Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, a 73-year-old French sailor, on Wednesday marked his name in sailing history by winning around-the-world yacht race. His victory is unusual because he sailed for 212 days alone at sea without modern sailing or navigation instruments.
The participants are supposed to navigate using paper maps and sextants. Short-wave radio was the only means to communicate with friends and family occasionally during the competition.
Heede arrived in Les Sables d’Olonne in western France in his 35-foot yacht Matmut, the first boat to finish the 30,000-mile Golden Globe race on January 29. Interestingly, this is his first sailing victory.
Last July, the race began with 19 sailors but ended with only 5 making it till the end.
This is Heede’s sixth circumnavigation of the globe.
However, the journey was not an easy one for Heede as he ran into a lot of trouble in the month of November.
During a storm in the Southern Ocean, his mast got damaged. Heading for land would have disqualified him from the race, so he repaired the boat himself while still racing.
“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. It’s not easy in a workshop on land, but six meters high is a little bit [like the adventure TV show] Fort Boyard,” Jean was quoted by The Guardian
Declining any further interest in sailing around the globe, Heede said, “Now I will not sail around the world unless someone makes a great thing that still interests me.”
Robin Knox-Johnston, a British sailor was one of the firsts won the same race 50 years ago.