Please select your home edition
Edition
Ancasta Botin Fast40

Boiling down the miles in the Golden Globe Race 2018

by David Schmidt 15 Jan 12:00 PST 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

All happening here (and there)
We looked at the Black Jack programme once before Back in 'Nothing wrong with your eyesight', we looked at the Black Jack programme for 2019. Evidently, there is absolutely nothing awry with Roy Disney's vision either, for he has snapped up the former Volvo 70 to become the latest Pyewacket. Posted on 21 Apr
Welcoming the Race to Alaska's class of 2019
No engines permitted Your friends at the Race to Alaska (R2AK) worked hard yet again to instill a bit of excitement into a day that many of us rue by accepting the final entries for the 2019 R2AK at the stroke of midnight on April 15. Posted on 16 Apr
Gladwell's Line: Laser ruckus..Cup timelines
In a piece of lousy timing, the Laser class is split In a piece of lousy timing, the Laser class is split after the predominant builder in the class LaserPerformance had their building licence cancelled, just after World Sailing had conducting an Evaluation Trial for the Laser's two Olympic Events. Posted on 16 Apr
Carlo Falcone on the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta
An interview with Carlo Falcone about the 2019 Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta I checked in with Carlo Falcone, race chairman of the 2019 Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta (April 17-23), via email, to learn more about this Bucket List-worthy regatta. Posted on 15 Apr
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
Chris Barnard on the 2019 Trofeo Princesa Sofia
A Q&A with Chris Barnard about winning Laser gold at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia Iberostar I checked in with Barnard, via email, to learn more about his impressive win in the Men's Laser class at the 2019 Trofeo Princesa Sofia Iberostar. Posted on 11 Apr
Lasers, the Trofeo Sofia and the Congressional Cup
David Schmidt's latest North American newsletter While the Laser is a beloved dinghy in some 120 countries girdling this lonely planet, the news coming out of the International Laser Class Association hasn't been especially rosy. Posted on 9 Apr
Randy Draftz on the Sperry Charleston Race Week
An interview with Randy Draftz about the 2019 Sperry Charleston Race Week I checked in with Randy Draftz, event and race director of the 2019 Sperry Charleston Race Week (April 11-14), via email, to learn more about this now-classic early-spring regatta. Posted on 8 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
Gladwell's Line: Laser ruckus..Fake news hurts Cup
The Am Cup has a big following in the sailing and sometimes mainstream media That has its downsides The Am Cup has a big following in the sailing and sometimes mainstream media. That has its downsides as we saw on Tuesday, with 3News breaking a story claiming that the three late Challengers would not be on the start line of the 2021 America's Cup Posted on 5 Apr
Marine Resources BOTTOMWindBot-COACH-660x82Melges 14 2019 Footer