging. He has made a temporary repair.

Speaking to race organisers, Van Den Heede said he was prepared.

‘The worst that can happen is that I lose my rig, and I have my jury rig at the ready,’ he said.

He believes that if he can get round Cape Horn and start heading north up into the Atlantic there are many more ports of refuge that would be closer to hand, should he have further issues with the rig on his Rustler 36 Matmut.

Van Den Heede has applied for a time penalty to be added to his circumnavigation time after he used his satellite phone twice after the mast was damaged to call his wife.

The race rules only allow sat-phones to be used as a safety measure to call Race HQ.

All other communications must be made via HF, VHF or Ham Radio Net, just as they were during the first Sunday Times Golden Globe Race in 1968/9.

A decision will be announced tomorrow, but race organiser Don McIntyre conceded today that if Van Den Heede gained no material advantage from the two calls, he was mindful to issue an 18-hour penalty, the same as that given to American Istvan Kopar after he stopped in the Cape Verde Islands to repair the windvane self-steering gear on his yacht Puffin.

06 November 2018

Golden Globe Race favourite, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede is making his way to Chile after the mast of his Rustler 36, Matmut suffered damage during a knockdown.

The French skipper reported to Race HQ that he was knocked down to about 150° which had damaged the connecting bolt attachment to the mast that holds all four lower shrouds.

It means his mast is not securely tensioned and the rigging has slackened.

The 73-year-old was sailing in 11 metre seas and 65 knots of winds when the damage happened, forcing him to run downwind with no sails. He was around 1,900 miles from Cape Horn.

Once conditions improved he made temporary repairs and is now heading to Valparaiso, Chile where he will make permanent repairs.

Once he makes port, he will move into the Chichester Class, which allows competitors to make one stop during the race. This will mean Dutch skipper Mark Slats will move into the top spot,  pursued by Uku Randmaa, who is 1,000 miles behind him and Britain’s Susie Goodall, who will then move into third position.

Jean Luc Van Den Heede facing a storm in southern ocean chart

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede faces storm conditions over the next 24 hours. Credit: GGR/PPL

Race organisers said Van Den Heede has not been injured and requires no assistance at this time. He is said to be ‘well in control of the situation’ and is confident he can make Valparaiso safely.

He is, however, facing more storm conditions over the next 24 hours, with a forecast 45-50 knot winds and 7 metre seas.

Meanwhile Susie Goodall has now restarted her race after seeking shelter from a storm for three days at Albany.

Days earlier she had passed through the race’s compulsory Hobart gate, where she spent time cleaning the barnacles from the bottom of her Rustler 36, DHL Starlight.

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The Australian authorities have not told race organisers that this is not allowed and cannot be done unless skippers are 200 miles from the Australian coastline.

She will now be keen to chase down Estonian Uku Randmaa, who is struggling to maintain pace with his barnacle encrusted Rustler 36, One and All.

Goodall could though face a challenge from Istvan Kopar, who cleared the Hobart gate at the weekend.

The American/Hungarian skipper is not happy with his Tradewind 35, Puffin, and arrived at Hobart with no working radio, direction finder or time piece.

Istvan Kopar in his orange boat Puffin

Istvan Kopar is lamenting his lack of preparation before the race. Credit: Jessie Martin/PPL/GGR

He had been forced to shelter off Australia’s South Port beach due to a storm and described the experience as ‘brutal’.

‘The last four days have taken me to the bottom. I would have been much happier to have been offshore,’ he told race officials.

‘You really don’t know where you are and it was blowing a minimum of 50 knots. Right now, I’m more attracted to gardening than offshore sailing,’ he added.

‘Right now, I feel closer to Joshua Slocum’s achievement (first to sail solo around the world in 1895-1898) than Robin Knox-Johnston’s (first to complete a solo non-stop circumnavigation and win the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race in 1968/69). I can’t even get a time signal – It’s not good. Everything is guesswork.’

Kopar admits his preparation for the race has let him down. He was unfamiliar with his weather vane self-steering, which has caused him endless problems, and a rogue wave flooded his yacht’s main cabin with 300 litres of water, damaging his electronics and books.

He also has issues with his fresh water tank, which he didn’t check before crossing the start line,  commenting: ‘In Ghana they have cleaner water than I do.’

His nails are also separating from his fingers and have turned black. ‘ I’m scared about the state of my nails. They are black. I don’t know if it is caused by a fungal infection, the drinking water or the fungus inside the boat.’

Susie Goodall has restarted her race after sheltering for three days from a storm.. Credit: Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR

The 65-year-old now wishes he had focused more on getting to know his boat rather than racing hard at the beginning of the Golden Globe.

But, he is trying to remain positive. ‘Now I am on catch-up and would like to catch up with Susie Goodall in 4th place – I gave my word to her mother before the start that I would look after her!’

Australian Mark Sinclair and Russian Igor Zaretskiy, who has fixed his broken forestay, are still languishing at the back of the fleet.

Last week, Sinclair tracked down and photographed Gregor McGuckin’s abandoned yacht Hanley Energy Endurance.

‘Still afloat and emitting an AIS signal’ he reported to Race HQ.

Sinclair expects to reach the compulsory Hobart film gate on Saturday, December 8. By then Dutchman Mark Slats (Ohpen Maverick) will have rounded Cape Horn and be heading north up the Atlantic.

Latest positions at 09:00 UTC 06 November 2018

1 Jean- Luc VDH (FRA) Rustler 36 Matmut
2 Mark Slats (NED) Rustler 36 Ohpen Maverick
3 Uku Randmaa (EST) Rustler 36 One and All
4 Susie Goodall GBR) Rustler 36 DHL Starlight
5 Istvan Kopar (USA) Tradewind 35 Puffin
6 Tapio Lehtinen (FIN) Gaia 36 Asteria
7 Mark Sinclair (Aus) Lello 34 Coconut
8 Igor Zaretskiy (RUS) Endurance 35 Esmeralda

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
Francesco Cappelletti (ITA) Endurance 35 007
Are Wiig (NOR) OE32 Olleanna
Abhilash Tomy (IND) Suhaili replica Thuriya
Gregor McGuckin (IRE) Biscay 36 Hanley Energy Endurance
Loïc Lepage (FRA) Nicholson 32 Laaland