The 73-year-old French skipper, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede has won the Golden Globe Race

Veteran solo skipper Jean-Luc Van Den Heede has won the Golden Globe Race, crossing the finish line aboard his Rustler 36, Matmut this morning at Les Sables d’Olonne after 212 days alone at sea.

This is the 73-year-old’s sixth circumnavigation, and a flotilla of boats escorted him into his home port while hundreds cheered from the quayside.

He was met by his good friend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who won the original 1968-1969 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race  – the only entrant to do so.

Knox-Johnston congratulated Van Den Heede by also highlighting that at 73, he now holds the record for being the oldest person to complete a solo round the world yacht race.

The French skipper has led the race since August 2018, although from November 2018 he has sailed more conservatively then he might have after Matmut pitchpoled in the Southern Ocean in 11 metres seas and 65 knots of wind.

Jean Luc Van Den Heede and Robin Knox-Johnston

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston congratulates his friend Jean-Luc Van Den Heede. Credit: GGR

This left Van Den Heede, who is known as the father figure of French solo sailing, with damage to the connecting bolt attachment to the mast which holds all four lower shrouds.

Initially, he planned to head to Chile to make repairs, a move that could have seen him relegated to the Chichester Class for entrants who make one stop.

Instead, he decided to make the necessary repairs at sea and continue in the race, rounding Cape Horn on 23 November 2018.

Van Den Heede was arguably one of the best prepared skippers in the race, having bought his Rustler 36 in 2015 before completely refitting her in Les Sables d’Olonne, installing a new mast, new rigging, new engine, new sails, watertight bulkheads, and new winches.

Jean Luc Van Den Heede arrives in Les Sables d'Olonne on Matmut

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede started preparing for the Golden Globe Race in 2015. Credit: GGR

He also holds the record for the fastest solo west-about non-stop circumnavigation against the prevailing winds and currents, and has been a podium finisher in four previous solo round the world races.

He finished 2nd in the 1986 BOC Challenge Around Alone Race, 3rd in the 1990 Vendée Globe Race, 2nd in the 1993 Vendée Globe, and 3rd in the 1995 BOC Challenge Around Alone Race.

Latest positions at 0900 UTC 29 January 2019

1 Jean- Luc VDH (FRA) Rustler 36 Matmut WINNER
2 Mark Slats (NED) Rustler 36 Ohpen Maverick
3 Uku Randmaa (EST) Rustler 36 One and All
4 Istvan Kopar (USA) Tradewind 35 Puffin
5 Tapio Lehtinen (FIN) Gaia 36 Asteria

Chichester Class (No time limit)

Igor Zaretskiy (RUS) Endurance 35 Esmeralda (plans to restart from Australia in October 2019)


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
Are Wiig (NOR) OE32 Olleanna
Abhilash Tomy (IND) Suhaili replica Thuriya
Gregor McGuckin (IRE) Biscay 36 Hanley Energy Endurance
Francesco Cappelletti (ITA) Endurance 35 007
Loïc Lepage (FRA) Nicholson 32 Laaland
Susie Goodall (GBR) Rustler 36 DHL Starlight
Mark Sinclair (AUS) Lello 34 Coconut