A rough start for Jean-Luc Van Den Heede’s solo record yesterday

Yesterday before dawn, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede plunged out into Biscay in 40 knots of wind and big seas under double-reefed main and staysail, getting a testing start to his latest solo round the world record attempt. With the wind forecast worsening for him in the next few days, VDH brought his departure date forward – he had been due to set off today in his 85ft aluminium yacht Adrien.

“I will benefit from mainly westerly winds that will vary from SSW to NNW. These are the least bad conditions I’ve had since I’ve been waiting to leave,” he said, adding: “I am optimistic. The goal is to beat the record and to better Philippe Monnet’s time [of 151d 19h 54m 36s]. You need to be ambitious, but if I beat it by only three days, I won’t be unhappy.”

VDH says that his aim this time is to reach Cape Horn in 35 days; in other words, a day quicker than he managed last time. Last year, he had just turned the corner and was heading into the Southern Pacific Ocean when his keel began to move and the boat started to make water.

Among the spectators who watched VDH start yesterday was fellow circumnavigator Oliver de Kersauson, who is hoping to break the record for the fastest circumnavigation the other way round – eastabout – in his trimaran early next year. De Kersauson was still in Brest after postponing a plan to attempt the Round Britain and Ireland record. He knows only too well what’s ahead, having being in the Southern Ocean six times himself. “It’s all about going hard on the most intelligent course. You have to pass through the chinks in the armour,” he commented.