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Day 208 – Van Den Heede within 450 miles of finish

ETA – Monday 28th January
One last storm due on Sunday
2nd placed Mark Slats trails 412 miles astern

Dateline: 11:00 UTC 26. 01. 2019 – Les Sables d’Olonne, France

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede is now within 450 miles of the Golden Globe Race finish line and expected to receive a huge welcome home in Les Sables d’Olonne on Monday 28th January

The 73-year old Frenchman and his Rustler 36 yacht Matmut have led this 27,000 mile solo circumnavigation since rounding the Cape of Good Hope on 23rd August last year and stretched this out a 2,000 mile lead before suffering a capsize and serious mast damage during a southern ocean storm on 8th November when 1,900 miles west of Cape Horn.

Since then, second placed Dutch rival Mark Slats (41) sailing another Rustler 36, Ohpen Maverick, has been catching up. On 15th January, the difference between the two yachts in terms of distance to finish, was just 50 miles. But since then the French veteran, who is about to complete his 6th solo circumnavigation, has delivered a master class in ocean racing strategy to extend his advantage to 412 miles by 08:00 UTC today.

Now, Jean-Luc, and more importantly, the damaged mast on Matmut face one more test when a storm is due to blow across the Bay of Biscay producing 45-55 knot NW winds and viscous seas with waves building to 9 -10m..

Race Chairman, Don McIntyre, says: Jean-Luc is a great seaman with vast experience and he knows what is coming. This is his backyard. The Bay of Biscay has a fearsome reputation and he will have to be very careful. If he needs to run off downwind for safety, he will he heading away from Les Sables d’Olonne and the finish line, and then have to sail back more into the wind once the storm has passed. This all adds time and distance, so his ETA is still not clear. This morning we are looking at sometime between 10:00 and 14:00UTC on Monday, but this is like a game with this storm presenting one last roll of the dice.

The Challenge in the next few days is great and the opportunity for Mark is real. While Jean-Luc is struggling to make the finish line, Slats will be sailing hard and fast in wonderful weather ready to exploit any further damage that Matmut might sustain.”

Follow the drama as it unfolds on GGR Facebook Page www.facebook.com/goldengloberace/ Further updates will be posted at 12:00 on Friday and Saturday and at frequent intervals thereafter. The finish and press conference for both skippers will also be streamed live here, so watch this space..

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