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Jean-Luc Van Den Heede
is sailing on to “save his soul”

Current leader of the Golden Globe Race, ahead of Mark Slats, his closest challenger for the last few weeks, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede suffered damage to his mast on 6 November in the Pacific after capsizing. After considering a stopover in Chile to repair his mast, our NV ambassador decided, with characteristic composure and perseverance, to keep going towards Les Sables d’Olonne, to “save his soul”, as he puts it.

His mast has a split of more than 5 cm level with the lower shrouds, but so what? A little thing like that is not going to stop Jean-Luc Van Den Heede! Much to everyone’s surprise, having earlier informed the organisers that he planned to make his way to the Chilean coast for repairs, VDH ultimately decided to continue without a stopover, in order to try to each Les Sables d’Olonne and get his name on the arrivals board of the Golden Globe Race 2018. Stopping at Valparaiso would in fact have seen him demoted to the lower Chichester category, which includes skippers who have made a stopover. 

​His decision came despite a badly damaged mast and an 18-hour penalty received for using his satellite telephone to call his wife after keeling over in the Pacific. Jean-Luc’s chances of a final victory have been severely diminished. It is with this realisation in mind that Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, paraphrasing his predecessor Bernard Moitessier, wishes despite everything to “save his soul”.

At the age of 73, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede has once again shown great courage and determination, setting a fine example of sportsmanship and resilience.

We are so proud to have you as an ambassador, Jean-Luc.
Here is his most recent message, from 8/11/2018 :

"Hello everyone,
I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on my situation during these four days of storm, fleeing ahull (220 miles lost towards the North). My mast is in an extremely precarious state following my capsizing. If I stop for repairs, they will only be temporary. For Matmut to continue sailing, it will be necessary in the medium to long term to fit a brand new mast. My mast is in an extremely precarious state following my capsizing. If I stop for repairs, they will only be temporary. For Matmut to continue sailing, it will be necessary in the medium to long term to fit a brand new mast. 

​So I’ve decided, in order to "save my soul" (as Moitessier said), to continue my route without a stopover and head for Les Sables-d'Olonne. As soon as the sea allows, I’ll climb the mast to secure it as well as possible with the resources onboard. If I lose my mast, like all the other competitors I have a jury rig which will allow me to get to a port all by myself. I’m no longer in race mode, but in safe transportation mode. It won’t be the first time I’ve tried to bring a damaged boat back to port. And if by some miracle I get back to Les Sables, I don’t care about my ranking, at least I’ll have tried. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and I want to thank all those who’ve helped me in this adventure. This message was transmitted thanks to the network of amateur radio enthusiasts and the "Land and Sea Collective" which is our only way of communicating with land and which provides all the competitors with weather information. Sincere thanks to them for that.
Have a good day."

JL VDH
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