GGR. Van Den Heede – Last 100 Miles to Finish

Jean Luc Van Den Heede.
Pic by Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede endured another tough night with 45 knots winds and 6-7m seas, but his Rustler 36 ‘Matmut’ is now within 100 miles of the finish line at Les Sables d’Olonne, and the 73-year old Frenchman is expected to arrive to a huge welcome at 08:00 UTC tomorrow (Tuesday).

His great rival, Dutchman Mark Slats sailing a second Rustler 36 ‘Ophen Maverick’, narrowed the lead by 91 miles over the weekend, but remains 312 miles astern. He is not now expected to finish until late on Thursday, experiencing another Bay of Biscay gale just before his arrival.

The weather in the Bay of Biscay is forecast to moderate today, and barring light winds at dawn, should provide good sailing conditions all the way to the finish.

3,600 miles astern, Estonian Uku Randmaa sailing a third Rustler 36 ‘One and All’, is making the most of his last day of SE trade winds, sailing at 6.6 knots today, and is expected to run into the Dolrdums sooner than he expected. This marks the start of a frustrating period of calms, squalls and thunderstorms as he makes his way to his next goal, the Equator 500 miles north.

Fourth placed American/Hungarian Istvan Kopar sailing his Tradewind 35 ‘Puffin’ is still enjoying the SE tradewinds, but making 4.6 knots because the Trades are lighter than usual. These will hold for a few more days, so he has a chance to close on Randmaa once more.

Finland’s Tapio Lehtinen is still in the Southern Ocean sailing at 4.4 knots some 850 miles from Cape Horn. There is plenty of strong Southern Ocean weather blowing at 45 knots+, but his Gaia 36 ‘Astreria’ is covered in barnacles which is slowing her progress. Today, this additional drag has cost Tapio the lead in his virtual race against Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s ‘Suhaili’ from 50 years ago. Suhaili’s relative position on 26th January was just 8 miles behind ‘Asteria’ in terms of distance to finish, and she would now be more than 100 miles ahead.