Veteran French skipper Jean-Luc van den Heede (73) has been giving a strategic sailing masterclass in the final 1500 miles of the Golden Jubilee Golden Globe Race writes W M Nixon. A week ago, after enduring flukey and unfavourable conditions all the way northward from the Equator, his distance from the finish was barely 50 miles less than that of second-placed Mark Slats, although the two boats out in mid-ocean were never within two hundred miles of each other.
This was because van den Heede was making every effort to get himself northwest towards the slowly approaching more favourable winds. In the end he made so much westing that he passed through the western passage of the Azores, and soon found himself making excellent speeds in the right direction well north of the islands, despite his boat’s damaged rig.
Meanwhile, it was Slats who was now drawing the short straw in terms of the developing wind situation. His position well to the southeast meant he was on the wrong side of the new weather setup which was favouring van den Heede, and in the end he passed the Azores to the eastward, hard on the wind.
Van den Heede is only 700 miles from the finish, right on line for Les Sables d’Olonne in the Bay of Biscay on port tack in northwest to north winds, and making 6.8 knots in his “Little Snail”, as he has nick-named his Rustler 36 Malmut.
But Slats in his sister-ship is close northeast of the Azores, hard on the wind at only 5 knots on starboard tack, and all of 1020 miles from the finish. It’s looking good for van den Heede. Yet we mustn’t forget that he’s racing with that roughly-repaired rig, even if - despite it - he was making 7.9 knots in the right direction north of the Azores.
Race tracker here: https://goldengloberace.com/livetracker/