Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, the 73-year-old Golden Globe Race leader, is expected at Tasmania course gate at 2000 UTC tonight, Friday 5 October

Frenchman Jean-Luc Van Den Heede is expetected to pass through the film gate off Hobart in Tasmania, Australia at 0600 Saturday morning local time (2000 UTC Friday 5 October), the first Golden Globe Race competitor to do so. Currently sailing at 3.7 knots, he is expected to cover the remaining 40 miles to Storm Bay overnight, reaching the gate, where he will drop off his camera films and speak to race organisers, by dawn on Saturday.

All skippers are compelled to pick up a buoy and stop in Storm Bay for a minimum of 90 minutes to hand across film and letters, be interviewed by the media and meet family and team members. No one can board the yachts or provide any assistance and the skipper cannot disembark.

Van Den Heede has made remarkable progress, and managed to put at least one weather system between him and second placed Mark Slats. The Dutchman has consistently occupied second place for the last few weeks, but is at least a week behind the race leader.

Van Den Heede in Matmut, a Rustler 36, is currently 1,500 miles ahead of Slats, after several of his closest competitors were knocked out of the race by severe storms. Both Abhilash Tomy in Thuriya and Gregor McGuckin sailing Hanley Energy Endurance were dismasted two weeks ago amid 70 knot winds and 15 metre waves. Earlier in the race, Van Den Heede’s nearest competitor, Philippe Peche, who was neck and neck with the race leader, was hit by a wave, breaking both his self-steering system and his tiller, forcing him to retire. Norwegian sailor Are Wiig was also rolled and dismasted 700 miles west of Cape Town.