Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede has made running repairs to Matmut’s rig, which now faces a stern test from an approaching storm. Credit: Jean-Luc Van Den Heede/PPL/GGR

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede may have to earn his passage around Cape Horn. The embattled French leader nursing a damaged mast on his Rustler 36 Matmut after the yacht was pitchpoled in a storm a week ago, has the prospect of having another Southern Ocean buster roll over him this weekend followed by two more when rounding the infamous Cape.

The 73-year old veteran is now within 1,300 miles of the Horn, speeding along at 5.3 knots, having ‘fixed’ the damage to his mast by climbing up and lashing the lower shroud fixing to the spreader bracket above.

In a radio broadcast last Friday, made over the Ham net, Van Den Heede spoke about his knockdown, which now transpires to have been a far more serious end-over-end pitchpole. Explaining his decision to continue in the race rather than head for Valparíso, Chile to make repairs, Jean-Luc said: “I had plenty of time to think about my situation during these four days of escaping the storm (220 miles lost to the North).”

“My mast is now extremely precarious due to my capsize. If I stop to make a repair, it will be only temporary. For Matmut to continue sailing, it will need more or less to change to a new mast. So I decided, to save my soul (dixit Moitessier), to continue my route non-stop and head for Les Sables d’Olonne.

“As soon as the sea will allow it I will climb the mast to secure it as best as possible with what I can use onboard. If I get dismasted, I have, like all competitors, a jury rig that will allow me to reach a port. I am no longer in racing mode but in safe mode. This is not the first time I will attempt to bring home a damaged boat. And if by miracle I get to Les Sables d’Olonne, I do not care about the ranking, at least I will have tried. I cross my fingers and thank all those who help me in this adventure.

Meanwhile, second placed Mark Slats sailing the Rustler 36 Ohpen Maverick has taken more than 500 miles out of Van Den Heede’s lead over the past week and is now within 1,500 miles of the leader. Slats has to average 1knot more than Matmut over the remaining distance to take the lead at the finish. At 08:00 UTC today, Ophen Maverick was averaging 5.7knots against Matmut’s 5.3knots.

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