Icy blasts of more than 80 knots force Jean-Luc Van Den Heede to bide his time on his record attempt

The last few days have brought French circumnavigator Jean-Luc Van Den Heede his worst weather to date in Adrien, the aluminium sloop in which he is trying to beat the non-stop westabout round the world record. He has been at the mercy of winds of more than 80 knots. He still has a mean wind speed of more than 50 knots and very heavy and confused seas. At the same time, he has been tackling a few problems on board.

Water has been finding its way into the aft compartment of the boat, which VDH eventually traced to the cockpit drains: the joints around them had loosened, possibly from the ceaseless buffeting and vibration.

VDH is set to cross the dateline today. He is 56 days into his record attempt and well ahead of Philippe Monnet’s time. He sent this report on Saturday:

‘Adrien is waiting for the sea to become more organised under mainsail with three reefs. I have been through a real depression and several hours ago, the NW wind veered WSW, which threw up a chaotic sea. So I am waiting at 5 knots for everything to calm down.

‘However, I have had gusts of 80 knots which is a new record for Adrien, but at such wind forces you simply can’t beat. I lowered my staysail, sheeted in flat the remaining bit of mainsail and at 50° to the apparent wind Adrien is behaving perfectly correctly. Even though I am not making much progress, at least I am not losing ground. I think I should cross the date line tomorrow.

‘At the moment I am 11 hours behind France. Once over that line I will be 11 hours ahead, but to keep the same date as you I shall lose a day. It is the opposite of the story of Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s “Around the world in 80 days” because he was going in the other direction!’