73-year-old French sailor wins round-the-world race without modern instruments

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede spent 212 days alone at sea, navigating the Golden Globe race with paper maps

In his first ever sailing race victory, Frenchman Jean-Luc Van Den Heede has won the 30,000-mile Golden Globe race. Van Den Heede arrived on Tuesday in Les Sables D’Olonne in Western France.

The 2018 edition of the Golden Globe Race is only the second ever edition of the competition. The last winner of the race was British sailor Robin Knox-Johnston, who won the Golden Globe in 1968. The original competition was controversial due to most of the competitors failing to complete the race, but it did lead to the founding of the BOC Challenge and Vendee Globe round-the-world races; fifty years ago, Knox-Johnston was the only entrant to complete the race, and donated his prize fund to the family of a competitor who had committed suicide at sea.

“Until then I [had] never abandoned a single race,” Van Den Heede said at a press conference on Tuesday. “But I admit that climbing a mast is no longer okay at my age. I climbed seven times. The worst thing was trying to undo the pins.”

The Golden Globe race starts in France, follows along the west coast of Africa and through the Indian Ocean until competitors pass Australia, New Zealand and South America, before returning through the Atlantic and arriving back in France. All entrant boats had to measure between 32 and 36ft, be made of fibre reinforced plastic and be designed prior to 1988. There were several “film gates” where skippers could be interviewed as they sailed past without needing to stop.

The Golden Globe 2018 appears to be Jean-Luc Van Den Heede’s final round-the-world race. “Now I will not sail around the world unless someone makes a great thing that still interests me,” he told reporters after his victory.