JL VDH is Alone! Why?
People are talking about the GGR, enthusiastic with this 50th anniversary resurrection of a great adventure and demonstration of the human spirit in a simple way. They feel comfortable with the ordinary bits. The boats, the rules and the challenge. But what is happening with Jean Luc VDH? Is he too fast, or the others too slow? Even JL VDH himself could not hold back the laughter in a recent satellite phone safety call on GGR Sound Cloud. I had to laugh with him. The fleet is spread over 5500 miles across the Oceans. “It is impossible? Crazy? I never thought of this!” he says.
Is he hiding a secret weapon? Or unique advantage? How can this be real? Capt’n Coconut is happy, and Esmeralda is OK to be at one with the world and sailing unlike Jean Luc. BUT how and why can JL VDH be so far into the future? People cannot understand. I know him and to me the answer is not only clear, but simple!
For every other entrant, this is a new and demanding world that surrounds them. They are isolated in the last great wilderness on earth where anyone can be free. It’s a friendly beautiful place they love that demands respect. Here they must and do sail with eyes wide open, constantly looking over their shoulder, happy to survive another day. They can feel vulnerable and rightly so. BUT not so for JL VDH who is at home, relaxed and at one with this life on the sea. He knows it so well from every perspective. He has been here in 6.5mtr boats and 24mtr boats, spending years of his life living all of it’s raw emotion. He really is the OLD MAN of the sea. He respects it’s power and absorbs it’s beauty with passion. He is comfortably at HOME in this water world. Only JL VDH can forget those other pressures and distractions facing the fleet. Only he can remain focused forward to that ultimate goal the finish line 24 hours every day.. This is his natural world.
All entrants are good sailors, but JL VDH is a FAST sailor too. He has been on the podium on four previous circumnavigating Races (BOC and VENDEE) and made a record-breaking run against the clock west about. But look at his summer club racing. He is a regular champion with crew in 36ft yachts to this day. Results against all comers young and old in the best boats. No one else in the fleet can match him for SPEED sailing. He can trim and drive a boat well.
With a lifetime of building, preparing, sailing and breaking boats while solo sailing oceans of the world, JL VDH gains a unique perspective of what it takes to get a boat ready. It becomes second nature and can feel ordinary, even boring. It becomes an important familiar process before you make to sea. But if this game is new, you must read books, talk to others and make judgments based on your best ideas. JL VDH does not need new ideas. He has ultimate EXPERIENCE. He knows how to do things and why, so gets on with it. No one else is on this level. It shows. If you look closely it really shows! His boat preparation and gear choice is perfect.
When you race solo four times around the world against the best in the world, you UNDERSTAND what must be done and when, if you wish to win. If you’re in a bunk and sense the need to trim sail, it is done immediately! Or is it? If you are there for the first time like many in the GGR, your focus and actions may be distracted, distorted, even intimidated by having to cope with just the ocean, or even surviving instead of trimming. And then, how hard can you push your boat. No one knows this better than JL VDH!
Everyone is in this race, but who is really RACING.? JL VDH certainly is. He wants to win. This is his ultimate dream since it all began reading about Bernard Moitessier, (in Paris Match magazine he still owns) as it happened 50 years ago. It was real time for him and now he is doing it. No one has that level of passion. He knows he has just one shot to do this. This is a mantra for him. If he thinks it needs to be done, JL VDH will get up to trim sails when the pain makes it hurt, simply because it needs to be done NOW. This is the man and this is the biggest reason WHY HE IS ALONE at the front.
He is incredible to watch. It is inspiring, and it is fun. He is 73! It makes me happy to see him enjoying his life through this Golden Globe a new cultural renaissance in Sailing that is changing the way the world looks at solo around the world racing. He makes it look easy. It is NOT! He makes it looks fast and he is.
As I say so often ADVENTURE HAS AN UNKNOWN OUTCOME. None more so than the 2018 GGR. JL VDH is a long way from the finish and he knows it, but to me and many others he is a champion and fun guy. He is also one part of an amazing group of sailors, the GGR family, throwing everything at their own personal dream, doing their own thing. Of the 18 who lined up at the start none is better than the other. They are all equal in my mind, just that some are faster!
The adventure continues.