- Professional skipper and Global Challenge record holder -

A portrait of a man without limits

As someone who loves challenges, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede has devoted his life to the sea. A dyed-in-the-wool sailor, as a skipper he has turned his passion into his profession. 

A former regatta competitor, then Global Challenge record holder, VDH has graced the podiums of the most prestigious races. Owner of 18 boats, at the age of 72 VDH remains well-known in round-the-world and solo circles, and is as passionate as ever about maritime adventures and personal challenges.

Everyone who knows him - sailors, friends, partners - remarks on his particularly friendly and open nature. He was born in Amiens, a month after the German surrender, on 8 June 1945, in, as he proudly declares, "the same village as Jules Verne." Perhaps that is the source of his love of travel. Whether it’s a case of selective memory or for the sake of a good story, as he remembers it, his first gift was a boat. Jules Verne and a boat: two things which surely helped inspire him to look to new horizons, towards the sea.

And here he is today, preparing for the Golden Race, a traditional round-the-world race with resources identical to those used by pioneers 50 years ago. A back-to-basics event which VDH, one of the planet’s most experienced sailors, didn’t want to miss.

His career includes
a dizzying list
of achievements

One event after another, involving major ocean races all over the world. 

What he loves is novelty and constant change. VDH is one of the pioneers of solo racing. 

His first big race was on a Muscadet at the first mini trans-Atlantic race in 1977. This event was a real eye-opener for him, confirming his vocation, and, buoyed by the experience, he went on to enter race after race. 

He took part in the second mini trans-Atlantic race in 1979, finishing second. The adventurer took part in the second BOC Challenge, then in the first two Vendée Globe events. He finished third in 1990 and second in 1993. Always up for a challenge, Jean Luc Van Den Heede has passed Cape Horn ten times and been around the world solo five times, has made numerous crossings, and broke the backwards round-the-world record in 2004. VDH is keen to win the Channel Record Trophy, for which he already holds the unofficial record. 

Having sailed on 18 boats as a regatta competitor, then as a skipper in ocean races, solo or with a crew, VDH has amassed a unique wealth of experience. Having withdrawn from the Golden Race, Lionel, his sailing buddy and a man of similar character who shares his sea-going values, has joined forces with Jean-Luc to help prepare for this traditional race. Bringing together two minds for this extraordinary project means they can draw on twice the experience.

Testing our products in the Global Challenge 2018

Equipped with a blue roof hood on his Rustler 36 (11 m), Jean-Luc will be able to tell us all about it from a technical perspective once the race begins. The race will depart from Les Sables d’Olonne on 1 July 2018.

Have you heard of the Global Challenge?

It involves beating the round-the-world sailing record, solo and non-stop, from east to west.

This is a “backwards” round-the-world race, i.e. against the prevailing winds for most of the route (down through the Atlantic, past Cape Horn, Australia, the Cape of Good Hope off southern Africa, and back up through the Atlantic).
All classic big races (Vendée Globe, Jules Verne Trophy, BOC Challenge, Volvo Race, etc.)  take place "in the right direction", from west to east (down through the Atlantic, past the Cape of Good Hope, Australia, Cape Horn, and back up through the Atlantic) in the same direction as the prevailing winds.

After two initial attempts on board Adrien, disrupted on both occasions by technical problems, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede smashed the previous record held by Philippe Monnet.  
> The new record to beat: 122 days, 14 hours, 3 minutes and 49 seconds.

©photo by Robert Le Gall
40 years of Experience
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