Plot thickens in Golden Globe Race

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(January 15, 2019; Day 199) – With less than 1,700 miles back to the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne, 2nd placed Dutchman Mark Slats has sliced a further 393 miles out of France’s Jean-Luc Van Den Heede’s lead in terms of distance to finish over the past 8 days. At 12:00 UTC today, the gap was just 56 miles, Slats having gained 198 miles in the past 48 hours.

Van Den Heede, whose Rustler 36 Matmut has led the Golden Globe Race since passing the Cape of Good Hope and at one stage held a 2,000 nm 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 storm in the South Pacific on 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 and east towards the finish in the Bay of Biscay. For now he continues on a tight reach angle to the north as Slatts upwind ENE course is aimed toward the Canary Islands with more northerly winds toward the African continent.

As Slats threatens the lead, in a satellite call to Race HQ yesterday he revealed 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, as an hour of pumping with both hands produces just 750ml of water – barely a cup full. The average daily intake is 2.5 litres which translates to three hours pumping!

Slats 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, but when he dived again five days ago, the hull was infested with barnacles once more. “The biggest are 3.5 cm long, but most are about 1.5 cm. They are growing all over the hull.”

His first efforts to clean the bottom again were thwarted by the sudden appearance of a 3.5 m 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 nm behind the leading duo. He dived yesterday and was joined by dolphins, which is a blessing as long as he recognizes the difference between these mammals and their more aggressive distant cousins!

Located nearly 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 he ascends the North Atlantic.

As is Finland’s Tapio Lehtinen in fifth position 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 today. 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.

Back in December barnacle growth and rigging issues forced 6th placed Russian skipper Igor Zaretskiy to stop in Albany, Western Australia where a medical examination found a continuation of a heart condition, and he flew home to Moscow for further tests. Would this be the end of his challenge?

The good news is that his doctors and team believe it is not, but time to re-start within the Summer window in the Southern Ocean has run out. As there is no time limit for competitors in the Chichester Class, Zaretskiy’s plan now is to restart sometime in October, to coincide with the Southern Hemisphere summer and complete what he started.

“There is a natural and always reasoned rule: fight to the end,” said Zaretskiy. “Until you see the buoy at Les Sables d’Olonne, the race cannot be stopped.”

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.

Background:
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.

Source: GGR / sailingscuttlebutt

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