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DAY 106 – Mark Slats Injured During Knock-down

  • Jean-Luc Van Den Heede first into the Pacific
  • Abhilash Tomy on the mend after major back surgery
  • Gregor McGuckin returns home to Irish welcome

Dateline 16:30 UTC 15.10.2018 – Les Sables d’Olonne, France

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede continues to extend his lead over the 7 remaining Golden Globe Race yachts now stretched across 4,800 miles of the Southern Ocean

This last weekend saw the 73 year old Frenchman follow in the wake of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s yacht Suhaili 50 years ago by cutting inside Stewart Island on the southern tip of New Zealand to navigate through the treacherous Fouveaux Straight at night.

The short cut has gained him a further day advantage over second placed Dutchman Mark Slats (Rustler 36 Ohpen Maverick) who is now some 2,000 miles astern, and not expected to reach the Hobart film gate before Monday 22nd of October.


Mark Slats injured during knock-down

At 16:00 UTC today, Dutch skipper Mark Slats alerted Race HQ that his yacht had just suffered two knock-downs in quick succession and that he had been hit by a toolbox flying across the cabin which may have resulted in him sustaining a cracked rib.

The tough Dutchman was not too concerned about the injury, but more about the sudden change in conditions. He reported that the winds had suddenly picked up to 30-35knots and that a 3 metre southerly swell was hitting Ohpen Maverick on the beam. Race HQ is monitoring the situation and will make a safety call to Slats tomorrow.

News from India is that Abhilash Tomy, who underwent major back surgery last Thursday following his rescue in the Southern Ocean, is expected to make a full recovery. Capt. Sharma visited him in the INHS Kalyani Naval Hospital and tweeted ‘This naval legend now has a back of steel. The docs are totally floored by his sense of humour’.

Tomy responded ‘Platinum Sir. My value has just gone up!’.

Gregor McGuckin who was dismasted in the same storm also made the news on his return to Ireland today. Recalling his ordeal aboard his yacht Hanley Energy Endurance which suffered three knock-downs in quick succession, he admitted:

We were in the worst possible place to be in at the worst possible time. The seas were huge – 15 metres high and the biggest problem I had was keeping the boat facing downwind and not slewing round to be beam-on.

Gregor McGuckin

When he heard from Race Control in Les Sables d’Olonne that Abhilash Tomy had been injured some 90 miles to the north he set up a jury rig to sail towards him, ‘I thought I might be first on the scene – but praying that I wouldn’t be!’.

It’s hard work in the calms too!

Since that storm conditions in the South Indian Ocean have been more kindly, but that can cause problems too as Mark Slats reported today.

The last 14-15 days have been the heaviest so far. Everyone thinks that the storms are heavy, but the calms are much heavier. Its much more work. It all started just around 30 September; the wind left but there was still a lot of sea. After 3 days the sea was flatter, but when you sail with your spinnaker up you are busy day and night.

Just before this, I went into the water to clean the bottom of my boat. I was surprised how many barnacles were attached to the bottom. First I scraped the boat with a filling knife, then with sandpaper before finishing with a scourer. I came out of the water like an ice cube and set up the spinnaker. I flew it for 100 hours. So I have not slept for 100 hours, just naps of fifteen minutes.

I have also become kind of scientist. There were all kinds of jellyfish around the boat. Very special. In the calms I suddenly had a whale next to the boat, really super cool. He just came to take a quick glance and then left again.

Now I have NE wind. Sailing close hauled is boring. The boat comes loose and then it falls down again. Sleeping is very difficult because I am woken up by the waves. Sometimes it quiet for 15 minutes but then you have waves again and the boat comes loose again.

I can tell you, ‘things are not for free’ this moment of the race. It’s annoying. Fortunately, I make progress. I am not going that fast, but, I make an average of 5 knots. I sailed for 5 days close hauled. Yesterday the wind turned to the East 5 knots, almost no wind, then to the North, then back to the West. For the first time in 15-16 days I’ve very good wind now. I don’t know for how long. I do have south wind now, I am sailing half wind. I do 5 knots; it’s super nice.

A low-pressure system has passed over me. That gave a lot of rain last night; I was busy all night with jerry cans and buckets catching 70 litres of water. It’s nice to be able to drink just a little bit more. I even took the luxury this morning of brushing my teeth with fresh water – something I have not been able to do since the Atlantic.

I do not look forward to the Hobart [film drop]. I would rather have just sailed through. It may sound strange, but I am here in my own world. It sounds very weird but it makes sense to just continue. But then I do not have a map of Hobart any more, so that will be exciting!

Mark Slats

Water, water everywhere

Third placed Estonian Uku Randmaa (Rustler 36 One and All) also caught a good measure of fresh water yesterday but expressed concern that Britain’s Susie Goodall sailing her Rustler 36 DHL Starlight has been making up ground on his position. Uku is expected to reach the Hobart film drop some time between 27-28th October with Goodall a couple of days behind.

Susie, who has been worried about dwindling water stocks in recent weeks, got more than she bargained for at the weekend after leaving one of her deck hatches open during a downpour. ‘I got more water in the boat than at any time during the race and now everything is wet’. She told Race HQ today.

Sixth placed American/Hungarian Istvan Kopar (Tradewind 35 Puffin) is also making good progress 7 miles behind Finland’s Tapio Lehtinen (Gaia 36, Asteria) but continues to be plagued by niggling problems. Without a working SSB radio, he cannot pick up commercial weather forecasts nor the accurate time signals required for celestial navigation. He’s relying on a wind-up clock instead. This past week, everything seemed to get on top of him when he messaged: ‘ANOTHER DAY IN GGR WHEN I MISS MY FAMLY & HOME TERRIBLY & QUESTION MY SANITY’.

At the back of the fleet Russia’s Igor Zaretskiy and Australian Mark Sinclair appear to be competing to see who can make this global adventure last the longest. Now some 5,000 miles behind Race leader Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, they have been going nowhere fast in recent days and face having the shadow of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s virtual Suhaili overtake them. Both have stayed resolutely north of the Roaring Forty latitudes since rounding the Cape of Good Hope and are only now biting the bullet and heading southwards towards the westerly air-stream.

Award winners

Are Wiig was awarded a seamanship medal by the Norwegian Sailing Association his achievement in recovering from a 360° roll and dismasting 400 miles south of the Cape of Good Hope and sailing his OE32 yacht Olleanna under jury rig unaided the 400 miles north to Cape Town.

Irish skipper Gregor McGuckin has been voted Yachtsman of the Month by Afloat magazine readers, for recovering from a similar situation and going to the aid of fellow competitor Abhilash Tomy.

Latest positions at 12:00 UTC today 15.10.18

  1. Jean- Luc VDH (FRA)Rustler 36 Matmut
  2. Mark Slats (NED)Rustler 36 Ohpen Maverick
  3. Uku Randmaa (EST) Rustler 36 One and All
  4. Susie Goodall (GBR) Rustler 36 DHL Starlight
  5. Tapio Lehtinen (FIN) Gaia 36 Asteria
  6. Istvan Kopar (USA) Tradewind 35 Puffin
  7. Mark Sinclair (Aus) Lello 34 Coconut
  8. Igor Zaretskiy (RUS) Endurance 35 Esmeralda

Chichester Class

  1. Loïc Lepage (FRA) Nicholson 32 Laaland


  1. Ertan Beskardes (GBR) Rustler 36 Lazy Otter
  2. Kevin Farebrother (AUS) Tradewind 35 Sagarmatha
  3. Nabil Amra (PAL) Biscay 36 Liberty II
  4. Antoine Cousot (FRA) Biscay 36 Métier Intérim
  5. Philippe Péché (FRA) Rustler 36 PRB
  6. Are Wiig (NOR) OE 32 Olleanna
  7. Gregor McGuckin (IRE) Biscay 36 Hanley Energy Endurance
  8. Abhilash Tomy (IND) Suhaili replica Thuriya
  9. Francesco Cappelletti (ITA) Endurance 35 007

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