The battle for the Golden Globe Race lead between Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (FRA) and Mark Slats (NED) has seen the French skipper open up a 222 nm lead over his Dutch rival with 995 nm to the finish (as of 14:00 UTC). Compared to a week ago, the difference in terms of distance to finish was just 28 miles.
Both skippers have used up what remained of their 160 litre supply of diesel fuel, with Slats expending the last drop pushing his way through the windless high pressure system sitting over the Azores. Different weather systems have impacted the distance between the two boats but they now are within the same system.
Slats is currently 330 miles south of Van Den Heede’s upwind position at the start of what could be a straight drag race to the finish. The unknown factor is the forecast – especially for these two skippers as both have been cut off from weather feeds from the Ham Radio Net community.
It came to light last week that both skippers have been using unlicensed call signs throughout the Race when Dutch and St Lucia radio authorities issued warning notices against them. Licenced Ham radio operators who communicate with them not only face losing their licences, but the threat of a large fine and possible prison sentence.
Forecasting is particularly acute for Van Den Heede whose Rustler 36 Matmut has the prospect of running straight into another high pressure system predicted to form to the north east by January 23. It could affect Slats too, but not before his yacht Ophen Maverick has closed the distance.
The question then for Van Den Heede is whether to push hard for the finish and run the risk of breaking Matmut’s damaged mast, or settle for second place. The fact that 3rd placed Estonian Uku Randmaa trails 3,450 miles behind, could well persuade the Frenchman to push all out for a win, knowing that if the worst happens, he could still finish 2nd under a jury rig.
For the moment, 4th placed Istvan Kopar’s charge up the South Atlantic to challenge Randmaa for third has run out of steam. The American/Hungarian lost some time repairing his self-steering and is now caught in calms while Randmaa is making most of the SE trade winds, and holds a 580 mile cushion
5th placed Tapio Lehtinen is making most of the Southern Ocean weather systems and is looking to round Cape Horn in two weeks time. The Finn celebrated his 61st birthday on January 18 while enjoying a 45 knot north-westerly blast and can expect at least two more gales before rounding the Cape. He is also holding his own in the virtual race against the passage time set by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in the original Sunday Times Golden Globe Race 50 years ago and should round the Horn ahead.
Van Den Heede is predicting a January 31st finish.
NOTE: Jean-Luc Van Den Heede absorbed an 18-hour time penalty as a result of his actions when he sustained mast damage during a storm 1,900 miles west of Cape Horn. His mast remains structurally unsound which may impact his performance for the remaining miles.
The 2018 Golden Globe Race started for 17 skippers from Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday July 1, 2018, with the inaugural solo non-stop around the world yacht race expected to take 9-10 months to complete.
The event marks the 50th anniversary of the Sunday Times Golden Globe solo non-stop round the world race in 1968-69 when rules then allowed competitors to start from ports in northern France or UK between June 1st and October 31st.
A notable twist to the 2018 Golden Globe Race format is how entrants are restricted to using the same type of yachts and equipment that were available in that first race, with the premise being to keep the race within financial reach of every dreamer.
The rules allow for one breach of the strict solo, non-stop un-assisted circumnavigation without the aid of modern electronic navigation aids regulations that make this Race unique. However, those that do move down to the Chichester Class as if, like Sir Francis Chichester in 1966-67, they have made one stop during their solo circumnavigation.
Those who breach the rules for a second time are deemed to have retired from the GGR Event and the organisers have no responsibility or obligation to them.
January 21, 2019; Day 205