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GGR 2018, Day 130- Jean-Luc Van Den Heede continues racing

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Jean-Luc Van Den Heede now with renewed vigour to complete the Race after deciding to repair his mast at sea
Jean-Luc Van Den Heede now with renewed vigour to complete the Race after deciding to repair his mast at sea

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, the embattled race leader struggling with a damaged mast sustained during a storm 1,900 miles west of Cape Horn, has decided to continue in the race back to Les Sables d’Olonne.

In a dramatic satellite phone call to Race Chairman Don McIntyre early today, the 73-year old solo circumnavigator who continues to enjoy a 1,500 mile lead over second placed Dutchman Mark Slats, said that he had decided to make the best repair he can at sea and continue in the race. The Frenchman told McIntyre “The worst that can happen is that I lose my rig, and I have my jury rig at the ready.

McIntyre added “At the moment, his only other option is to divert 2,000 miles off course to a Chilean port and be demoted to the Chichester Class for making one stop to affect repairs. He believes that if he can get round Cape Horn and start heading north up into the Atlantic there are many more ports of refuge that would be closer to hand, should he have further issues with the rig on his Rustler 36 Matmut.”

Don added. “This makes a real race to the finish. Mark Slats (Ohpen Maverick) has around 90 days to catch up and now needs to average 1 knot more than Jean-Luc over the remaining distance back to Les Sables d’Olonne. This means that Mark has a real incentive to beat Matmut on his own terms, while Jean-Luc must push as hard as he dare within the limits of his damaged mast”.

This is a far better proposition for the fiercely competitive Dutchman than by winning by default and have the result tarred, as Sir Robin Knox-Johnston did quite unjustly 50 years before with the words ‘but he only won because….(In RK-J’s case, Frenchman Bernard Moitessier who had been 19 days behind the Englishman at Cape Horn, decided to carry on for a second turn around the world ‘to save my soul’.)

Time penalty
Van Den Heede has applied for a time penalty to be added to his circumnavigation time after he used his satellite phone twice after the mast was damaged to call his wife. The GGR rules only allow sat-phones to be used as a safety measure to call Race HQ. All other communications must be made via HF, VHF or Ham Radio Net, just as they were during the first Sunday Times Golden Globe Race in 1968/9.

Race organisers will announce their decision tomorrow, but McIntyre conceded today that if Van Den Heede gained no material advantage from the two calls, he was mindful to issue an 18-hour penalty, the same as that given to American Istvan Kopar after he stopped in the Cape Verde Islands to repair the windvane self-steering gear on his yacht Puffin.