Please select your home edition
Edition
P&B 2019 - Leaderboard
Product Feature
NeilPryde Sailing Startline Drysuit
NeilPryde Sailing Startline Drysuit
Boat Insurance from Noble Marine


Full racing risks
New for old cover
www.noblemarine.co.uk

Boiling down the miles in the Golden Globe Race 2018

by David Schmidt 15 Jan 20:00 GMT January 15, 2019
Mark Slats has closed the gap on Race leader Jean-Luc Van Den Heede to within 49 miles in terms of distance to finish - Golden Globe Race © Christophe Favreau / PPL / GGR

While I've been fortunate to cover many sailboat races in my time as a sailing journalist, I've never seen a race like the Golden Globe Race 2018. Not only are all participants required to use sextants and era-specific vessels (read: full keels), but (as of this writing) just five out of the original 18 starting skippers are still sailing for the Les Sables-d'Olonne, France finishing line, which is an attrition rate of 72.22 percent. Moreover, the GGR 2018 has seen dramatic instances of human drama, of sailors stepping up way beyond their comfort zones, of personal misfortune and tribulation, and of bloody good seamanship.

But most importantly, the GGR 2018 has also proven itself to be a highly competitive and engaging sailboat race, which has seen the largest lead (some 2,000 nautical miles) that I've ever heard of in an offshore race get progressively whittled down as race leader Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (FRA; 73) nurses the damaged rig and battles light airs aboard Matmut, his Rustler 36 masthead sloop, and second-placed Mark Slats (NED; 41), sailing aboard The Ohpen Maverick, another Rustler 36 masthead sloop, constantly applies pressure from astern.

As of this writing, Slats has reduced Van Den Heede's lead to just 56 nautical miles, with 1,683 miles separating Matmut's bow from the finishing line.

Impressively, Slats has erased some 205 miles of Van Den Heede's lead in the past 48 hours.

Given that both sailors are currently (again, as of this writing) looking at "blistering" uphill speeds of 4.9 knots, this leaves a lot of time to contemplate one's final strategy and tactics as the finishing line slowly hoves into view.

Impressively, Slats has been posting big-mile days relative to Van Den Heede's much more modest daily mileage runs, which is almost certainly evidence that Slats can press his rig and sails much harder than Van Den Heede, who is likely spending considerable portions of his waking hours thinking of ways of ensuring that his stick stays vertical, at least until he crosses the finishing line.

So while Van Den Heede still enjoys what would be considered an enviable - if not unassailable - lead in any other race, the simple fact remains that this metric will boil down fast if Slats is able to sail almost twice the mileage per 24 hours that his rival is posting.

Couple this with a remaining runway of some 1,683 nautical miles, and the race quickly starts feeling like an algebra assignment, but from my desk as a longtime sailing journalist, it's also one of the absolute most unique races that I have ever had the pleasure of covering.

And while picking favorites is a journalism no-no, let's allow ourselves a small moment to consider the fact that both Slats and Van Den Heede have sailed brilliant races and have passed some significant tests of seamanship in order to be weeks ahead of the reference time posted by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in the original Golden Globe Race of 1968.

Moreover, both sailors have also demonstrated significant levels of gumption, self-confidence and self-reliance in order to find themselves within just over 100 nautical miles of each other after some 26,270 nautical miles of sailing.

There's no dismissing the fact that Van Den Heede's rig damage, which he sustained during a November 1, 2018 knock down in a violent Southern Ocean storm, definitely slowed the highly experienced Frenchman down, but there's also no dismissing the kind of internal fire that someone has to possess to stage a 2,000 nautical mile comeback, which has played out over a series of months, not minutes or hours.

Fortunately for us sailors living through another cold and dark North American winter, the next week and a half to two weeks will provide plenty of opportunity to hit refresh on the GGR 2018 leaderboard page. But if there's one thing that I have learned after more than 196 days of covering this race, it's to expect the unexpected, mixed in with plenty of adventure, skill, preparation and perhaps a pinch of luck.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

Related Articles

The need for innovation
70 boats out for a mid-week twilight jaunt, and just half a dozen for Saturday means something... You know when a club can get like 70 boats out for a mid-week twilight jaunt, and then just half a dozen for Saturday windward/leewards that something is going on. It is not that sailing isn't something people want to do. Posted on 14 Apr
It's all about having fun!
Enjoyment is the single biggest factor in motivating children to be active Enjoyment is the single biggest factor in motivating children to be active. Posted on 11 Apr
Feather duster
As in knock me down… Like this wasn't going to happen As in knock me down... Like this wasn't going to happen. No semaphore was required here. Intrigue in the AC is nothing new. It is a shame, for sure, but we commented at the time of the late arrivals that the cash pool simply was not big enough. Posted on 7 Apr
Make 2019 count! Kinder cleaning
Gael Pawson's thoughts on how sailors can be kinder to the environment Cleaning products can account for more waste than we might think and there are plenty of alternatives that can make a significant difference to your impact on the world. Here are a few ways to cut our negative impact on the environment. Posted on 5 Apr
Oh Yeah. Giddy Up!!!
At first, I really did think this was an April 1st kind of thing At first, I really did think this was an April First kind of thing. Now even though it actually is April Fools' Day, this boat, and the story around it have been vetted. So whilst they are just renders, for now, the project is very much alive and kicking Posted on 31 Mar
Luke Patience & Chris Grube at the RYA Dinghy Show
Talking about their Tokyo 2020 470 campaign Mark Jardine, Managing Editor of YachtsandYachting.com and Sail-World.com, speaks with the British Sailing Team's Luke Patience and Chris Grube about their Tokyo 2020 470 campaign and the importance of their Harken hardware on the boat. Posted on 28 Mar
Crew Talk with Olympic Gold Medallist Saskia Clark
How to work as a team with your helm and keep the fun in sailing Mark Jardine talks with Olympic Gold Medallist in the 470 class Saskia Clark about crewing a dinghy, how to work as a team, reaching the very top of the sport and how to keep the fun in sailing. Posted on 18 Mar
Left Languishing
Trophies, are somewhat different from boats. They don't tend to deteriorate quite so badly Trophies are somewhat different from boats. They don't tend to deteriorate quite so badly when they get left alone for ages. Case in point, the Sayonara Cup. It has had several periods in its life when it has been left to its own devices. Posted on 17 Mar
The sailor Made for Water
We speak to Alan Roberts Alan Roberts is a wide-ranging watersports enthusiast, offshore sailor, dinghy sailor, SUP-er and kayaker - someone who uses a diverse range of kit while out on the water. Posted on 13 Mar
Evolution of the RNLI's message
For preventing drowning at sea The RNLI has always been known for saving lives at sea, but the prevention message has taken a more and more prominent role in recent years. Posted on 11 Mar