Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, aka VDH, an exceptional sailor, reached new heights back in January by crossing the finish line of the Golden Globe Race as the winner after 211 days 23 hours and 12 minutes at sea. Going around the world with a chart and a sextant, but without electronics or contact with the shore, at 73 years of age is one of the many challenges he has undertaken.
Garcia Yachts today salutes the determination of this ocean racer and remembers his remarkable career during the very first Vendée Globe Challenge. In 1989, he took up the challenge aboard 36.15 MET, a 60-foot aluminium sailboat designed for ocean racing by Philippe Harlé and Alain Mortain, and built by Garcia. This “cigar”-shape, very different from the boats of the time, was to be one of the last plans drawn by naval architect Harlé. In March 1989, the Garcia brothers launched this 18.28 m (60’) sailing boat at their shipyard in Condé-sur-Noireau, in Normandy.
VDH was to cross the finish line in Les Sables de d’Olonne in 3rd place after 112 days 1 hour 14 minutes at sea. The lightest, and cheapest, boat in the fleet, few people had bet at the time on 36.15 MET because it was too radical. However, he crossed the line just 3 days later than first-placed Titouan Lamazou.
In July 1990, 36.15 MET passed into the hands of Isabelle Autissier with whom she participated in the BOC Challenge under the name of Ecureuil de Poitou-Charentes. During her race, she was dismasted. Christophe Auguin, Isabelle Autissier, Alain Gautier and Jean-Luc Van Den Heede then founded the International Association of Open 50 and Open 60 Monohulls, IMOCA. Today, 36.15 MET has 4 Vendée Globe races to her credit.