Australian-born, Dutch solo-sailor, Mark Slats was hours away on Christmas Eve 2018 from being the first Golden Globe Race 2018 participant to complete a sailing circumnavigation. Instead, he made a 90 degree turn to avoid being the first racer in the 2018 contest to do so. If he does not tack back in the next day or so, he may never complete the circumnavigation until he reaches the northern hemisphere.
Of all the competitors still in the race for 32-to-36-foot heavy displacement sailboats, Slats sailed the most western course down the South Atlantic early on in the race. He has been on a long northeast tack well offshore of Brazil that brought him within 100 nautical miles of his outbound track, but then early on December 24, 2018, UTC he turned to the northwest sailing away from his outbound track. He is close to his farthest west portion of his track. Slats is the only competitor thus far to have sailed all 360 degrees of longitude. Unfortunately, one of the requirements of circumnavigation, according to the commonly accepted definition adopted by the Guiness Book of World Records and others, is that you start and end at the same place, which Slats and no other competitor has yet done in the 2018 Golden Globe Race.
In the 1968 Golden Globe Race, three competitors completed circumnavigations. Bernard Moitessier, Sir Robin Knox Johnston, and Nigel Tetley. Nevertheless, Moitessier and Tetley never finished the race. Moitessier crossed his outbound track for the circumnavigation near Cape Town on March 18, 1969. Moitessier decided to sail to Tahiti instead of finishing the Golden Globe Race in England. South African-born, English sailor Nigel Tetley crossed his outbound track in the North Atlantic before his trimaran sunk about 1,200 nautical miles from the start in England. Tetley was rescued in his life raft. Sir Robin Knox Johnston of England would not complete the race until April 1968 after 312 days at sea.
It is unclear if Slats is aware of how close he was to a circumnavigation after 176 days at sea. The participants navigate by sextant and are not allowed to access the race tracker. Thus, his celestial fixes may have been too inaccurate or infrequent to tell him that he could have completed a circumnavigation on Christmas Eve 2018. The 41-year old Slats completed his first circumnavigation under sail in 2005. Slats is in second place and trailing race leader Jean Luc Van Den Heede of France by about 700 nautical miles If you have a ham radio, tell Mark Slats to tack to the northeast for a day.