Please select your home edition
Edition
Sailing Chandlery 2019 - Leaderboard
Product Feature
2019 Crewsaver Razor Junior Drysuit Including Underfleece
2019 Crewsaver Razor Junior Drysuit Including Underfleece

Golden Globe Race 2018 nears the finishing line

by David Schmidt 8 Jan 17:00 GMT January 8, 2019
Dutchman Mark Slats has been diligently whittling-down race leader Jean-Luc van den Heede’s once-unassailable lead since the Frenchman sustained rig damage in November © Christophe Favreau / Matmut / PPL

While the eyes of the international sailing world have recently been riveted on the annual, 628 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart Race and on the significant news coming from the 36th Americas Cup, the fact remains that five out of the Golden Globe Race 2018s original 18 entrants are still pressing their era-specific vessels as quickly as possible to the Les Sables-d'Olonne, France, finishing line using their sextants and paper charts for navigation and their woven sails and full keels for speed.

For context, 18 of the 29 skippers that started the 2016/2017 Vendee Globe, which is widely regarded as the hardest singlehanded challenge available to sailors, managed to complete the course, meaning that the GGR 2018 is currently running a significantly higher attrition rate than its big brother event.

And while the skippers who race in the Vendee Globe enjoy significantly faster boats, modern satellite communications (read: GRIB files for weather routing) and modern navigation equipment, theres no question that GGR 2018 sailors have earned their dockside cred by intentionally shunning modern technology in favor of old fashioned adventure and seamanship.

Granted, this has not always worked out well, given the GGR 2018s stated (and ongoing) attrition rate, but that assumes that the ultimate goal of all entrants was to win the race. While I have no question that all skippers brought their best skills and preparation to the table, I also strongly suspect that the sirens song of a fair means circumnavigation rang truer in all GGR 2018 sailors heads and hearts than thoughts of finish-line glory.

That said, the two leading skippers, Frenchman Jean-Luc van den Heede (73) and Dutchman Mark Slats (41), are engaged in a slow-speed, high-level private race-within-a-race for the grand prize, and neither skipper is betraying any sign of easing off the accelerator.

For anyone just tuning in to the GGR 2018, van den Heede has sailed a tactically brilliant race, at one point enjoying a 2,000-plus nautical mile lead over his nearest competition, until a storm damaged his rig and forced him to adopt a much more conservative sailing style.

Impressively, van den Heede has kept Matmut, his Rustler 36 masthead sloop, intact, despite being well to the west of Cape Horn when the damage occurred. But rather than stopping at Valparaiso, Chile, as he originally planned, van den Heede continued eastwards and then north, pressing his lead into the South Atlantic and then the North Atlantic, with Slats steadily nipping at his once sizeable lead aboard The Ohpen Maverick, which is also a Rustler 36 masthead sloop.

As of this writing, a mere 2,095 nautical miles separates van den Heede from the finishing line, however Slats has now reduced the amount of saline separating his bow from van den Heedes sternpost to a mere 353 nautical miles. [N.B., this includes an 18-hour time-out penalty that van den Heede was given due to improper use of a satellite phone to call his wife after suffering his big knockdown on November 9, 2018; van den Heede served this penalty time on Saturday, January 5, 2019 and is now clear to press on to the finishing line.]

While a lot can change in 2,095 nautical miles, of course, van den Heede predicts that he will arrive in Les Sables-d'Olonne, France on January 26. This gives Slates less than three weeks to nip as many miles off of the fast Frenchman as he possibly can. However, given that (at the time of this writing) van den Heede was sailing at 5.0 knots while Slats was reporting 4.9 knots, this one could come down to the relative wire after more than 225 days of racing almost identical steeds.

So, while the GGR 2018 has clearly demonstrated that the challenge of racing a period-specific sailboat around the world has not diminished since the iconic Golden Globe Race of 1968, the story of Slats and van den Heede certainly demonstrates the sailing worlds impressive leap in overall skill and experience since Sir Robin Knox-Johnston sailed into the history books by becoming the only skipper-out of a starting fleet of nine boats-to complete the original race, which he did in 312 days.

Hats off to all GGR 2018 entrants, and www.sail-world.com wishes safe and speedy passage to the events the five remaining skippers.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

Related Articles

Whaddya reckon?
So what if you made the running surface hard? Really, really, really hard, actually So what if you made the running surface hard? Really, really, really hard, actually. But still made from water, however? Well that would make it ice then. Posted on 17 Feb
Podcast: 50 knots across Sydney Harbour
Andy Rice & Mark Jardine discusss the launch of SailGP SailGP... it's been a long time coming but now the day is upon us and these boats have been looking sensational on Sydney Harbour. Posted on 14 Feb
This one goes to eleven!
So that quickly and firmly establishes this as an homage to Spinal Tap... Right. So that quickly and firmly establishes this as an homage to Spinal Tap. However, in reality, what we are dealing with is the impending commencement of all things SailGP. Posted on 10 Feb
The Future of Sailing webinars
View the full series so far Liz Rushall of Rushall Marketing, Mark Jardine, Editor of YachtsandYachting.com and Sail-World.com, and Alistair Dickson from the RYA Sport Participation Team have run a series of webinars over the last 12 months. Posted on 9 Feb
The pleasure and the pain
If you have done enough racing, chances are you've had your share of issues If you have done enough racing, chances are you've had more than your share of going from boiled lollies to chocolates. Posted on 3 Feb
Make 2019 count!
Gael Pawson's thoughts on how we as sailors can reduce plastic waste "It's just one cup..." but if every one of us reduces our plastic waste consumption by just one item every day it will make a huge impact. So how about we all take one step towards a more sustainable sailing life. Posted on 31 Jan
The story of WetsuitOutlet.co.uk
The global marine retailer working with manufacturing partners We recently caught up with Ian Homan of Wetsuitoutlet.co.uk and Tristan Hutt of Zhik, about how they work together, and the size and reach of the online retailer based in Shoeburyness, Essex. Posted on 29 Jan
Big names. Bigger guns!
Guns don't get any bigger than Spindrift 2! Guns don't get any bigger than Spindrift 2! She has replaced her own record for the dash to the equator by an hour and 48 minutes. In doing so, she set an as yet to be ratified time of four days, 19 hours and 57 minutes. Posted on 27 Jan
Investing for the future: New machinery at Allen
Major investment in Haas VF-2 Vertical Machining Centre Exactly a year ago, Allen Brothers purchased a Haas VF-2 Vertical Machining Centre or VMC for short – part of a major investment for the company of over £100,000. This has doubled their capacity for producing some of their top-end fittings. Posted on 22 Jan
Budget Ultra-High Performance Sailing
One of the best bang-for-your-buck boats that I've seen On a cold winter's day down at Marconi Sailing Club I took a look at what could be the best bang-for-your-buck boat I've seen. A truly budget high-performance double-hander in the form of Tristan Walker-Hutt and Tom Clayton's International 14 'Fawkes'. Posted on 14 Jan