Jean-Luc van den Heede (73)




Name Jean-Luc van den Heede

Born June 8th 1945

Nationality French

Country of entry France

Jean-Luc van den Heede is the father figure of French solo sailing. The 5-time circumnavigator already holds the record for the fastest solo west-about non-stop circumnavigation against the prevailing winds and currents, and has been a podium finisher in four previous solo round the world races. He finished 2nd in the 1986 BOC Challenge Around Alone Race, 3rd in the 1990 Vendée Globe Race, 2nd in the 1993 Vendée Globe, and 3rd in the 1995 BOC Challenge Around Alone Race. Van den Heede bought a Rustler 36 class yacht in august 2015 and spent the first few months test sailing her out in the Atlantic before commencing a complete refit in his homeport of La Sables d’Olonne.

He has won sponsorship from the French insurance group MATMUT.

Jean-Luc says of the GGR: “From all my experiences, I am well aware of the difficulties this race poses. The slow speeds of these classic old boats with their long keels, the absence of weather information, the loss of all electronics and reliance on a sextant to plot positions, the lack of terrestrial contact, and the replacement of an electric pilot with wind vane self steering, will make this test even more random and difficult than the Vendée Globe.
But this is good. I want to re-live the conditions and challenges that my sailing predecessors enjoyed and to this end I have optimised my Rustler 36: New mast, new rigging, new engine, new sails, watertight bulkheads, and new winches. I am very conscious of the problems that are likely to occur during our 8 or 9 months of sea and have done everything to make Matmut safer. I am also trying to get myself in the best physical condition with the assistance of a physio, a coach – and my bicycle!
I have also rediscovered the environment and comradeship I loved so much during the first editions of these races. We are all conscious that this will be a difficult adventure and that engenders a strong bond between us that I have not seen since the first Mini Transat 6.50 and Vendée Globe race back in the early ‘90s.
My goal is to be in good health at the start with a top boat, then, take each day in turn, absorbing the emotions and thoughts of those who preceded us: Slocum, Moitessier, Alain Gerbault, Vito Dumas and of course, my good friend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston who set such an example for us all 50 years ago.”




Name Matmut
Type Rustler 36 Masthead sloop
Designer Holman & Pye
Builder Rustler Yachts (UK)
LOA 35.33ft / 10.77m
LWL 26.92ft / 8.21m
Beam 11.00ft / 3.35m
Draft 5.50ft / 1.67m
Displacement 16805 lbs / 7623 kgs
Sail area 693sq. ft / 64.38sq. m

Jean-Luc van den Heede completed a 6-month refit of his Rustler 36 class yacht Matmut in 2016, replacing her mast, rigging, sails, ropes and engine. He also completed the compulsory test sail under jury rig and spent the 2017/18 winter months sailing her in the Bay of Biscay and Atlantic to test the yacht in strong winds with assistance from former GGR entrant Lionel Regnier.

Skipper Updates

September 24th 2018 12:00 AM

Yesterday, after an uncomfortable night hoove to in winds of about forty knots, JEAN-LUC VAN HEEDE DEN was preparing to pass the second major step of the race, the famous cape Leeuwin, at the forefront southwest of Australia. He lost some ground on MARK SLATS, his first pursuer, still over 1300 miles anyway…
Today he writes to us: “Finished with the Indian Ocean map. Here i am in the Kangaroos country”. “I’m happy about the rescue and hope that Abhilash will be better soon”

September 20th 2018 12:00 AM

Around the world in 80 days?! .. For Jules Verne, Yes … But only 1 third of the course for the GGR skippers. Even if the latest forecasts show that the in-stoppable Jean-Luc VDH could well establish an incredible record and pass below the bar of the 200 days! In less than 198 days as shown on the tracker, with already 10 days ahead of schedule !

September 19th 2018 12:00 AM

At more than 8 knots average over the past 4 hours, JEAN-LUC VAN DEN HEEDE is once again the fastest in the fleet this morning. Driven by a good northwest wind, under two reef on his forestay sail, in a relatively manageable sea, the leader of the race continues its momentum, uninterrupted for almost 80 days now … what a pace! He digs a little further the ground with his first pursuer MARK SLATS, 1350 NM behind this morning… And the gap should increase even more ! Jean-Luc van den #Heede (via satellite) “The cold front pursuing me will pass soon. 2 reefs/forestaysail. ALL GOOD”

September 19th 2018 12:00 AM

In front, JEAN-LUC VAN HEEDE DEN continues his rider alone and will soon be less than 2000 miles from Boatshed Drop Point Hobart where he is expected on October 3 according to the latest forecasts. Nothing seems to stop the septuagenarian who is even mounted to the mast to repair. “But it’s okay, I’m in shape and the boat too” confided the leader of the race from the top of its 73 springs! Well settled in a good northwesterly flow, it could also face a small transition zone before the wind moves west and then southwest. But it will be very short and will not slow it down. Jean-Luc van den #Heede (via satellite) “Jibe to stay north of the 40. Wether still grey. But all good”

September 14th 2018 12:00 AM

After more than 74 days at sea, the record time set by Armel Le Cléac’h at the last edition of the Vendée Globe (74d 03h 35m and 46s), JEAN-LUC has just entered the second half of the Indian Ocean, getting closer to Australia and the next Drop Point of Hobart. And yet the dean of the race does not rest ! At one-third of the race, he further increased his lead this morning, just over 1200 miles ahead of MARK SLATS. Still in the upper limit of a low pressure system that propels Matmut to more than 7 knots in a well formed sea, he still enjoys a solid wind ideally oriented to speed while his first pursuer dabbles in a calm zone. To sum up, while JEAN-LUC will benefit from a strong downwind all next week, the rest of the GGR fleet will once again have to deal with many transition zones, slowing once more its progress .Jean-Luc (via satellite) “Night spent to shorten sails : Forestay sail. 2 reefs on reach and birds following”.

September 12th 2018 12:00 AM

“I am alone!” as said by the leader yesterday morning on his weekly phone call. And for good reason ! Already nearly 72 days at sea, without stopping, with for only companion a windvane on which it is necessary to count, with whom it is necessary to compose, which one must understand all the subtleties to obtain the best and continue to progress as fast as possible, even if the finish line is still far away.JEAN-LUC can at least be satisfied with having sailed half of the Indian ocean already, this ocean so twisted and tricky, constantly threatening of damages. This great sailor bends with insolent brio to this wearying routine. Look at its trajectory, compared to the erratic ones of these pursuers, it goes straight, full east, at good speed, sometimes carried by the current, in limit of the strongest winds and seas! JEAN-LUC still keeps a very comfortable lead (nearly 1200NM, or approximately a week of navigation) .”Nice meteo which allows us to make good progress easily. ALL OK”.”Done! I passed St Paul to much south to be able to see the island. It’s calming 20nds”.

September 10th 2018 12:00 AM

1000 miles ! If it had been predicted such an advance to JEAN-LUC VAN DEN HEEDE after 70 days of racing, he would probably have had trouble believing it. At 7 knots average, after a small slowdown (very appreciated) this weekend at the edge of an area of high pressure, the leader and dean of the race has found a good pace, in favorable conditions, wind of north-west to the rear and a reasonably formed sea. “THIS SUNDAY IS CALM…CLEANING MAINTENANCE” ; “I have turned my map! By Africa Hello Australia. Petol”

September 6th 2018 12:00 AM

While JEAN-LUC VAN DEN HEEDE imperturbable continues his progress on the direct route, in a good northwest flow, just a little above the fortieth, where weather phenomena are supposed to be a little less violent, his pursuers are still struggling to catch up with the system in which the leader of the GGR 2018 is sliding on.”It was a beautiful day sun apparition drying all ok”

September 3rd 2018 12:00 AM

At the front, the race continues … and in what way! Always launched in a good flow of north, JEAN-LUC VAN DEN HEEDE this morning is now 900 miles ahead of his first pursuer! He reported this morning on his weekly Sat phone call that he is sailing in a long 3 / 4m swell without any visibility, but that “It has softened a little. I released Ris2 and kept the forestay sail up. It’s humid”. A screw from his furling headsail tried to unscrew and escape, but he managed to put it back into place before it came out!He also told us that he is currently sailing south of the Crozet Islands Archipelago, not far from Pig Island, where he had the chance to communicate with a scientist during a radio session during his first around the world navigation.

August 29th 2018 12:00 AM

JEAN-LUC VAN DEN HEEDE still leads the way, 500 miles ahead of MARK SLATS, even if he slowed down a bit after the crazy slips and heavy weather of the weekend. “The wind is back gentle! Yesterday it was Doldrums and unstable All OK”.During his Sat phone call Monday morning, he sounded fine, and he seemed confident, scheduling an arrival in Tasmania early October! He wrote this morning: “Peacefull night with still nice conditions and sunshine Great”.

August 27th 2018 12:00 AM

Van Den Heede rounds Cape of Good Hope! His performance to-date has been quite remarkable. He has rounded this, the first of three capes (the other major headlands are Cape Leeuwin, Western Australia and Cape Horn) some 34 days ahead of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s record aboard his ketch-rigged yacht Suhaili 50 years ago. In a satellite call to Race HQ this week, Jean-Luc was asked when he expected to reach Hobart, the second photo drop point in the Race. “My mind is not on that, but the finish back in Les Sables d’Olonne. I predict a return early in February.” That would make a circumnavigation time of between 210 – 217 days against Suhaili’s time of 312 days. Based on this, Race organisers are predicting the first arrival off Hobart in mid October.Jean-Luc has just passed a depression with averages speed up to 10 knots for Matmut last weekend! But “Finally a beautifull sunny day to get ride off the humidity! All OK”

August 22nd 2018 12:00 AM

Yesterday Jean-Luc was doing fast in 7,6 knots, next to the door of South Africa, before heading through the Cape of Good Hope. After leading the float for about fifty days in his down Atlantic course, the elder of the GGR 2018 group will finally be the 1st skipper to enter the Indian Ocean. Supported by his first albatross yesterday, VDH can already be happy about his West option chosen after the Canaries Islands gate and confident about his next Ocean challenge !

August 15th 2018 12:00 AM

Big braking this morning at the head of the fleet. JEAN-LUC VAN DEN HEEDE was looking forward to diving south. He finally decided to tack yesterday late morning and will now have to cross a wide strip of high pressure in which PHILIPPE PECHE is already stuck, now in Chichester Class.The dean and leader of the fleet, however, should be hit tomorrow by western winds at the tail of a depression that is heading to the tip of Africa. The winds would gradually turn south and allow Matmut to slide at full speed towards the Cape of Good Hope.

August 13th 2018 12:00 AM

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede who is riding the same strong winds, also reported problems with the self steering on his Rustler 36 Matmut. A bolt sheared under the strain of steering the yacht downwind in the strong conditions, but he was able to replace it. Now “Upwind, in strong wind and showers.Careful!” But yesterday “Beautiful day which allowed me to climb up the mast PB A1 BDF resolved”. He wrote after Peche’s problem this weekend : “I’ve just had the news about Philippe Stop. I am very very sad”.

August 9th 2018 12:00 AM

To the east, closer to the direct route, the leaders continue their descent towards the southern tip of the African continent. And apparently things are not easy for JEAN-LUC VAN DEN HEEDE, leader for almost 10 days. The dean of the race reports “very variable winds in strength and direction, constantly maneuvering”. A situation that makes his duel with PHILIPPE PECHE even more intense.

August 6th 2018 12:00 AM

Van Den Heede moved into the lead over the weekend simply by virtue of being closest to the computer lay line between the Cape Verde Islands and the Cape of Good Hope. He and Péché are 100 miles apart in terms of latitude and Péché is 37 miles further south, but both are caught on the western side of the High and running into light airs. Race leader Jean-Luc Van Den Heede has been suffering similar problems with the solar panels on Matmut, but still has his water generator and engine to keep batteries charged. His main solar panel is broken, but fortunately he had planned two small spare solar panels that work perfectly!

August 1st 2018 12:00 AM

After crossing the equator on July 29, Jean-Luc takes the lead this morning! Faster in recent days and closer to the direct route to the Cape of Good Hope, JEAN-LUC VAN DEN HEEDE is ahead of his fellow Vendéen of about fifteen miles, despite some trouble with his solar panels that will force him to limit his energy consumption. The lack of electronics on board should help him out!

July 20th 2018 12:00 AM

Jean Luc is keeping the pressure on Philippe and Mark Slats, breathing down their necks. It looks like he will cross the doldrums midway between Philippe and Mark. If the Windy TY overlay on the GGR Tracker is right he will have very little wind. Jean Luc may have some slow days ahead.

July 13th 2018 12:00 AM

Jean Luc charged around the southern tip of Lanzarote looking relaxed. His film drop went without a hitch and he was off again. He is very much in striking distance of Philippe and Mark. All going well we probably won’t see him until the gate in Storm Bay, Tasmania. There is a lot of miles to cover before then.

July 11th 2018 12:00 AM

Jean Luc is breathing down Philippe’s neck. His reports are jovial and matter of fact, giving the impression that he is not even really trying. Is this because he is a master of covering up the craziness onboard or a reflection of how comfortable he is with it all?

July 6th 2018 12:00 AM

VDH has been consistently among the front runners

Jean Luc has sailed a classic race, ensuring that he kept well away from Coruna. He has been consistently among the front runners and his performance is nothing less than what we would expect from such an experienced player

May 3rd 2018 12:00 AM

Fresh from the baptism of his Rustler 36 MATMUT at the end of April, French veteran Jean-Luc Van Den Heede has only to antifoul the yacht and purchase his food supplies and says that he will be ready, a month ahead of the Race start on July 1st.

April 5th 2018 12:00 AM

French veteran Jean-Luc van Den Heede still has a list of work to prepare his Rustler 36 Matmut, and since most of this has to be done outdoors, the cold, wet Spring weather has not helped. “I prefer to anticipate wear rather than improvise makeshift repairs and plan a long navigation to test sail the boat before the start.”
The yacht will be baptised at a public ceremony at Cite du Vin, Bordeaux on April 28 before being hauled out for antifouling in May ahead of a final test sail to Falmouth at the beginning of June.

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