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Day 218 – The Race for 3rd

Istvan Kopar now within 500 miles of 3rd placed Uku Randmaa
Uku running out of food with 3,100 miles to the finish
Tapio Lehtinen due to round Cape Horn this week
J-L Van Den Heede and Mark Slats struggle with life ashore

Dateline: 16:00 UTC – 04/02/2019 Les Sables d’Olonne. France

As Jean-Luc Van Den Heede and Mark Slats struggle to come to terms with life ashore, a race is developing for the final podium position between Estonian Uku Randmaa and the US/Hungarian Istvan Kopar. While Randmaa and his Rustler 36 One and All was struggling to cross the Equator today, having managed to cover just 111 miles during the past four days, Kopar has been enjoying strong Tradewind sailing to close the gap by 398 miles during the same period.

Stuck in the Doldrums, Uku Randmaa managed to make just 4 miles on Sunday and ended the day with his boat facing the wrong way! He has been stuck in calms for much of last week and the frustration came through with his latest text message: NO, WIND. SH…!

In contrast Kopar’s Tradewind 36 Puffin has been hitting 6 knots, reaching across the South East Trades and eating into Randmaa’s lead. Even better for him, the latest forecast suggests that the SE and NE Trades will close together in the next few days to negate the Doldrums all together, placing both skippers in the same weather pattern. Then, just like Jean-Luc Van Den Heede and his rival Mark Slats, it will be a case of who makes the first mistake over the final 3,000 miles back to Les Sables d’Olonne.

Back in August, when Istvan was struggling with a troublesome windvane self steering system in last place, and later losing all radio communication, who would have put money on the American challenging for a podium finish now? This is adventure at its best. The only thing one can expect is the unexpected!

Uku has another problem to contend with – a lack of food. The Estonian reported today that he is down to his last 29 bags of freeze-dried food and a similar number of cup-a-soups. The GGR tracking is currently suggesting a March 7 finish, so unless he can start catching fish he is now down to a daily intake of 500 calories – a quarter of what he should be consuming! For the moment, the fishing is not going too well. Race HQ has received a succession of text messages saying that a fish took his lure. He lost his last one on January 23rd. Back in Les Sables d’Olonne, Jean-Luc has tipped the scales 11kg lighter than when he set out. Mark Slats had shed 18kg. How much will Uku lose?

Meanwhile, Finland’s Tapio Lehtinen is within 200 miles of Cape Horn and looking to round some time on Wednesday. His Gaia 36 Asteria is covered in barnacles, which have cut her speed in half. This has now cost him the lead in his virtual race against Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s passage around the globe 50 years ago. Suhaili was abreast of the Horn on Saturday, which puts her 4 days ahead in virtual terms. Today, the GGR Tracker is predicting a May 7 finish for Tapio, but the Finn is enjoying every moment of his extended adventure. This is his second voyage through the Southern Ocean and he has been in constant wonder at the dramatic seascapes and wildlife. Last week he messaged: SOUTHERN OCEAN – SAME PLANET – ANOTHER WORLD – LEAVING WITH MIXED FEELINGS!

Back at the finish, both Jean-Luc Van Den Heede and Mark Slats are struggling with the transition between their solo sailing world and reality ashore. Jean-Luc was comparing notes with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, winner of the first Golden Globe Race in 1968/9, for both struggled to walk any distance after stepping ashore, though Jean-Luc (73) seemingly had little problem performing on stage with his rock band well into the early hours, while celebrating his win at a party held in his honour on the day he finished!

Sleep has also been a problem. Slats is finding it difficult to stay asleep for more than 90 minutes without getting the urge to get up and check the sails. Jean-Luc, who lives in Les Sables d’Olonne, says that the only way he can overcome this is to go back to the boat where he sleeps soundly.

As part of their efforts to help save the planet, both skippers saved all their rubbish onboard. Today, this was weighed and compared with the food and other disposables taken onboard at the start. Jean-Luc brought ashore 14 bags weighing 93kg and Mark had 15 bags weighing 113kg

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