Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, the old man of the sea will soon land

At the age of 73, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede is expected in a few days at Les Sables-d & # 39; Olonne, where it is planned to make the formidable adventure of the Golden Globe, a race around the world only in the old sextant. complete and without GPS, on small series of boats. His hijacking in the South Pacific almost deprived him of his last dream sailor.

It was November 5th. While the sailing world was worried about the fate of Armel Le Cléac & # 39; or Sébastien Josse – whose multihulls were destroyed at 5 million euros in the early hours of the Route du Rhum, part 4 of St. Malo – a tragedy was generally indifferent to 2,000 km from the Chilean coast.

After a reversal of his old 12 meter monohull that caused a crack in the head, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede saw the flow of his life's project, a victory in his last world tour the old.

The journey of the world very hectic with old-fashioned sailing

Has this eternal accustomed to the biggest ocean stages that he would have seen, at the age of 73, have his dream taken flight for his last world tour? The question arose a couple of hours, the time for him to consider a stop in Valparaíso that would disqualify him from the race while he would let him go on an unofficial standings, reserved for sailors who stopped.

Very little for him, the sextant finally decided to climb the tree for a temporary repair, which is still after two months of navigation, including a crossing of the dreadful Cape Horn.

210 days for himself

If Neptune does not play a new battle in his own way, VDH (his nickname in the sailing world) should win a race in a few days. Former math teacher Rock & Roll will end one of the most incredible adventures of sailing. Two hundred and ten days of navigation when the old, the sextant and the map are confirmed around January 26, without using these GPS and computers that are the most common of the great modern races.

"This is proof that the human adventure remains possible at sea for those who have the courage to leave as sail pioneers – a man alone at sea for seven months in a serial boat, right?"Enthusiasts Christophe Favreau, pillar of the small organizational team. A hat that was removed in 1968 in honor of the famous Robin Knox-Johnston, the only survivor of the previous edition of this non-stop world tour.

Sir Robin (was bred after his performance) is expected in Sables-d & # 39; Olonne to pay tribute to his probable successor and his four companions still at sea, the 17 sailors left the Vendée de 1st July 2018. Five survivors, not so bad when we decide to see the glass half full. It could have been emptied immediately, and probably forever, if the sinking of the Indian abbot Abhilash Tomy, saved in the middle of the Indian Ocean, had ended worse.

A race under the sign of a legendary legend

In the first dramatic edition of the Golden Globe in 1968, Robin Knox-Johnston was the only one of nine starters to take up the challenge of this solitary journey around the world. The Sunday Times. This adventure was known for the story of Donald Crowhurst, this novice sailor who had lied about his position for weeks before committing suicide at sea when he was confused …

He also entered the legend after the decision of one of the competitors, Bernard Moitessier, to stop the bet, to continue his journey to Tahiti, before writing The long road, history of this epic that evoked many sailor vocations.

Including that of Antoine Cousot, cradled in the role of the adventures of Knox-Johnston, Moitessier or Tabarly. None other than this director of a multinational, who has chosen to leave his professional berths to participate in the Golden Globe, is more able to measure the performance of Jean-Luc Van Den Heede.

"It's nice for him, but until the end I can not believe it, Jean-Luc has lost so many races"says this good amateur sailor, let him go around with the dreams of the whole world. He had to retire after a few weeks of racing due to a bad shoulder injury that prevented him from sailing in the South Sea. "I have three children, adventure does not mean that we do something, even if my sponsor wanted me, but it will be a wonderful story"explains Amiens, city by birth, was not invented by VDH.

An ocean that is too big for some

Half a dozen seafarers were shipwrecked, others were disappointed by the damage, two of them surrendered quickly because they realized that the oceans were too big for them. "Who will throw the stone to them? continues Antoine Cousot. Months of solitude, surrendered to the time that we can not escape, like on the big racing catamarans, we must be able to support it, I was ready, I think, other competitors, less, but they had the merit of trying. With a career behind him, Jean-Luc knew what to expect, he will be a great winner. "

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A new edition in 2022?

Although the mayor of Sables-d & # 39; Olonne lit up at the last December Boat Show and announced that a new edition of the Golden Globe will leave her city in 2022, nothing has yet been signed between the city and the organizer. One thing is certain, the Australian Don McIntyre, who had the idea to revive this legendary race 50 years after the first edition, does not want to stop there.

And the sailors who are candidates for a new adventure have already stepped forward. The navigation of the era, far from the advanced technology of the racing boats of the Route du Rhum or the Vendée Globe, is increasing.

Jean-François Fournel