73-year-old French sailor wins round-the-world Golden Globe race

A 73-year-old French sailor has won a distinctly unique around-the-world yacht race – his first ever sailing victory.

Competing in the Golden Globe, which requires participants to circumnavigate the globe without the use of modern instruments, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede spent 212 days alone at sea in his 10.6-metre (35-foot) yacht Matmut before arriving at the finish point in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, yesterday (29th January).

The Golden Globe involves solo sailors navigating with a sextant and paper maps, with occasional communication with the outside world permitted via short-wave radio. When the race began in July 2018 there were 19 participants, but only five were still competing on Tuesday.

Van Den Heede encountered difficulties in November when his mast was damaged during a storm in Southern Ocean, but he opted not to head to land to repair the problem, as that would have disqualified him from the race. Instead, he attended to the damage himself.

“Until then I [had] never abandoned a single race,” he announced at his winner’s press conference. “But I admit that climbing a mast is no longer OK at my age. I climbed seven times. The worst thing was trying to undo the pins.”

Among those on hand to congratulate Van Den Heede upon completing the race was British sailor Robin Knox-Johnston, who won the only other Golden Globe race in 1969.

Van Den Heede added, “Now I will not sail around the world unless someone makes a great thing that still interests me. No, I don’t plan to go around the world again.”

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