Veteran French racer, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede leads the Golden Globe Race as he rounds the Cape of Good Hope

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede is the first of the Golden Globe Race skipper to round the Cape of Good Hope.

The 73-year-old, who already holds the record for the fastest West-East solo circumnavigation against the prevailing winds, rounded the first of the race’s three major milestones at 20:00 UTC yesterday (23 August 2018) in his Rustler 36, Matmut.

This is 34 days ahead of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s record aboard his ketch-rigged yacht Suhaili 50 years ago

Van Den Heede sailed straight across the Agulhas Current on Wednesday and has now entered the infamous Roaring Forties.

Reporting 7m high waves, he texted Race HQ: ‘SURPRISINGLY STRONG SEA WHEN THERE IS ONLY 30KT (WINDS) MAX!’

A map showing Jean Luc Van Den Heede rounding Cape of Good Hope

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede has faced strong currents

In a satellite call to Race HQ this week, Jean-Luc was asked when he expected to reach Hobart, the second photo drop point in the Race.

‘My mind is not on that, but the finish back in Les Sables d’Olonne. I predict a return early in February,’ he said.

Chasing the Vendée Globe veteran is Dutchman Mark Slats in his Rustler 36, Ohpen Maverick, while third placed Are Wiig and fourth placed Gregor McGuckin are some 830 miles behind Van Den Heede. Wiig and McGuckin are expected to face a low pressure system later this morning.

Who is Sir Robin Knox Johnston’s favourite to win the Golden Globe Race? Click here to find out

Meanwhile, two other French sailors, Antoine Cousot (Biscay 36 Métier Intérim) and Philippe Péché (Rustler 36 PRB) have retired from the race.

Both had already been demoted to the Chichester Class for those who make one stop or seek outside assistance.

Cousot, who made a stop in Lanzarote, announced on Wednesday that he was headed for the Island of Trinidade to rest shoulder and ankle injuries and make further repairs to his wind vane self steering system, before heading on to Rio de Janerio, Brazil.

Continues below…

The Golden Globe Race chairman, Don McIntyre, said he was sorry to see both Péché and Cousot out of the race.

‘Philippe has been very competitive since day 1 when he led the fleet away from Les Sables d’Olonne so we share his disappointment. Antoine has been struggling from the outset, first with self-steering problems that have continued to plague him, and now with injuries,’ said McInyre.

Antoine Cousot in a blue top helming

Antoine Cousot has retired from the race. Credit: Antoine Cousot/GGR/PPL

‘Both will have learned valuable lessons and we hope they consider this as unfinished business and enter the next race in 2022,’ he added.

Péché, who led the race down the Atlantic, also suffered damage to his steering, but it was a call to his partner via the satellite phone reserved solely for communication with GGR HQ, that demoted him to the Chichester Class.

According to the race organisers, he was warned via text message on 13 August not to use the satellite phone again, and later offered an 18-hour time penalty and the opportunity to remain in the Golden Globe Race class because the call to his partner did not provide any real outside assistance. That could have allowed Péché to continue in the Chichester Class once he had stopped for repairs in Cape Town where outside assistance is required.

‘However, later investigations show that Philippe continued to use the Satellite phone. A log of his calls and messages show 40 incoming and outgoing calls and SMS messages, which he now says were required to organise his pit stop and repairs,’ said a Golden Globe Race spokesman.

In an exchange of text messages yesterday Péché wrote: “THAT IS THE ONLY WAY I CAN ORGANISE MY STOP IN CAPE TOWN”, followed by “IMPOSSIBLE TO ORGANIZE WITH SSB. STEERING 15H/D. U CAN DISQUALIFY ME.”


The rules of the Golden Globe Race state that apart from safety gear, the competitors can only use the equipment that was available to Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and other competitors during the 1968-69 race, such as SSB and Ham radios and VHF.

The official ruling by the Golden Globe Race organisers reads:

‘On Thursday 9th August Philippe’s Beaufort wind vane became inoperable with a break that was impossible to repair onboard. On Friday 10th August the yacht’s tiller onboard broke approx. 20cm from the rudder. Conditions had been 40-50kts winds from behind. Philippe decided to call GGR HQ via the Race Sat Phone to report the damage and notify that he would lay a hull for the night and attempt to make repairs in the morning. He then stated that he would call his partner on the same sat phone, saying… ‘I AM NOT WORRIED ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES’

Philippe Péché works on his sails

Philippe Péché, who led in the early part of the race, has also now retired. Credit: Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR

GGR declared this was NOT a CODE ORANGE under the Crisis Management Planning, so notice was NOT passed onto any of the Marine Rescue Coordination Centres. Instead, GGR management passed information to next of kin and continued to monitor the situation closely. The weather moderated quickly. The yacht’s rudder, hull and rig were sound with all safety gear intact and all satellite comms. operational. The following morning Philippe made a jury repair to the tiller from parts onboard, declared he was bound for Cape Town and continued sailing, making good speed.

3.1.4: A skipper may only contact the GGR Control by GGR Sat Phone or YB3 Texting during the voyage and may NOT use these to contact any other party except in an Emergency.
3.1.12: Failure to comply with any one of these rules, will lead to the skipper having to abandon the Race.

Philippe Péché called GGR HQ to report temporary loss of control of his yacht. He did not ask for assistance and confirmed that he was OK and would make repairs in the morning. This was NOT a DISTRESS or a PAN PAN situation. Philippe wanted to notify GGR of his situation and change in satellite tracking, and to alert GGR of the challenges ahead. He did NOT declare an emergency.

All Entrants have been advised in documents and briefings that the GGR Sat Phone can be used ONLY in an emergency to call any rescue authorities for assistance. Philippe’s assertion that it was an emergency and therefore he could call his partner is not supported by the GGR on two levels.

1. This incident was NOT declared an emergency by GGR and No assistance was requested or given. Philippe did not declare an emergency and had not called any Rescue Authorities.
2. The intent of Rule 3.1.4 relates specifically to emergency situations and refers to calling anyone who can assist in such an emergency. It does not refer to secondary calls to family or managers while under racing rules. The fact that Philippe stated he was NOT WORRIED ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES indicates that he knew he should not make the call.

Philippe has clearly breached rule 3.1.4. Rather than apply 3.1.12, his move to Chichester Class was determined.

A time penalty of 18 hours was considered to bring Philippe back into the GGR class, but not approved as subsequent investigations show that Philippe has been using the GGR Sat-Phone since August 10th for regular and frequent incoming and outgoing calls and SMS messages. As a result, his stop in Cape Town will mark a second penalty forcing his retirement from the GGR.’

Latest positions at 20:00 UTC 23-08-18

1 Jean- Luc VDH (FRA), Rustler 36 Matmut
2 Mark Slats (NED), Rustler 36 Ohpen Maverick
3 Are Wiig (NOR), OE 32 Olleanna
4 Gregor McGuckin (IRE), 
Biscay 36 Hanley Energy Endurance
5 Uku Randmaa (EST), 
Rustler 36 One and All
6 Susie Goodall GBR), Rustler 36 DHL Starlight
7 Tapio Lehtinen (FIN), 
Gaia 36 Asteria
8 Abhilash Tomy (IND), Suhaili replica Thuriya
9 Loïc Lepage (FRA), Nicholson 32 Laaland
10 Igor Zaretskiy (RUS), Endurance 35 Esmeralda
11 Istvan Kopar (USA), Tradewind 35 Puffin
12 Mark Sinclair (Aus), Lello 34 Coconut

1 Francesco Cappelletti (ITA) Endurance 35 007

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