Jean-Luc Van Den Heede considers the options as he inches his dismasted yacht towards New Zealand
After reconsidering his options, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede has decided – for now – to nurse his dismasted yacht Adrien towards Wellington, New Zealand, rather than Melbourne. He is currently south of Australia and some 1,000 miles from land.
Among the choices he has been considering is re-rigging his boat in New Zealand and sailing back home with the wind, round Cape Horn. He has been talking to Bernard Stamm, whose Open 60 Bobst Group Armor-Lux is in Tauranga, New Zealand, after winning leg 3 of Around Alone. Stamm has a spare mast for his boat, which arrived just this morning courtesy of fellow competitor Simone Bianchetti. Stamm lent his spare mast to Bianchetti after Bianchett’s boat Tiscali dismasted in Biscay in November and is willing to give it to Van Den Heede if it would help him.
After consulting with Gilles Vaton, the boat’s designer, however, VDH has decided not to take any risks. Stamm’s mast is smaller and much lighter than the carbon mast Van Den Heede lost, and his 85ft boat is massively heavier than an Open 60: 29 tonnes compared with a typical displacement of 4 tonnes for an Open 60. ‘The difference between our two boats is too great and I would risk dismasting again,’ Van Den Heede wrote yesterday. ‘No thank you very much, been there, done that!’
He is now investigating having a new mast built in New Zealand or shipping the boat back to France.
In explanation to more questions about the mast failure, he explains: ‘I should make it clear again that it was the bottom of the carbon mast which gave way above the deck. The carbon gave way between the aluminium base sitting on the deck and the two stainless steel flanges that are pierced with large holes through which the mast jack passes, and which allows tension to be applied to the shrouds.’
VDH’s progress has been agonisingly slow in light headwinds. Adrien’s tacking angle under jury rig, taking leeway into account, is 220°, and in the last 24 hours, he has covered only 49 miles. ‘Last night and this morning… not a whisper. It does sometimes happen around here. At the moment the wind has returned and I am heading due north.’