2nd place Mark Slats contacts his manager: Gets 36-hour time penalty in the GGR

It seems like second place Mark Slats could have gotten his manager’s opinion without breaking race rules and could have diverted to La Coruna, Spain, without penalty. Unfortunately, it did not turn out that way as Team Slats chafes at the Golden Globe Race 2018’s ban on satellite communications and weather routing. Now Slats was given a 36-hour time penalty which will be tacked onto his time at the finish. The GGR does not want to assess time penalties at sea above 40 degrees north because of the Gale and Storm risks. This is unlikely to matter since Slats nearest competitor, Estonian Uku Randamaa, who is in 3rd place, is 3,000 nm away in the Southern Hemisphere. Slats nearest competitor Jean Luc Van Den Heede finished on the morning of January 29, 2019.

The skippers can communicate with rescue personal or the race headquarters, but they cannot use satellite phones to communicate with anyone else. Skippers are allowed to anchor in the course of the solo-nonstop unassisted sailboat race. Dutch authorities recently banned Slats from using HAM frequencies ashore because he lacks a license complicating communications between Slats and his supporters. Slats’ manager was concerned that GGR was giving bad weather advice encouraging Slats to speed to the finish. Instead, Slats’ shore team believed that Slats should find the nearest safe harbor on January 28, 2019. It seems that GGR did communicate that advice from Slats’ manager.

Slats’ Facebook page denies that he is dropping out writing, “no he’s not dropping out, safety first and then on his way to Les Sables d’Olonne.” His most recent tweet says he is turning around from Spain and heading for La Sables d’Olonne where he is expected on February 1. The updated weather report has the projected storm breaking up. Slats also said he was “hungry”. The solo, nonstop, assisted race prevents competitors from restocking food. Slats has been at sea for 212 days. If he stopped in La Coruna as he planned on January 28, 2019, Slats could not leave the boat or accept anything without being disqualified from the race.

At the time of the infractions on January 28, 2019, Slats was 400 nm from the finish over 300 nm from first-place Jean-Luc Van Den Heede who finished on January 29, 2019, at 10:13 AM in Les Sables D’Olonne, France. The third place competitor is several thousands of miles behind Slats.

Below is the official timeline from the Golden Globe Race:

Second placed Golden Globe Race skipper Mark Slats tonight is facing a time penalty for a breach of satellite communication rules, and direct outside assistance from his Dutch team manager Dick Koopmans.

Slats is facing a dilemma: To run ahead of an approaching north-westerly storm and hope to reach the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne on Thursday evening before it strikes the Vendee coast – a lee shore; lie hove-to outside the Bay of Biscay until the storm has passed, or seek a refuge, which is allowed under the race rules, provided he does not step ashore or communicate with the outside world other than via VHF or HF radio.

At 10:30, Race HQ received a communication from Dick Koopmans, Mark Slats’ team manager, asking for the Race finish line to be moved 50 miles offshore. This was denied.

11:59, Race HQ responded to Koopmans saying that Race Chairman Don McIntyre had sent a weather warning to Slats and that Mark and subsequently called via his safety sat phone to discuss the weather scenario. Slats advised that he was receiving weather forecasts onboard and was aware of the approaching storm. The email advised Koopmans that Slats was not slowing down and continuing towards the finish line. It added. “But if you want a message passed on the weather, we are happy to do that. Just email here.”

12:21 Koopmans replied by e.mail saying that “I spoke to Geerit Hiemsta, one of our leading meteorologists in Holland…In his opinion it is completely unsafe to sail into the Bay of Biscay. He suggests to stay outside and finish in La Coruna or Brest, but not in Les Sables d’Olonne. This is also the (unofficial) opinion of the Dutch Coastguard and Falmouth Coastguard.
I am very unhappy with your advice and consider to call Mark on his Iridium phone, whatever the consequences may be.”

13:16, Race Chairman Don McIntyre responded: “Just a reminder, we never give directives to entrants. We give opinions and the final choice is up to entrants. Mark is receiving weather reports on his radio….
I would strongly suggest that you do NOT call Mark. I have offered to message him any advice you wish to send him in relation to safety avoiding the storm. I am awaiting for that advice. All decisions are the responsibility of the skipper. …I am now officially asking you for your advice on the safest route for him to take if you wish to be involved with efforts to send him to the safest place. I will then pass him that from you.”

13:28: message from GGR HQ to Mark. “Dick advice: head to la Corunna or Brest to miss the storm.”

13:33 Email from Koopmans to GGR: ”Ignoring authorities like Coastguard and top meteorologist. I do not trust the Race Committee on their knowledge in the situation. I think safety is now more important than rules.
I will send Mark messages to his Iridium phones from now on.
Advice from Mr Hiemstra – ‘Have a helicopter ready’

13:34. Email from Koopmans to GGR: Do not speak to Mark in my name.”

13:38 Race HQ to Koopmans: “Mark will be penalised for breech of rules. We have NOT been directed by any authority and if you look at your emails, we are awaiting your advice on where to send him. Your actions and comments DO NOT relate in the best interests of Mark’s race and we are both working towards Mark’s Safety. PLEASE place your message through GGR. If you need clarification, please ring. WE ARE STILL WAITING YOUR ADVICE.
YOU RISK PENALISING MARK FOR NO REASON AT ALL…YOUR CHOICE. WE HAVE MADE IT CLEAR WE CAN SEND ANY MESSAGE TO HIM. WE ARE STILL WAITING. YOU MUST NOT CONTACT MARK

13:46: Email from Koopmans to Race HQ: “Safety is more important than penalties.  You can read all the messages later and decide on penalties.”

Koopmans ignored RACE HQ advise and messaged Slats directly – a direct breech of the Notice of Race.

16: 00 (approx.): Mark phoned Race HQ to discuss the weather and asked permission to call Koopmans for advice, and asked for Koopman’s phone number. GGR agreed as Koopmans would not give GGR the safety information. At subsequent meeting of the Race Committee, it was decided not to provide the number since a call to Koopmans constituted outside assistance and a further breech of the Notice of Race.

16:12: Mark called Race HQ to say that he had altered course to La Corunna and confirmed that Koopmans had contacted him directly. Slats was advised that he now faced a time penalty.

The Race Committee will meet tomorrow to access the evidence and any time penalty will have to be served at sea before the finish.

In a statement tonight, Don McIntyre said: “There are two issues here. One is safety and we all work in the best interests of Mark Slats. The second is process under the Notice of Race. GGR continues to offer safety weather advice to all competitors. Unfortunately, Slats’ team manager decided not to abide by the Notice of Race.”

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Here is the statement from Slats’ team:

SLATS SETS SAIL TO LA CORUNA

Mark Slats, currently number two in the Golden Globe Race, has decided Monday January 28 in the afternoon to contact his shoremanager Dick Koopmans. Mark experienced different insights about the concept of ‘safe sailing’ and decided to discuss with his manager about the best choice for the coming days is. Together they have decided that Mark is now heading for La Coruña Spain to take shelter and continue his race at a later date.

Monday morning January 28, the weather forecasts for the last part of the Golden Globe Race looked very bad for Mark Slats. The predictions showed huge storms and also huge waves. Don McIntyre, race organizer of the Golden Globe Race, gave Mark the advice, earlier that day, to sail with his boat, Ohpen Maverick, in to the Bay of Biscay. Mark’s shoremanager Dick Koopmans did not agree with this and contacted both Dutch and English coastguards. Both authorities fully understood the care provided by Team Slats. Contact was also made with Gerrit Hiemstra, a Dutch authority in the field of meteorology and also a self-employed ocean sailor. Hiemstra indicated that it is completely irresponsible to enter the Bay of Biscay and to visit the port of Les Sables d’Olonne on Thursday 31 January. The Golden Globe Race has been asked to move the finish further offshore or even to move to Brest (France) or Falmouth (UK). This request was simply rejected.

Slats currently sails for 211 days in the Golden Globe Race. A historic sailing race solo non-stop around the world without outside assistance and without the use of modern communication and navigation equipment.

There were 18 entrants at the start , only 5 are still in the race. Slats survived an enormous storm in the Southern Indian Ocean where two participants, who were close by lost their mast and both had to be evacuated from their ship. One of them, Abhilash Tomy broke a number of vertebrae to which he had to undergo surgery. Tomy is still working on his rehabilitation. Slats also had to contend with extreme periods of no wind before he could sail to Tasmania Australia. In a radio interview, Slats indicated that the periods of windcalms felt worse than when he had to deal with a storm of 50-60 knots of wind.

Slats has trailed the number 1 in the race, the French sailing veteran Jean-Luc van den Heede from Les Sables d’Olonne France, he decreased the distance from 2000 miles to the moment of writing only another 400 miles.

If Slats were to follow the advice of the Golden Globe Race, he would be expected to arrive at the port of Les Sables d’Olonne around 17:00 on Thursday afternoon. At the finsih, the water is only 10 meters deep. When Slats has to deal with waves of 6-9 meters high from behind, this can lead to very dangerous situations in combination with the shallows. When Slats arrives at the port of Les Sables d’Olonne is not yet known.

🇳🇱️ MARK SLATS ZET KOERS NA LA CORUNA SPANJE

Slats zet koers naar La Coruña , momenteel nummer twee in de Golden Globe Race, heeft maandagmiddag besloten contact op te nemen met zijn shoremanager Dick Koopmans. Mark ervaarde afwijkende inzichten over het begrip ‘veilig varen’ en besloot met zijn manager te overleggen over wat de beste keuze is voor de komende dagen. Gezamenlijk hebben zij besloten dat Mark nu koers maakt naar La Coruña om daar te schuilen en zijn weg op een later tijdstip te vervolgen.
Maandagochtend 28 januari zagen de weersvoorspellingen voor het laatste stuk van de Golden Globe Race er zeer slecht uit voor Mark Slats. De voorspellingen lieten enorme stormen en tevens enorme hoge golven zien. Don McIntyre, race organisator van de Golden Globe Race, gaf Mark eerder die dag het advies om zijn boot, Ohpen Maverick, de Golf van Biskaje in te varen. Mark’s shoremanager Dick Koopmans was het hier niet mee eens en heeft hierop contact gezocht met zowel Kustwacht Nederland als de Engelse kustwacht. Beiden autoriteiten begrepen de zorg vanuit Team Slats volkomen. Ook werd er contact gezocht met Gerrit Hiemstra, een Nederlandse autoriteit op het gebied van meteorologie en tevens zelf oceaanzeiler. Hiemstra gaf aan dat het volstrekt onverantwoord is om de Golf van Biskaje in te gaan en donderdag 31 Januari de haven van Les Sables d’Olonne aan te lopen. De Golden Globe Race is gevraagd de finish verder buitengaats te verleggen of zelfs te verplaatsen naar Brest (Frankrijk) of Falmouth (UK). Dit verzoek werd simpelweg afgewezen.
Slats vaart momenteel al 211 dagen in de Golden Globe Race. Een historische zeilrace solo non-stop rond de wereld zonder hulp van buitenaf en zonder het gebruik van moderne communicatie – en navigatieapparatuur. Van de 18 deelnemers aan de start zijn er nog slechts 5 in de race. Slats overleefde een gigantische storm in de Zuidelijk Indische Oceaan waarbij twee deelnemers die vlak achter hem lagen hun mast verloren en beiden van boord afgehaald moesten worden. Een van hen, de Indiase Abhilash Tomy brak een aantal rugwervels waaraan hij geopereerd moest worden. Tomy werkt nog steeds aan zijn revalidatie. Ook heeft Slats te kampen gehad met extreme windstiltes voordat hij onder Australië kon doorvaren. In een radiogesprek gaf Slats aan de periodes van windstilte zelfs als erger te ervaren dan wanneer hij te kampen heeft met een storm van 50-60 knopen wind.
Slats heeft zijn achterstand op de nummer 1 in de race, de Franse zeilveteraan Jean-Luc van den Heede uit Les Sables d’Olonne Frankrijk, weten terug te brengen van 2000 mijl naar op het moment van schrijven slechts nog een kleine 400 mijl.
Wanneer Slats het advies van de Golden Globe Race zou volgen zou de verwachting zijn dat hij donderdagmiddag rond 17:00 uur de haven van Les Sables d’Olonne aan te lopen. Ter hoogte van de finish is het water nog maar 10 meter diep. Wanneer Slats van achteren te maken krijgt met golven van 6-9 meter hoogte kan dit in combinatie met de ondiepte nog weleens zeer gevaarlijke situaties opleveren. Wanneer Slats nu in de haven van Les Sables d’Olonne aankomt is nog niet bekend.

Slats has managed to steal some of the feel-good spotlight from Jean-Luc Van Den Heede who shattered the Golden Globe Race record time by over 100 days. This may be the opening salvo in a protracted battle from Team Slats, who have felt that Van Den Heede got better shore support over the radio. Nevertheless, Slats would be in a much better position to win any protest if he avoided penalties and finished quickly as possible.

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