Dutchman is runner-up in Golden Globe
Published on January 31st, 2019
Les Sables d’Olonne, France (January 31, 2019) – Mark Slats (NED) finished the Golden Globe Race today at 22:18:30 (UTC) to claim second place. The 41-year old Dutchman crossed the line to set an elapsed time of 214 days 12 hours 18 minutes 43 seconds. To this, a 36 hour time penalty will be added, a result of unauthorized communications between Slats and his team manager, which leaves him with a race time of 216 days 00 hours 18 minutes 30 seconds.
Slats, a record breaking Atlantic rower, was challenging for the lead from the start, but a tactical decision to follow the traditional clipper ship route on a wide sweep round the western side of the South Atlantic, left him at a 900 mile disadvantage to his French rival Jean-Luc Van Den Heede by the time he had reached the Cape of Good Hope.
Van Den Heede then extended that lead to 2,000 miles through the Indian Ocean before his yacht Matmut, another Rustler 36, was pitch-poled some 1,900 miles west of Cape Horn which left the Frenchman with a damaged mast to nurse for the rest of the circumnavigation.
That gave Slats an opportunity – which he grasped with both hands. By the time he rounded Cape Horn, the Dutchman had regained 500 miles, and by the time they had reached the Azores, the difference between them in terms of distance to finish was less than 50 miles.
That was when Slat’s luck ran out. Questions over the validity of his Ham radio license, left him ostracized by the amateur net and without regular weather updates at a critical period. “I didn’t get forecasts for 7 days and ran straight into calms.”
There were also issues with Van Den Heede’s Ham license but, as he put it when talking to Slats on the dock, “I had a few French friends who kept broadcasting to me.” He was soon 400 miles ahead again and kept this cushion to the finish.
For Slats, the most frightening moments came in the Indian Ocean when caught in the same 60-70 knot storm that put paid to Ireland’s Gregor McGuckin and Indian Abhilash Tomy’s challenges. “We agreed to keep in radio contact every 3 hours,” recalled Slats. “We spoke to each other on the first two scheds. but there was no one there for the third. I learned later from Race HQ that they had both capsized and lost their rigs.”
The full force of that storm hit Ohpen Maverick soon after and she suffered two major knockdowns. During the first, Slats was thrown overboard and saved only by his lifeline, which catapulted him back on to the cockpit floor.
“It was a massive knockdown through 120°, then I suffered another which filled the boat right up to the level of the nav station. That’s when I began to pray – and they were obviously answered because after pumping by hand for an hour, and with two electric pumps working, I managed to get the boat dry.”
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, winner of the first Golden Globe Race 50 years before, sent Mark a congratulatory note. “You have my respect for a very difficult voyage well accomplished. To be second to Jean Luc is to be at the highest level of solo sailing. A fantastic performance.”
The 2018 Golden Globe Race started for 17 skippers from Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday July 1, 2018, with the inaugural solo non-stop around the world yacht race expected to take 9-10 months to complete.
The event marks the 50th anniversary of the Sunday Times Golden Globe solo non-stop round the world race in 1968-69 when rules then allowed competitors to start from ports in northern France or UK between June 1st and October 31st.
A notable twist to the 2018 Golden Globe Race format is how entrants are restricted to using the same type of yachts and equipment that were available in that first race, with the premise being to keep the race within financial reach of every dreamer.
The rules allow for one breach of the strict solo, non-stop un-assisted circumnavigation without the aid of modern electronic navigation aids regulations that make this Race unique. However, those that do move down to the Chichester Class as if, like Sir Francis Chichester in 1966-67, they have made one stop during their solo circumnavigation.
Those who breach the rules for a second time are deemed to have retired from the GGR Event and the organisers have no responsibility or obligation to them.