GGR. Just 50 Miles Between Leading Boats

Mark Slats has closed the gap on Race leader Jean-Luc Van Den Heede to within 49 miles in terms of distance to finish.
pic by Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR

With less than 1,700 miles back to the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne, second placed Dutchman Mark Slats has sliced a further 393 miles out of Jean-Luc Van Den Heede’s lead In terms of distance to finish over the past 8 days. The gap is just 49 miles after Slats gained 205 miles in the past 48 hours.

Jean-Luc, whose Rustler 36 ‘Matmut’ has led the Golden Globe Race since passing the Cape of Good Hope and at one stage held a 2,000nm advantage, has seen his lead being whittled away ever since the 73-year-old Frenchman suffered a knock-down and sustained damage to his mast during a Southern Ocean storm in the South Pacific in November 1.

Van Den Heede still holds a weather advantage and once passed the influence of the Azores high pressure system, should be first to benefit from the reaching winds that will give him an easier passage north towards the Bay of Biscay.

Still becalmed! Jean-Luc Van Den Heede made just 19 miles over the past 24 hours, but his position to windward of Slats still gives him the advantage.
Pic by Tim Bishop/PPL/GGR

But Slats is pushing hard despite a few problems of his own. In a satellite call to Race HQ on Monday, the Dutchman reported for the first time that he ran out of fresh water supplies a week ago, and is now using his emergency desalinator to turn salt water into fresh. It is hard work. An hour of pumping with both hands produces just 750ml of water – barely a cup full. The average daily intake is 2.5litres – 3 hours pumping!

He also reported that during a period of calm three weeks ago he had dived on ‘Ohpen Maverick’s’ hull and completely cleaned the bottom of growth and slime. `’It was perfect” he said yesterday. So imagine his surprise when he dived again five days ago to find the hull infested with barnacles once more. “The biggest are 3.5cm long, but most are about 1.5cms. They are growing all over the hull.” His first efforts to clean the bottom again were thwarted by the sudden appearance of a 3.5m shark, but he will use the next period of calm to have another go. “So far, this must have cost me about 50 miles.”

Third placed Estonian skipper Uku Randmaa whose Rustler 36 ‘One and All’, has also been beset by barnacle growth since crossing the Indian Ocean, is today caught in calms in the South Atlantic, some 3,000 miles behind the leading duo. He dived yesterday, and reported: “I’m swimming with dolphins.” We hope he recognises the difference between these mammals and their more aggressive distant cousins!

800 miles to the South, American/Hungarian Istvan Kopar is making great progress northwards in his Tradewind 35 ‘Puffin’, seemingly having overcome his self-steering problems.

As is Finland’s Tapio Lehtinen aboard his Gaia 36 ‘Asteria’ who avoided the worst of one storm last week and is attempting to outrun another today. Now within 1,700 miles of Cape Horn, but still beset with barnacle growth, he was making 4.3 knots. Behind him though is the sceptre of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s Suhaili catching up in their virtual race round the world. Suhaili’s relative position from 50 years ago was 512 miles behind a week ago. Today, the distance is nearer 280!

Relative positions of Jean-Luc Van Den Heede and Mark Slats.