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Ireland is among 22 entries for the 2022 edition of the Golden Globe Race that will be hosted again by the Vendée City of Les Sables d'Olonne it has been announced this week.

As Afloat previously reported back in April, Pat Lawless of Ballyferriter in County Kerry aims to finish what Conor McGuckin started in the 50th anniversary of the Golden Globe Race and become the first Irishman to do a non-stop, unassisted solo circumnavigation of the world.

Entries have been received by Austria (1), Australia (5), Canada (1), France (2), Ireland (1), Italy (1), New Zealand (1), Norway (1), UK (7) and USA (2), four of which remain confidential.

"Pat Lawless is a great guy and has a very competitive boat and at this stage, he looks like he certainly knows how to use it. He may make his late father very proud, so watch this space! Good luck Pat and let's hope the luck of the Irish holds a little better for 2022", the race founder, Don McIntyre told Afloat.

Following the success of the 2018 Golden Globe Race, the Vendée City of Les Sables d'Olonne and its 3-town Agglomeration have voted unanimously to host the next Golden Globe Race in 2022. At a meeting on July 5, the City’s leaders also took out options to repeat the event in 2026 and 2030. The next start is scheduled for Sept 4th 2022 preceded by a two week Race Village in the Vendée Globe Marina to celebrate the history of singlehanded sailing.

The Race will once again be run under the auspices of the Royal Nomuka Yacht Club in Tonga. 

Published in Golden Globe Race
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For those of us who find historical re-enactments to be slightly spooky, following the twists and turns of the Golden Globe Golden Jubilee Race through the latter half of 2018 and into the early months of 2019 has been - for want of a more appropriate phrase - a mildly disturbing experience writes W M Nixon.

The ultimate nature of what the participants were undertaking was utterly genuine. And in many cases, they had to draw very deeply on their own resources, and on bottomless wells of sheer courage, which the rest of us could barely imagine. Yet the complex business of using a re-enactment of a great seafaring achievement from all of 50 years ago, in order to capture attention nowadays and provide contemporary entertainment through this ultimate seafaring challenge – well, it just felt a bit unsettling.

There was an air of the stadium-staged gladiatorial contest about it which seemed to be at variance with the straightforward reality of lone sailors battling against the most vicious moods of the great oceans of the world. There was a slight whiff of exploitation. Yet beyond the unease was the realisation yet again of the totally unique beauty of what Robin Knox Johnston achieved with his 32ft own-built ketch Suhaili in 1969.

suhaili 2018 sailing2Robin Knox-Johnston sailing Suhaili in 2018

For sure, there had been Joshua Slocum in 1895 and Conor O’Brien in 1925 before him, pioneering the solo global circumnavigation and the circuit south of the great Capes.

But the voyage of the Suhaili has its own clearcut quality, reaching such a degree of perfection in being the first non-stop global circumnavigation that it seemed its greatest honour would lie in being left undisturbed, to be honoured in revered memory.

Of course, with the passage of time, there have since been other non-stop circuits, usually in larger and conspicuously more expensive craft which reach their apogee today in the IMOCA 60s and the Vendee Globe, such that non-stop global solo circuits are now almost entirely a matter of highly-competitive racing.

But even though Suhaili was in theory taking part in a race, it was a very disparate affair, and her skipper’s achievement became a standalone feat, its singular beauty enhanced by its recollection through the passing of the years. Yet the fact is that those of us who feel that something like this is best honoured simply by being remembered with respect are probably in a minority – and a small minority at that.

With the approach of the Golden Jubilee – fifty years since the first and only Golden Globe challenge - there were at least as many people who felt that a full-on re-enactment was a reasonable idea, and the organisers set about putting it in place.

By now we are all well aware of how the attempts to achieve retro authenticity by severe restrictions on navigational and communication aids put extra pressure on the participants. But better known is how the attempt to restrict boats to “something similar to Suhaili” went slightly astray. The requirement was for boats of “closed profile”, designed no later that 1988, of fibreglass construction with a minimum of 20 boats built from the mould, and with an overall hull length between 32ft and 36ft.

gregor mcguckin boat3Gregor McGuckin’s Biscay 36 at the start of the Golden Globe Golden Jubilee, 1st July 2018. Professional sailor/adventurers such as McGuckin saw the race as an affordable opportunity to move into a higher level of competition and recognition

Initially, people thought of boats very broadly similar in type to Suhaili, with ketch rig. One who went down this route was our own Gregor McGuckin, a hugely experienced sailor with many Atlantic delivery crossings in his CV. He went for a Biscay 36 ketch designed in 1974 by Alan French, and put heart and soul into her preparation, as he saw the Golden Jubilee Golden Globe as offering a rare and affordable chance to step up to a higher level of international sailing.

Yet even at the most basic level of preparation, it was an expensive business, even if cheap by comparison with an IMOCA 60 campaign. For all entrants, the search for sponsorship was part of the process, though some were better prepared than others. In his early 70s, the successful veteran French sailing star Jean-Luc van den Heede saw the Golden Globe Golden Jubilee as an opportunity for a swansong performance. With his proven track record, he soon had secured sponsorship from insurance company Matmut, and with first place in mind and resources in place, he was able to act on research which showed that that boat which best filled the bill of taking line honours while complying with the regulations was the Rustler 36, a Holman & Pye sloop designed in 1980.

With a transom stern and a large sloop rig, the inherently fast Rustler 36 may look old-fashioned compared to modern craft. But she is light years away from William Atkin’s 1932 design from which Suhaili had been built, and when the fleet came to the line off Les Sables-d’Olonne on July 1st, Rustler 36s made up the largest group in the fleet, and soon were making much of the running.

van den heede matmut4 Jean-Luc van den Heede’s Rustler 36 Matmut, winner of the 2018-2019 Golden Jubilee Golden Globe

Yet neither they nor any other boats racing could remotely match the pace being set by Jean-Luc van den Heede in Matmut, and by the time he was passing Australia, he was well over a thousand miles in the lead, making it all seem like a walk in the park. Admittedly he experienced serious rig problems later in the race, but his overall win was richly deserved.

However, boats further down the fleet experienced insuperably rough weather in the Southern Indian Ocean. Gregor McGuckin and Abilash Tomy were within ninety miles of each, and both were rolled in a 90-knots-plus superstorm which left them dismasted.

In all, five boats out of the 17 starters were dismasted through a variety of rolling experiences in the Southern Ocean. This is an outcome which has led Robin Knox-Johnston into further researches whose conclusions were published on Monday of this week, and he quotes a US Coastguard report which indicates that being rolled or pitch-poled is a function of breaking wave height relative to boat length. This section of the report reads in full:

“The Southern Ocean is the only expanse of ocean that goes all the way around the world with no land in the way The result is that the depressions, which drive the winds and therefore the waves, have nothing to stop their development which leads to the creation of very large waves.

Recent research has shown that it is possible for rogue waves as large as 27+ metres to develop in this ocean. A rogue wave is defined as a wave that is twice the significant wave height, usually steeper and frequently reported as a wall of water. The force of these waves can be extreme. A 12-metre wave has a breaking pressure of about 6 metric tons per square metre, whereas a rogue can produce a pressure of up to 100 metric tons per square metre.

A very interesting United States Coastguard (USCG) study concludes that storm waves are generally not regular or stable, and individual waves do not hold their shape for very long. It indicates that the white water height of a breaking wave will have to be at least half the LOA of the boat for the boat to be rolled. This means that even a comparatively small 6 metre high breaking wave could roll the average boat of 36 feet length.

Thus the larger the boat the less susceptible it is to being rolled. Also, the larger modern boats like Open 60 class yachts are light with large sail areas and can usually outpace a wave which a heavier, smaller yacht cannot do.

suhaili storm5An artist’s impression of Suhaili in storm conditions in the Southern Ocean. From the painting by Gordon Frickers

The USCG conclusion is that the danger does not come from a normal wave, but from a breaking wave regardless of the measures being taken to try and restrain the boat. That is not totally supported by some of the evidence from the experience here, although there is agreement on the danger of the breaking wave. The USCG report also suggests that a small boat in a non-breaking sea moves more or less with the surface water so will not be struck by the mass of moving water and therefore will be less likely to be capsized. So lying a-hull may work up to the point where the waves start to break. However, the water in a breaking wave at its crest moves much faster and can strike a boat at a speed of as much as 20 knots. This is confirmed by the experience of most reports of knockdowns in this race where the sound of the approaching breaking wave was heard before it struck.

The famous 26-metre rogue wave that struck the Draupner Oilfield Platform in the North Sea on 1st January 1995 has been replicated in the laboratory by Oxford and Edinburgh Universities. The evidence from these tests indicate that when waves are crossing each other at an angle of 120 degrees they could create the occasional giant wave. The conditions for this type of wave occur in the Southern Ocean.

A recent paper published jointly by the National Oceanography Centre and University of Southampton has concluded that Global significant wave heights have increased over the past 30 years, but occur less often.”

With such experiences being reported at mid-race and then conclusions like this being drawn in the post-race analysis, you might have thought that the organisers would have long since been reflecting that enough is enough - a commemoration every fifty years would more than adequate to be going along with. But not a bit of it. On the contrary, the Golden Jubilee Golden Globe Race wasn’t long underway before it became clear that another similar race was planned for four years time in 2022, and a list of interested sailors was already taking shape.

joshua one design6The new Joshua One-Design – ten will race in the 2022 Golden Globe
Not only that, but since August 2017 organiser Don McIntyre had been promoting the concept of a One Design Class within the 2022 race. It was not to be a One Design based on Suhaili - as you might have expected - but one based on Joshua, with which Bernard Moitessier had been fourth to start, more than two months after Robin Knox Johnston, in the original Golden Globe in 1968.

With this week’s wrap-up of the 2018 race being published, it was again stated that the 2022 fleet will be in two sections. There’ll be the mixed division for which Pat Lawless of Dingle has already put his name down with his Alan Pape–designed Saltram Saga 36.

saltram saga7The Alan Pape-designed Saltram Saga 36 – Pat Lawless of Dingle has entered one for the 2022 Race

But there’ll also be this new strictly One Design Class of ten steel-built boats, constructed in Turkey and based on Moitessier’s 39ft Joshua, which was fourth away in 1968’s race and was a potential contender, but her skipper slipped into a very philosophical frame of mind and retired into the Pacific islands.

It was a French way of looking at seafaring competition which is very much at variance with their full-on competitions today, such as the Vendee Globe and the Figaro. Yet some top modern French sailors have some of the Moitessier philosophy in their make-up. After his impressive win in November 2017’s Mini Transat, 20-year-old Erwan le Draoulec admitted that he hadn’t really enjoyed the actual sailing, triumphant as it had been. He said that he felt he was abusing the Atlantic in sailing across it just as fast as humanly possible for 6.5 metre boat, and that at some time in the future, he would look forward to sailing across the ocean in a more gentle and contemplative style.

erwan le draoulec8Erwan le Draoulec (21). The youthful winner of the Minitransat in November 2017 crossed the ocean so quickly he reckoned it was an abuse of the Atlantic
In the end, Bernard Moitessier (1925-1994) also came to a fresh view of what he was doing, but his change of heart came in mid-race. Alone on the ocean and in the lead, he found he was rejecting what he saw as the commercialisation of long distance sailing, and pulled out of the race to voyage among the Pacific islands. Yet it seems that in 2022, a certain level of commercialisation will revive memories of what he did. Like it or not, there seems to be a growing demand for re-enactments.

bernard moitessier9The sailor-philosopher. Bernard Moitessier (1925-1994) in thoughtful mood in his beloved Pacific islands

29/4/19: 7 pm: This article has been updated in light of Barry Pickthall's comments (below) - our thanks to him.

Published in W M Nixon
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20 sailors from 10 countries have signed up to compete in the next Golden Globe Race slated to start on 4th September 2022, and many more have expressed an interest to compete. Among the line up as Afloat reported earlier is Pat Lawless in his Saga 36 from Limerick

The 2022 GGR entrants to date are,
1 John Clarke (47) GBR - Nicholson 32 MKX
2 Ian Herbert Jones (49) GBR - Tradewind 35
3 Guy Waites (52) GBR
4 Ertan Beskardes (57) GBR - Rustler 36
5 Simon Curwen (60) GBR - Biscay 36
6 Robin Davie (67) GBR - Rustler 36
7 Confidenial GBR
8 Arnaud Gaist (47) FRA Barbican 33 MKII (long keel version)
9 Confidential FRA
10 Guy deBoer (63) USA
11 Doug Dean JOHNSON (53) USA - Rustler 36
12 Matthew Wright (49) AUS
13 Michael Date (57) AUS Aries 32
14 Confidenial AUS
15 Michael Guggenberger (41) AUT - Endurance 35
16 Gaurav Shinde (32) CAN
17 Pat Lawless (62) IRE Saga 36
18 Guido Cantini (50) ITA Vancouver 34
19 Confidenial NZL - Rustler 36
20 Confidenial NOR
Total: 10 Country, 7 British, 3 Australian, 2 France, 2 American, 1 Austria, 1 Canada, 1 Irish, 1 Italy, 1 New Zealand, 1 Norway.
12 with Boats already."

Published in Solo Sailing
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Britain’s leading sailors are paying tribute to Sir Robin Knox-Johnston today on the 50th anniversary of the date he made history as the first person to ever sail solo, non-stop around the world, 22 April 1969.

“To me, Sir Robin is an iconic figure and one of the greatest sailors to ever set foot in a boat.” Said Sir Ben Ainslie, Britain’s most decorated Olympic sailor, during filming for a documentary about the achievement, which took place in the same year of the first moon landing.

Falmouth Sir robinA truly impressive flotilla of vessels, including Royal Navy warship HMS Mersey, and over one hundred supporting yachts of all shapes and sizes, joined Sir Robin, and Suhaili in Falmouth Harbour to recreate the historic moment he returned home 50 years ago to scenes of national jubilation and changed the future of ocean racing forever

Sir Ben added: “The Golden Globe and Sir Robin Knox Johnston’s amazing triumph against the rest of the world, winning for Britain, was an amazing feat of seamanship and something that will never be forgotten.”

Crowds of supporters and a flotilla of vessels, including a Royal Navy warship, are expected to join Sir Robin and his 32-ft yacht from that voyage, Suhaili, in Falmouth Harbour today to recreate 50 years to the exact time, 1525, when he crossed the finish line of The Sunday Times Golden Globe Race and returned home to scenes of national jubilation.

Leading round the world yachtswoman Dee Caffari commented: “We often talk about the achievement of being the first man on the moon, and I think you can make a very similar comparison to Sir Robin for sailing around the world. He created that first non-stop sail that nobody thought was possible. It hadn’t been done until he completed it and he laid that pathway for all of us to follow.”

Inspired by Sir Francis Chichester, who had sailed around the world but had stopped in Australia, there was one achievement left in Robin’s mind; to be first to go solo, non-stop. He faced huge challenges in his quest to complete the unknown. Not only during the journey itself but also from sceptics. Could it actually be done? Would the boat hold up? Wouldn’t you go mad? How long would it take? Was Robin the man to achieve this feat?

A real-life story of the underdog, he received no sponsorship other than 120 cans of Tennants beer and a £5 Cadbury voucher. When he set sail from Falmouth on 14 June,1968, aged 29, he had jaundice but hid it as he feared he would have been stopped from going. Before the days of GPS satellite technology, he had only the same navigational tools as Captain Cook; the stars and a sextant. He had to fix a leak in the side of his yacht in shark infested waters, and not too far into his journey, he lost his freshwater tanks when his boat was knocked down by a wave, leaving him having to catch rainwater in his sails to survive.

Later, Robin lost all contact after his radio broke, and was presumed lost at sea for over four months before being reported alive by a British tanker just weeks from the finish line. He was also crippled with stomach pain in the latter stages and years later found out his appendix had likely burst, but still he carried on, dedicated to his mission. He also famously never officially entered the race, but the Sunday Times built the entry rules around his plans.

Of the nine people who set out in quest of becoming the first to circumnavigate solo, non-stop, the sailing equivalent of climbing Mount Everest, Sir Robin was the only one to complete the journey.

Comparing the experiences Sir Robin had fifty years ago compared to his own, British solo yachtsman

British solo yachtsman Alex Thomson, the youngest Skipper to ever win the Clipper Race, in 1996, said: “People ask what it is like now compared to when Robin did it in 1968-69. And for me there’s no relation. For one, I need to have reasonably constant communication with my team, with my family. I need to have that feeling that I have some control over the abilities where I'll talk to people, whereas back then Robin didn't have that.

He added: “The thought of doing more than 300 days, that's a different level, that's a completely different scale, so I can't see that what it is now is as hard as it was then. Perhaps the speed makes it more difficult, you know the stress of the speed being able to do 40 knots and instead of perhaps six or seven as a top speed, but still I would never choose to do what Robin did.”

In 1994, Robin set a record for the fastest circumnavigation with Sir Peter Blake in 1994, for which they were awarded the Trophée Jules Verne, was Knighted by the Queen in 1995 in recognition of his service to sailing, has been named Yachtsman of the Year an unprecedented four times, and was an inaugural entry into the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Hall of Fame. In 2006, aged 67, he also set a new record for being the oldest yachtsman to sail solo around the world, in the Velux 5 Oceans Race.

Sir Robin also established the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. The only event on the planet which trains amateurs to become ocean racing sailors, over 5,000 people internationally have taken part in the biennially held Clipper Race, which Sir Robin which considers to be one of his greatest legacy in sailing.

Various public celebrations took place over the weekend in Falmouth, including the unveiling of a brass footprint cast in Falmouth Haven marina to mark Sir Robin’s last steps as he departed on 15 June, 1968, and his first steps back on land 312 days later. An exhibition of recently unearthed images from his journey are also on display until 1 September at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

Published in Solo Sailing

As the awards day for the 2018 Golden Globe Race is taking place today (Monday 22 April) in Les Sables, applications for invites to join the next Golden Globe Race in 2022 are now open — and one of those hopeful to join the global solo voyagers is Irish fisherman Pat Lawless.

Born in bred in Limerick on the banks of the River Shannon, Pat comes from a solo offshore sailing pedigree as his late father, also named Pat, completed his own circumnavigation of the world (in separate stages) in 1996 at the age of 70 — and since had a river festival named in his honour.

Pat Junior now lives in Ballyferriter, Co Kerry, the most westerly village in Europe, with his wife and two of his four children, and makes furniture for a living.

However, over the last six decades Pat has amassed around 150,000km on the water between sailing and fishing.

Now he aims to finish what Conor McGuckin started in the 50th anniversary of the Golden Globe Race and become the first Irishman to do a non-stop, unassisted solo circumnavigation of the world.

As Pat’s nephew Patrick Stritch explains to, the boat he’s selected for the task is a Saltram Saga 36.

“Alan Papa designed her as a development of the Colin Archer ‘Redmingskoite’ sailing lifeboat hull, from which for many years have been regarded as being amongst the most sea-worthy around and even substantially faster than the original,” says Patrick.

“They are a mighty fine boat for the Southern Ocean, able to hold on to working sail in strong winds, without healing more than 20 degrees.”

Pat will have the next three years to get to know every aspect of his boat like the back of his hand before the next Golden Globe Race sets off from France on 21 August 2022.

This date commemorates the anniversary of Bernard Moitessier setting off in the original Sunday Times Golden Globe in 1968, and a new one-design class based on his famous yacht Joshua has been added for the next edition.

Published in Solo Sailing

After finishing the non-stop round the world Golden Globe Race in France last week, both Jean-Luc Van Den Heede and Mark Slats are struggling with the transition between their solo sailing world and reality ashore. Jean-Luc was comparing notes with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, winner of the first Golden Globe Race in 1968/9, for both struggled to walk any distance after stepping ashore, though Jean-Luc (73) seemingly had little problem performing on stage with his rock band well into the early hours, while celebrating his win at a party held in his honour on the day he finished!

"difficult to stay asleep for more than 90 minutes"

Sleep has also been a problem. Slats is finding it difficult to stay asleep for more than 90 minutes without getting the urge to get up and check the sails. Jean-Luc, who lives in Les Sables d’Olonne, says that the only way he can overcome this is to go back to the boat where he sleeps soundly.

Rubbish Onboard

As part of their efforts to help save the planet, both skippers saved all their rubbish onboard. Today, this was weighed and compared with the food and other disposables taken onboard at the start. Jean-Luc brought ashore 14 bags weighing 93kg and Mark had 15 bags weighing 113kg

Published in Solo Sailing
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41–year old Dutch sailor Mark Slats and his Rustler 36 Ophen Maverick took second place overall in the 2018 Golden Globe Race last night, and despite the late hour, received a rousing welcome from Dutch, French and British supporters there to applaud his super-human efforts in trying to overhaul race winner Jean-Luc Van Den Heede back up the Atlantic Ocean.

Slats, a record-breaking Atlantic rower, was challenging for the lead from the start, but a tactical decision to follow the traditional clipper ship route on a wide sweep round the western side of the South Atlantic, left him at a 900 mile disadvantage to his French rival by the time he had reached the Cape of Good Hope. Van Den Heede then extended that lead to 2,000 miles through the Southern Ocean before his yacht Matmut, another Rustler 36, was pitchpoled some 1,900 miles west of Cape Horn which left the Frenchman with a damaged mast to nurse for the rest of the circumnavigation.

"I didn’t get forecasts for 7 days and ran straight into calms”

That gave Slats an opportunity - which he grasped with both hands. By the time he rounded Cape Horn, the Dutchman had regained 500 miles, and by the time they had reached the Azores, the difference between them in terms of distance to finish was less than 50 miles. That was when Slat’s luck ran out. Questions over the validity of his Ham radio licence, left him ostracised by the amateur net and without regular weather updates at a critical period. “I didn’t get forecasts for 7 days and ran straight into calms.”

There were also issues with Van Den Heede’s Ham licence but as he put it when talking to Slats on the dock, “I had a few French friends who kept broadcasting to me.” He was soon 400 miles ahead again and kept this cushion to the finish.

For Slats, the most frightening moments came in the Indian Ocean when caught in the same 60-70knot storm that put paid to Ireland’s Gregor McGuckin and Indian Abhilash Tomy’s challenges. “We agreed to keep in radio contact every 3 hours.” Recalled Slats. “We spoke to each other on the first two scheds. but there was no one there for the third. I learned later from Race HQ that they had both capsized and lost their rigs.”

The full force of that storm hit Ohpen Maverick soon after and she suffered two major knockdowns. During the first, Slats was thrown overboard and saved only by his lifeline, which catapulted him back on to the cockpit floor. “It was a massive knockdown through 120°, then I suffered another which filled the boat right up to the level of the nav station. “That’s when I began to pray – and they were obviously answered because after pumping by hand for an hour, and with two electric pumps working, I managed to get the boat dry.”

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, winner of the first Golden Globe Race 50 years before: sent Mark a congratulatory note. “You have my respect for a very difficult voyage well accomplished. To be second to Jean Luc is to be at the highest level of solo sailing. A fantastic performance."

Mark Slats set a time of 214 days, 12hours, 18minutes 43seconds but carries a 36-hour penalty for improper contact over the Sat Phone by his team manage which leaves him with a race time of 216 days 00hours 18 minutes 30 seconds.

Published in Solo Sailing
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Jean-Luc Van Den Heede wrote his name into the record books by not only winning the 2018 Golden Globe solo non-stop round the world race today, but becoming the oldest in history to complete such a race. The 73-year old French veteran of six solo circumnavigations takes over both titles from Britain’s Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the sole finisher of the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race 50 years before. Until the finish gun fired at 09:12 UTC, Sir Robin had held the title as the oldest solo circumnavigator in a race, after completing the Velux 5 Oceans Race in 2007 at the age of 68.

Age is clearly no barrier, for Van Den Heede has led this race ever since rounding the Cape of Good Hope. At one point he and his Rustler 36 yacht Matmut had built up a 2,000 mile lead over second placed Dutchman Mark Slats, until pitch-poled during a ferocious southern ocean storm some 2,000 miles west of Cape Horn. He and his yacht survived the ordeal but when she righted herself, Jean-Luc was devastated to find that the pressure on the bolt holding the lower shrouds had torn a 10cm long hole down the mast section.

His first reaction was to head north to the Chilean port of Valparaiso to replace the mast, which would have put him out of the running for the main prize, but two days later, he had worked out a way to repair the damage and headed back towards Cape Horn once more under reduced sail.

Slowly but surely, Mark Slats narrowed the lead, regaining 500 miles by the Horn, and by the Azores, Van Den Heede’s advantage was less than 50 miles in terms of distance to finish. But then the French veteran showed his experience, delivering a master class in ocean racing tactics to pull back a 400-mile advantage over his 41-year old rival.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, one of the first to welcome Van Den Heede at the finish, said: “Jean-Luc is to be congratulated for a magnificent performance, made all the greater by the jury repairs he had to make to his mast to stay in the Race. I’m sorry to lose my record as the oldest to race solo around the world, but it couldn’t go to a better person.”

Race Chairman Don McIntyre, who was inspired by Knox-Johnston’s achievement in winning the first solo race back in 1968/9 to organise this 50th anniversary event, was just as ecstatic: “How fantastic. What a win for Jean-Luc. He has proved that age is just a number. Jean-Luc’s performance is a classic example of planning, preparation and execution. This has been a great celebration for adventure and resurrecting the history of the original Sunday Times Golden Globe Race.”

A joyful Jean-Luc Van Den Heede said: “Before the knockdown, I had a 2,000 mile lead but the repairs cost me a week which cut the lead back by 500 miles. Then, once back in the Atlantic, Mark Slats kept nibbling way at the distance and became a real threat. At the Azores, my one option was to go north as fast as I could, and a day after making that tack, Slats followed me. I could see from the weather forecasts that he was heading directly towards the high pressure system there, and a day later he was cooked. He is still cooked now – and I am here!”

More than 100 vessels ventured out into the cold wet January weather to welcome Jean-Luc back to his home port, and the entire town of Les Sables d’Olonne, including classes of school children, braved the conditions to line the harbour walls and give their hero the warmest of welcomes.

Talking about his earlier solo circumnavigations, Van Den Heede said. “My two previous Vendee Globe races (which also start and finish in Les Sables d’Olonne) were just practice races for this Golden Globe Race.”

The Golden Globe Race is unique in the fact that all the yachts are traditional long keel cruising boats between 32-36ft long. Skippers must rely on sextant, chronometer and paper charts to navigate by and can receive no outside assistance. Second placed Mark Slats, who has been penalised for receiving information directly from his shore manager yesterday, called Race HQ at 15:00 UTC seeking an update on the approaching storm predicted to blow into the Bay of Biscay on Thursday. This Low pressure system has changed direction over night and is not now expected to impinge on the course, so Slats has altered course away from refuge in La Coruna and is once more on course for Les Sables d’Olonne

Race Chairman Don McIntyre issued for following statement: “Mark Slats is currently 350 miles from the finish line and we now expect him to finish late Friday. The GGR Committee has assessed the evidence surrounding the breach of GGR Notice of Race Rule 3.1.4 - Telephone contact - and applied a 36 hour time penalty. which would normally be served in a penalty box at sea. However, because of a previous decision not to serve penalties in the Bay of Biscay at this time of the year, the penalty will be added to his finish time. A full account of the findings will be published in the next 24 hours.

The original Sunday Times Golden Globe Race in 1968/9 had 9 entrants and only one finisher – Sir Robin Knox-Johnston who became the first to sail solo non-stop round the globe. This race has also had a high attrition rate with five of the original starters still in the hunt. Jean-Luc’s performance has beaten Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s time by 100 days – a remarkable achievement. Four gave up for personal reasons, one suffered steering failure and five were rolled, dismasted and rescued in the Southern Ocean, including British yachtswoman Susie Goodall. Another set a jury rig and successfully made it to Cape Town unaided, and two more were forced by circumstances to stop in Australia.

Published in Solo Sailing
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Jean-Luc van den Heede safely berthed his Rustler 36 Matmut in the Vendee Marina in Les Sables-d’Olonne shortly after 1100 hrs today to confirm him in first place in convincing style in the Golden Jubilee Golden Globe Race writes W M Nixon. Much is being made of the fact that he has bested Robin Knox-Johnston’s pioneering time with Suhaili 50 years ago by a clear 100 days, but in truth, such comparisons are an over-simplification of two very different yet outstandingly significant achievements.

By getting efficiently to port this morning, Van den Heede has kept himself safely ahead of the next complex of rapidly approaching classic Bay of Biscay superstorms, which are forecast to be so extreme that second-placed Mark Slats of The Netherlands – who was more than 350 miles astern of van den Heede when the latter finished – is currently heading for shelter in La Coruna in northwest Spain after controversial communication with his shore team.

Published in Solo Sailing
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Second-placed Golden Globe Race skipper Mark Slats tonight is facing a time penalty for a breach of satellite communication rules, and direct outside assistance from his Dutch team manager Dick Koopmans writes Barry Pickthall.

Slats is facing a dilemma: To run ahead of an approaching north-westerly storm and hope to reach the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne on Thursday evening before it strikes the Vendee coast – a lee shore; lie hove-to outside the Bay of Biscay until the storm has passed, or seek a refuge, which is allowed under the race rules, provided he does not step ashore or communicate with the outside world other than via VHF or HF radio.

At 10:30, Race HQ received a communication from Dick Koopmans, Mark Slats' team manager, asking for the Race finish line to be moved 50 miles offshore. This was denied.

11:59, Race HQ responded to Koopmans saying that Race Chairman Don McIntyre had sent a weather warning to Slats and that Mark and subsequently called via his safety sat phone to discuss the weather scenario. Slats advised that he was receiving weather forecasts onboard and was aware of the approaching storm. The email advised Koopmans that Slats was not slowing down and continuing towards the finish line. It added. "But if you want a message passed on the weather, we are happy to do that. Just email here.”

12:21 Koopmans replied by e.mail saying that “I spoke to Geerit Hiemsta, one of our leading meteorologists in Holland…In his opinion it is completely unsafe to sail into the Bay of Biscay. He suggests to stay outside and finish in La Coruna or Brest, but not in Les Sables d’Olonne. This is also the (unofficial) opinion of the Dutch Coastguard and Falmouth Coastguard.

I am very unhappy with your advice and consider to call Mark on his Iridium phone, whatever the consequences may be.”

13:16, Race Chairman Don McIntyre responded: “Just a reminder, we never give directives to entrants. We give opinions and the final choice is up to entrants. Mark is receiving weather reports on his radio….

I would strongly suggest that you do NOT call Mark. I have offered to message him any advice you wish to send him in relation to safety avoiding the storm. I am awaiting for that advice. All decisions are the responsibility of the skipper. …I am now officially asking you for your advice on the safest route for him to take if you wish to be involved with efforts to send him to the safest place. I will then pass him that from you.”

13:28: message from GGR HQ to Mark. “Dick advice: head to la Corunna or Brest to miss the storm.”

13:33 Email from Koopmans to GGR: ”Ignoring authorities like Coastguard and top meteorologist. I do not trust the Race Committee on their knowledge in the situation. I think safety is now more important than rules.
I will send Mark messages to his Iridium phones from now on.

Advice from Mr Hiemstra – ‘Have a helicopter ready’

13:34. Email from Koopmans to GGR: Do not speak to Mark in my name.”

13:38 Race HQ to Koopmans: “Mark will be penalised for breach of rules. We have NOT been directed by any authority and if you look at your emails, we are awaiting your advice on where to send him. Your actions and comments DO NOT relate in the best interests of Mark’s race and we are both working towards Mark’s Safety. PLEASE place your message through GGR. If you need clarification, please ring. WE ARE STILL WAITING YOUR ADVICE. YOU RISK PENALISING MARK FOR NO REASON AT ALL…YOUR CHOICE. WE HAVE MADE IT CLEAR WE CAN SEND ANY MESSAGE TO HIM. WE ARE STILL WAITING. YOU MUST NOT CONTACT MARK

13:46: Email from Koopmans to Race HQ: “Safety is more important than penalties. You can read all the messages later and decide on penalties.”

Koopmans ignored RACE HQ advise and messaged Slats directly – a direct breach of the Notice of Race.

16: 00 (approx.): Mark phoned Race HQ to discuss the weather and asked permission to call Koopmans for advice, and asked for Koopman’s phone number. GGR agreed as Koopmans would not give GGR the safety information. At a subsequent meeting of the Race Committee, it was decided not to provide the number since a call to Koopmans constituted outside assistance and a further breach of the Notice of Race.

16:12: Mark called Race HQ to say that he had altered course to La Corunna and confirmed that Koopmans had contacted him directly. Slats was advised that he now faced a time penalty.

The Race Committee will meet tomorrow to access the evidence and any time penalty will have to be served at sea before the finish.

In a statement tonight, Don McIntyre said: "There are two issues here. One is safety and we all work in the best interests of Mark Slats. The second is process under the Notice of Race. GGR continues to offer safety weather advice to all competitors. Unfortunately, Slats’ team manager decided not to abide by the Notice of Race."

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