He has spent more than 500 days alone at sea in the last fifteen years, racing under extreme conditions around the planet earth. Sleeping in brief catnaps around the clock, subsiding on dehydrated food, and enduring the physical and mental challenges of solo racing around the globe on a high tech 60-foot race boat may sound appalling to some, while Van Liew keeps asking for more. He is the very first American to ever officially finish three solo races around the globe. He is also the first person worldwide to sweep all legs of the VELUX 5 OCEANS race for two complete events. Today he crossed the finish line to win 1st Place in the VELUX 5 OCEANS 2010-11 race aboard his Le Pingouin ECO 60 boat claiming victory as the only entry from the USA and undoubtedly America’s finest solo ocean racer.
“I feel the exuberance and joy of winning an incredible race and experiencing the unforgettable journey of sailing around the world alone,” said Van Liew while waiting outside the locks to enter La Rochelle’s historic Harbor. “There is just nothing else in the world like it. The challenges are unique and can be dangerous and invigorating at the same time. It is a test of the soul and involves reaching deep to overcome physical and mental challenges I have seen nowhere else in sport or life.”
Van Liew has competed in this epic solo race twice before aboard 50-foot race boats, taking third place as an underdog entry in 1999 and winning first place in his class in 2003 with a convincing cumulative lead of 21 days. The VELUX 5 OCEANS race of 2010-11 marks his first race on a 60-foot race boat and the introduction of the ECO-60 class. Each competitor is challenged with not only sailing around the world alone, but also showcasing sustainable practices that care for the delicate ocean environment.
Van Liew and his Team Lazarus Project are supported by an important group of sponsors, including Ondeck, Cape Wind, South Carolina State Ports Authority, Newport Shipyard, Garden & Gun Magazine, Gill North America, Samson Ropes, B&G, Simrad, Awlgrip, AlpineAire, Grawnola, and several others.
The Velux 5 Oceans started from La Rochelle in France on October 17, 2010 and features five ocean sprints. After heading from La Rochelle, France to Cape Town, South Africa, the fleet sailed across the vast Southern Indian Ocean to Wellington, New Zealand. From there, the racing yachts sailed to Punta del Este, Uruguay, and then up the Atlantic to Charleston, South Carolina. Van Liew is the first to finish the final stretch across the Atlantic to France for the finish, while Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski (POL), Derek Hatfield (CAN), and Chris Stanmore-Major (GBR) are expected to finish in the next 48 hours.
The VELUX 5 OCEANS is the Ultimate Solo Challenge, the ultimate human endeavor. More than 500 people have been into space, less than 180 have sailed round the world solo, and only 73 skippers have finished the VELUX 5 OCEANS. The VELUX 5 OCEANS is a series of five high-pressure ocean sprints within a marathon 30,000-nautical mile circumnavigation. The race, run every four years since 1984, has a rich heritage which has given rise to some of the world’s best sailors. The VELUX 5 OCEANS is not only the longest round the world yacht race but at nearly 30 years old is also the longest running. Always at the forefront of ocean racing innovation, the 2010/11 VELUX 5 OCEANS will see the premiere of the Eco 60 class of yachts, pushing a message of sustainability, accessibility and affordability. For more information visit www.velux5oceans.com.
American solo sailor Brad Van Liew today made it an incredible four wins out of four legs in
the VELUX 5 OCEANS solo round the world race as he sailed into his hometown of Charleston
to a hero’s welcome.
The people of Charleston turned out in force to cheer on the 43-year-old as he brought an end
to a gruelling 5,900-mile leg from Punta del Este in Uruguay. After a painfully slow and
frustrating final few days at sea which saw him battle fluky, light winds on the approach to the
finish, Brad steered his 60ft Eco 60 yacht Le Pingouin across the line outside Charleston Harbor
at 1658 EST (2058 UTC). He completed the leg in 23 days, four hours and 58 minutes, and
averaged 10.6 knots over the course of the sprint.
More than 20 spectator boats hit the water to welcome home Brad and Le Pingouin including
the Charleston pilot boat Fort Moultrie, carrying Brad’s family as well as VELUX America
president Tim Miller and dignitaries from the city. Brad was even treated to a fly-past in a light
aircraft by his former airplane charter business partner.
With clear blue skies and the summer sun beating down, Brad finally arrived at Charleston’s
Seabreeze Marina at 1900 local time. Among the crowds waiting for Brad on the dock were his
wife Meaghan and his children Tate, 9, and Wyatt, 6, who he hasn’t seen since leaving
Wellington, New Zealand, on February 6.
Stepping on to dry land for the first time in more than three weeks, Brad said: “For me winning
this leg is so special. If I could have chosen just one leg to win it would have been this one. This
is my home port, I am very involved in the maritime community in Charleston and all my friends
and family are here. It would have been pretty disappointing to have won the previous legs and
not win this one. I was very focused and very determined. I feel delirious and exhausted – it was
a heck of a leg.”
Brad has so far won every leg of the 30,000-mile VELUX 5 OCEANS, known as The Ultimate
Solo Challenge. With just one leg left Brad is the clear favourite to win the race overall. A former
airline pilot, Brad is a veteran of two previous editions of the race, in 1998 and in 2002 when it
was known as the Around Alone. In the 2002 edition Brad won every single leg in class two for
yachts 50ft and under.
A win in the final sprint of the 2010/11 race would make Brad the most successful sailor ever to
compete in the event. He already sailed into the history books during sprint three, becoming the
only American ever to have raced around Cape Horn three times.
A well-known figure in Charleston, Brad was instrumental in the development of the South
Carolina Maritime Foundation, a sail training charity which has taken more than 6,000 students
sailing since 2007.
Brad’s closest rival, Canadian Derek Hatfield, is expected to arrive in Charleston on his Eco 60
Active House tomorrow to claim second place.
Positions at 0000 UTC
Skipper / distance to finish (nm) / distance to leader (nm) / distance covered in last 24 hours
(nm) / average speed in last 24 hours (kts)
Brad Van Liew, Le Pingouin: Finished at 20:58 UTC on Tuesday April 20
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 111.6 / 0 / 137.9 / 5.7
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 333 / 221.4 / 83.8 / 3.5
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 3205 / 3093.4 / 0 / 0
I feel delirious and exhausted – it was a heck of a leg. Derek really laid it down hard and it was a
real boat race all the way to the finish. At one point Chris had Derek spooked and Derek had me
spooked and it was wide open. It was much tougher than I thought it would be. Having done this
race two times previously I have always favoured the left side of the course on this leg and it’s
always been the way to go. This time it just wasn’t. It was a pretty scary few days when Derek
was taking miles out of my lead. All he had to do was find a little passing lane and come left and
that would have been it. Fortunately for me he wasn’t quite able to seal the deal and I worked
really hard and was just able to stay between Derek and Charleston.
For me winning this leg is so special. If I could have chosen just one leg to win it would have
been this one. This is my home port, I am very involved in the maritime community in
Charleston and all my friends and family are here. It would have been pretty disappointing to
have won the previous legs and not win this one. I was very focused and very determined.
The good news for me now is that mathematically winning over all is pretty much a done deal.
The bad news is that I have to make it to La Rochelle to win. That will be my priority now. The
reality is I will have to tell myself to focus on getting to La Rochelle in one piece.
Since passing through 5 north and finishing the speed gate, I have been able to crack off a bit and head more directly to the finish in Charleston. The boat speeds have gone up accordingly and we are now enjoying great trade wind sailing again. The squalls and rain showers lasted a lot longer that normal and have only cleared out this morning as I approach 7 degrees north.
I keep thinking of Gutek and the challenges ahead of him and I can only wish him well and a speedy return to the racecourse. Having been in that situation a few times myself, it takes great strength and fortitude to get through the disappointment. Having got to know Gutek and raced against him, I know he will be back stronger than ever after his forced stop in Brazil.
Luckily I have not had to run the engine at all during this leg as it would make it even hotter inside the boat. The wind generator and the solar panels make all the energy that I need to run the boat and media equipment. I am sleeping outside in the cutty in the cockpit; using a sleeping bag as a sort of tent to make some shade. The sun is relentless in these latitudes.
I spoke to Brad yesterday and he was in great spirits. I’m pushing him and he is pulling me along, great racing.
More soon. Take Care
Watch the latest video from Derek here
Current Positions in the Fleet
Lat/Long Speed Heading Dist to Fin
Brad 6.2838N;44.1476W 13.9 297 2528.6?2
Derek 6.5178N;39.5013W 13.1 305 2709.1?3
Chris 4.0651N;37.4829W 10.9 325 2908.9?4
Gutek 2.0813S;36.2262W 6.7 221 3227.2
Three boats arrive in Punta del Este within 80 minutes
The third ocean sprint of the VELUX 5 OCEANS came to the most incredibly thrilling climax today with Polish ocean racer Zbigniew Gutkowski beating British rival Chris Stanmore-Major to second place by just 40 seconds. It is the closest ever finish in solo ocean racing history. After nearly four weeks at sea and more than 6,700 miles of racing through the Southern Ocean and the South Atlantic from New Zealand to Uruguay, the fight for second place came down to a nail-biting drag race to the finish line. As a flotilla of boats took to the waters off Punta del Este to witness the finale and welcome in the kippers they were greeted by two unmistakable shapes on the horizon – Operon Racing
and Spartan neck and neck, separated by less than a mile. With around a mile to the finish line it was CSM who had the slight advantage but after taking a course too close to the shore he was forced to gybe twice to lay the line, allowing Gutek to capitalise.
In an amazing photo finish it was Gutek who emerged the victor, sneaking in front of CSM right at the last moment to clinch second place by less than a minute. Gutek crossed the finish line at 4.40pm local time (1840 UTC) after 25 days, 17 hours and ten minutes. Forty seconds later, CSM crossed.
And in an exhilarating conclusion to the leg, Canadian Derek Hatfield blasted across the line just over an hour later after 25 days, 18 hours and 22 minutes. Following Brad Van Liew’s win on Tuesday afternoon, all four boats arrived in just over 48 hours of each other. “It was a fight to the end and I won,” Gutek said after stepping on to the dockside to rapturous applause from the waiting crowds. “This second place is the best of all of them, much better than in Wellington and Cape Town. I am really proud.”
Moments later it was CSM’s turn to join his fellow skippers on dry land. “This sprint has proven I have a fast boat and I have taken the handbrake off now and I think we have a good chance for the next leg,” he said. “We have lost out on second place and that’s a great pity, I wish we were parked one boat closer to Brad, but I think we have made our point – we know what we’re doing now and we can go fast.”
“Never in a 6,000-mile leg have I seen a finish this close,” Derek added. “It was incredible. All I can say is wow, what a race. It was so close, I loved it.”
Ocean sprint three has by no means been easy going for any of the VELUX 5 OCEANS
skippers. In the middle of the Southern Ocean, thousands of miles from anywhere, CSM’s
mainsail ripped and he was forced to spend 30 hours stitching it in horrendous weather
conditions. He also had to contend with rips in one of his foresails as well as a major water leak onboard Spartan.
The challenge began in October, www.velux5oceans.com
Gutek faced a nervous rounding of the mighty Cape Horn when keel problems developed
onboard Operon Racing. After a composite part on the yacht’s keel pins broke, the keel started to move several millimetres, making a dull knocking sound. Gutek was forced to fully cant the keel for the remainder of the race, affecting his performance.
Onboard Active House Derek was dealing with an engine oil leak which meant he could only charge his batteries when on port tack. After holding on to second place until just two days from Punta del Este, it was low power to his wind instruments that was Derek’s eventual downfall. “The results of this leg really bode well for the future of the Eco 60 class,” Derek concluded. “Here we have recycled older boats that are so competitive and level – it makes for great racing.”
Ocean sprint four will see the fleet sprint 5,800 nautical miles to Charleston, starting on March 27.
1ST Brad Van Liew – 23 days, 17 hours and 46 minutes
2nd Zbigniew Gutkowski – 25 days, 17 hours and 10 minutes
3rd Chris Stanmore-Major – 25 days, 17 hours and 10 minutes 40 seconds
4th Derek Hatfield – 25 days, 18 hours and 22 minutes.
Gutek: “The end to my sprint three story is amazing. This second is the best of all of them,
much better than in Wellington and Cape Town. I am really proud. For the last 48 hours I worked so hard to get every last bit of speed out of my boat. Six miles from the finish I was leading Chris, and then more wind came and he went past me. I hoisted my gennaker and wewe re neck and neck. It was a fight to the end and I won.”
CSM: “It’s been a very interesting day. This morning I got a position update saying Gutek was only one mile behind me. I was hoping that the tack I was about to do would put me ahead of him but I saw him about 11am pass in front of me about a mile ahead. He is sailing that boat out of his skin. I just couldn’t catch him going upwind. Then the wind clocked round so we were on a reach and that’s what Spartan does best. Suddenly we were doing 13 or 14 knots and we chased Gutek down pretty quickly. Coming into Punta I had about a fix-boat lead on him and everything was looking really good. Then, coming towards the line I got too close to a patch of rocks which was an error on my part. I had been on deck concentrating on the sailing. I had topu t two gybes in to get to the finish line and that allowed Gutek to pass me in the dying moments. I ended up finishing 40 seconds behind him rather than 40 seconds ahead, but that’s racing, that’s what it’s all about. This sprint has proven I have a fast boat and I have taken the handbrake off now and I think we have a good chance for the next leg. We have lost out on second place and that’s a great pity, I wish we were parked one boat closer to Brad, but I think we have made our point – we know what we’re doing now and we can go fast.”
Derek: “All I can say is ‘wow, what a race’. It was so close, I loved it. It was a lot of work but not as much effort as sprint two. It was a good leg, a fun leg. We had a really fast passage to Cape Horn and then an amazing rounding of the Horn within a mile of the coast. The second part from Cape Horn, the last 1,000 miles, was the most difficult part. Not that long ago I was in second place but all I can say is in the last few days the wheels really fell off. Because of the oil leak in my engine my power got so low that my wind instruments wouldn’t work. In the dark I was going back and forth trying to get upwind, and that’s when Gutek got away. It was mine to lose. The results of this leg really bode well for the future of the Eco 60 class – here we have recycled older boats that are so competitive and so level. It makes for great racing. Never in a 6,000-mile leg have I seen a finish this close, it was incredible.”
In an excerpt his blog Brad Vin Liew, leader of the Velux 5 Oceans, reflects on his upcoming rounding of Cape Horn on Le Pingouin. Brad Van Liew is a self proclaimed adrenaline junkie with a vast array of extreme sports behind him. A lifelong sailor, Brad had set his heart competing in the BOC Challenge, which would in 2005 be renamed the VELUX 5 OCEANS and in 1998 his dream was realised when he competed in the Around Alone finishing third in class two. Brad lives in Charleston, South Carolina, USA and his new yacht Le Pingouin, which he bought in France last year, has a rich racing pedigree.
The VELUX 5 OCEANS is the oldest single-handed round the world yacht race. Run every 4 years since 1982, the race is the longest and toughest event for any individual in any sport. The race is a series of five high-pressure ocean sprints within a marathon circumnavigation. The 30,000 route takes the sailors from La Rochelle FR to Cape Town SA, then onto Wellington NZ, Punta del Este Uruguay, Charleston USA and back to La Rochelle FR, for the finish.
Brad said today “Cape Horn here I come! I’m guessing I am 5-6 days from rounding the nautical summit of Cape Horn. It will be my third time around the horn solo, and it is never the same – a place impossible to predict. There is nothing to stop the winds and waves racing around the bottom of the globe unimpeded by land, until you reach Cape Horn. This is where the vast South Ocean and all of its fury is squeezed into a small corridor between the southern tip of South America and Antarctica. To add to the drama, the sea floor quickly jumps up to be much more shallow. The place is extreme and can be extremely dangerous. It has been called a sailor’s graveyard, because so many boats have gone down. Considering this dramatic but true description, I am of course looking at the weather data very closely in anticipation of the upcoming milestone.
From what I can see right now, it looks like it will be fairly rough and a bit of a challenge. There are three low pressure systems to deal with between now and The Horn. I’m looking closely at one of them, because it is one I should encounter immediately before, during or after the rounding. Ideally I will get there right after that system rolls through. If I had to guess now what conditions will be like on my special day, it looks to be 40 knots of wind that feels more like 50 and 30 foot seas. I’ll try and update that as we get closer to the moment.
What some may not realize is that rounding Cape Horn can be quite spectacular and awesome. For one, the accomplishment is like summiting Mt. Everest for sailors. If you are lucky enough to actually see it (usually masked in fog or too stormy to get the visual) it really does look like a rock sticking out of the bottom of the Earth. I am hoping for that beautiful clear shot, and no surprises. We’ll see.
On the Cape Horn subject, my team has launched an initiative tied to the occasion. It is a fundraising campaign and intended to offer some nice perks to those that get involved. The sponsorship scene has been pretty brutal so we are required to get creative! So while rounding this magnificent corner of the continent, I will have a Sharpie in hand and take some time to write personal notes to some special folks on photos of Le Pingouin. You can learn more about the Cape Horn Crew and how to get involved at http://www.oceanracing.org/WELCOME_files/capehorncrewrevised.pdf.
A special thanks goes out to some of the great folks already onboard the Cape Horn Crew, including Don Gearing/AlpineAire Food, Dennis Ledbetter, Charles Duell, Jeffere Van Liew, Ken & Anne King, Dr. Sheri Hunt, Mary Denis Cauthen, and Scott & Tracy Strother. I very much appreciate your support and look forward to sharing some great moments together in Charleston.”
Thanks to all for checking in.
A New Years posting from the Velux 5 Oceans Skippers
An excerpt from Leader Brad Van Liew’s blogspot:
”2011! Wow, are you kidding?? That makes me really middle aged. I thought that would never happen, but bring it on! I have the distinct pleasure of ringing in the New Year in the middle of nowhere with no champagne, no woman to kiss at midnight, no ball dropping and nobody to sing that “old acquaintance be forgot” song that must be sung in unison annually. Instead, I will be pondering the meaning of life in what is forecast to be a moderate Southern Ocean sailing experience with all my Southern Ocean friends.
What will I do for New Year’s 2011?
First, Le Pingouin (LP) and I will have a chat as she has a lot to say about being middle aged. Boats live in dog years.? It is about seven years to one human year so she actually just broke through 60 years old. She also has more circumnavigations under her voluminous brazier than I do. She has done this race twice before and the Vendee globe twice as well, so this is her 5th solo circumnavigation race while it is my 3rd. It is quite amazing to think that she had more than 150,000 miles in global racing mileage before we even started this adventure. The ole girl is still one of the fastest monohulls ever conceived. Combined LP and I have spent more than a year of our lives hanging out down here in the most remote place on Earth. I still feel hardly welcome and am a strong advocate for the “tread lightly and garner safe passage” theory to get through this inhospitable but beautiful place.
Following my chat with LP, I will speak with the animals that constantly escort me along my route. The birds here are fantastic. They seem so fragile as they fly in circles around the boat and flitter about in the wake of LP as we charge along. Regardless of the weather they are always there and seem genuinely interested in why I would be asking for permission to transit their private place on Earth. The flock of birds I constantly encounter represent as many different sizes and shapes as the fleet of aircraft man has built, and they look their part. The Albatross look like B52 bombers with huge glider shaped wings and robust torsos as they fly forever while seemingly never flapping their wings. On the other end of the spectrum are the petrels which are like little compact fighter jets that zip around and jet through the waves, flapping their wings to give them super speed like they are using an afterburner.
Finally on this special transition to 2011, I will speak to the things that I hopefully won’t see. This includes the whales (of which I have only seen one since leaving Cape Town) and the icebergs which harbor so much of our world’s ecosystem in their frigid existence.
The primary message that I will try to convey to this watery world as we enter 2011 is an apology. I’d like to be an “eyes wide open” witness to the impact our human existence has on this place. Maybe I am a lone ambassador of sorts? As I write this I am sailing in 9 degree Celsius water in a place that should have far cooler water temperature. I am sailing deliberately further north than ever before because the Antarctic convergence (ice zone) is hundreds of miles further north than when I first sailed the Southern Ocean in 1998. The birds are far less in numbers than I have ever experienced, and the whales… well, we all know that story. My message will be a hollow New Year’s apology because I need to be honest with my friends down here. There is really nothing being done that will change the tide of globalization and human growth. We can hope that the pioneers of sustainability and green energy will be rewarded for tangible results. We can hope that rather than a typical New Year’s resolution that is a lot of promise and little movement, that maybe the human population of our fragile home will put some action behind the rhetoric.
I don’t pretend to know how much we affect this place through our actions and I am a firm believer that cyclic global temperatures are a natural weather occurrence, so I don’t wish to be tied up in the politics of it all. I just speak of plane facts that we know we can change. The whales are gone because we kill them for food and resources we no longer need. The bird population is off because we kill them with bad fishing practices and by throwing trash in the water that they eat. This planet is 70% covered in water. The life and delicate balance that water provides is the brine from which all known life came. Can you imagine if that balance is upset? Water can take the life away just as easily, and in a much shorter time, than it was given. The oceans provide every ounce of water we drink. If the ice caps were to melt (which they are) the vast majority of the world’s cities will become submerged. The sun and water are the two things that make every weather anomaly occur.
For crying out loud, the human body is something like 80% water isn’t it? We better start taking care of our oceans or they aren’t going to be here to take care of us.
This will be the somber but special New Year’s message I will share with my friends in the Southern Ocean. It will be a very “glass is half full” conclusion, basically stating that mankind is good and wants to continue to exist, and that we will do as a race what we have to do to survive.
Happy New Year’s and may you all take a few minutes to enjoy the beauty of the natural world in 2011.
Derek Hatfield gives an update on his southern ocean holiday.
“The Southern Ocean is full of extremes and the last twenty four hours proves it in spades. For the past day, all three of us at the front have been heading SE on strong winds with gusts to 30 kts. Boat speeds have been in the high teens and it has been a neck and neck drag race. About two hours ago I experienced one of the most dramatic transitions in my sailing career. The cloud cover was very low and it was raining; within
2 minutes the wind went from 28 kts to 10 kts and changed directions by 45 degrees. Leaving Active House wallowing in the huge waves undercanvassed. The wind has backed now by a permantent 45 degrees and within an hour the sun had come out. Such exteame weather changes are both humbling and awe inspiring.
Here’s to another year past that hopefully was a good one for each of you. And for 2011, I hope that all of your goals and aspirations come true. Happy New Year to you and your families and friends from Active House and the Spirit of Canada team.
Take Care. Be safe.
Chris Stanmore-Major reflects on his holiday.
I was throwing a reef in this morning and I suddenly realised that I was doing it right. I was moving efficiently; things were happening in their proper order and the whole procedure seemed quite tranquil and, dare I say it, professional compared to the frenetic machinations that have normally occurred when I have stepped up to reef in worsening weather previously. This morning despite 30kts coming on really quite quickly I felt on top of the situation and sure of what I was doing. Even when a reef line became tangled on its self and I had to crawl out to the end of the boom to free it. No problem I thought – I know where I’m going, how to get there and what I have to do once there to remedy the situation. It was exciting but wonderfully uneventful. It was a curious thing to stand there at the mast once it was all done – with the reef in, the boat back on course and all the little problems dealt with swiftly and reflect on the contrast between this and my first reefing experiences in the North Atlantic in October.
I remember I was nervous as hell and felt out of my depth in those early days, ventured forward to the mast each time I had to reef. The boat invariably was headed far too far up wind and she would be bucking and crashing through the waves like a submarine. With the main still not out far enough she would be sailing on her ear with the lee decks underwater and precious little it seemed for me to hold onto save the winch handle and the sail. The wind would be howling and the sail totally uninterested in what I wanted it to do. The noise of that huge spectra sail flogging its self silly, the angle of the decks and the knowledge that it was just me in charge of this asylum was enough to make me want to curl up and die. In response I would bellow at myself as I used to do to crew in heavy weather, issuing instructions (to myself), providing a supporting narrative (for myself) and pushing myself to keep going whatever went wrong (and a lot used to go wrong). I guess in the midst of shouting I was distracted enough not to notice how scared I was. This is not a new technique, I know – I have seen it in use on many boats over the years. This was just my turn and as there was no one to insult but myself, it worked.
I’m not sure exactly when all my dues were paid and I suddenly became a competent Open 60 mast man- probably over Christmas sometime where there was a lot of reef in, reef out action and in the bitter cold I had to stay focused on the task lest it take ages – leaving me cold and wet again. I have adapted things at the mast now to make things easier for myself – I have put marks on everything to provide references and developed a procedure in my head I must follow religiously but as this has happened I have also adapted continually to the job adjusting my technique in response to the cues given by the boat and making light of the attendant trouble. Not enough halyard tension? Tonight Chris you’re going away with a broken mast track! Not enough reefline on? My friend you win a chafed reefline! And little by little through perseverance to the task of learning how to reef, not just reefing but standing back and learning how to reef I have come to a point where I can tick a box in my mind and say,’ yes I can do that’ and move on to something else.
Is it funny for me to be halfway across the Southern Ocean in a solo Open 60 race and admit I have only just mastered something as basic as good reefing practice on the very boat I am trusting my life to? Maybe but bear in mind I am talking about learning ‘best practice’ here not just jogging along problem solving everything as I go. The only way to really be at home here and fast is for everything to become second nature and slick, not cobbled together and guessed at which is what gets
impossible dreams off the ground but doesn’t win races.
I think we all have these gaps in our knowledge that we step around each day thinking, ‘I must brush up on that one day’. Words we skip in reading as after however many years we still don’t really know what it means, parts of our work that remain mysterious and unknown and in leaving these stones unturned we do ourselves a disservice as I think we can never reach our full potential if we do not continue to adapt ourselves to life’s challenges by constant learning and review. I hope to forever remain a student constantly looking to improve my understanding both of sailing and the wider world as the joy of finally, by George! Getting it- whatever ‘it’ may be is a pleasure that just doesn’t age.
What is next? Well, next learning task will be good gybing – you would believe how cringe worthy that can be when it all goes wrong in 30kts – ah the fun I’ve had, boat on its side and going backwards. Also this evening I have a new question to ponder- why do I know so much about ‘My Fair Lady’?
Belgian sailor Christophe Bullens has withdrawn from the 28th VELUX 5 OCEANS after a broken mast track thwarted his latest attempt to set sail from Cape Town, South Africa.
The setback was the latest in a long list of technical difficulties for the 49-year-old solo sailor. His troubles began before the race’s start, when his first Eco 60, Five Oceans of Smiles, was dismasted en route to La Rochelle, France. Four days before the race, Bullens bought the yacht Artech from Jean-Baptiste Dejeanty and sailed a 48-hour qualification passage.
He started the race on October 24, but suffered a host of problems in the following weeks, including a split mainsail, failed electronics, an onboard flood and a collision with a whale. The broken mast track came after two prior attempts to leave Cape Town for Wellington, New Zealand.
“All the problems encountered have finally beaten me and my boat, and have prevented me from continuing,” Bullens said, “Unfortunately I have no other choice than to withdraw from the race. It is not reasonable, and even dangerous, to go on.”
Race director Dave Adams praised Bullens’ tenacity, calling him a role model for the sport. “It is sad to see Christophe withdraw from racing but his decision is a sensible and reasoned one given the conditions he will face in the Southern Ocean and beyond.,” Adams said, “We wish Christophe the best of luck for the future and hope to see him on the start line of the Velux 5 OCEANS in 2014. “
The VELUX 5 OCEANS is a grueling solo race in which competitors cover 30,000 nautical miles in five ocean sprints. Four competitors—Derek Hatfield, Brad Van Liew, Zbigniew Gutkowski and Chris Stanmore-Major—remain in the race.
THE second sprint of the VELUX 5 OCEANS solo round the world yacht race got underway
from Cape Town today bound for Wellington in New Zealand. With the iconic Table Mountain
providing a stunning backdrop, the fleet of five international ocean racers crossed the start line
beginning a gruelling 7,000 nautical mile sprint across the Southern Ocean through some of the
worst weather conditions known to man.
The original start of ocean sprint two had been planned for Sunday but it was postponed due to
gale-force winds and huge seas off the coast of South Africa. The VELUX 5 OCEANS race
committee constantly monitored the weather forecasts until they felt there was a suitable
window in the weather to allow for a safe race start.
The fleet set sail from Cape Town in their 60ft Eco 60 yachts in around 15 knots of breeze from
the South East. Canada’s Derek Hatfield on Active House was the first to cross the line, with a
strong start that will make-up for his poor start in La Rochelle. He led the five impressive ocean
racing yachts out of Table Bay and into open water where the wind dropped considerably in the
shadow of the mountain. Tactics will now come into play with all five skippers trying to find some
breeze to take them on.
Sprint one winner, Brad Van Liew on Le Pingouin followed Derek over the line, and a smiling
Christophe Bullens on Five Oceans of Smiles Too was third, with this his first start with the
entire fleet obviously meaning a lot to him. Gutek (Zbigniew Gutkowski) and Operon Racing
was next and finally Chris Stanmore-Major aboard Spartan who struggled to get his main sail up
and lost momentum on his way to the start line.
Prior to leaving the dock, ocean sprint one winner Brad Van Liew could not be drawn on his
tactics for the next leg. The 42-year old American has twice competed in the VELUX 5
OCEANS prior to this event, winning class two in the 2002/3 edition of the race.
“I’m just going to go out there, sail my boat and try to stay safe,” said Brad, skipper of Le
Pingouin. “Safety is the key to this leg. I’m very competitive by nature so I will just see what
happens once I’m there. I’m not going to go out all aggressive with a bone in my teeth. I think I’ll
just get stuck into it and let the cycle of the leg do its own thing.”
Canadian ocean racer Derek Hatfield, skipper of Active House, was facing up to the prospect of
Christmas alone at sea. “It will be a bit emotional but I will be able to call in,” the 58-year-old
father of four said. “It’s a special day at home but for me it’s just another day racing. All the days
meld together so when you’re alone at sea there is no real special day. It’s just another race
Howling winds, freezing temperatures and mountainous seas await the skippers as they head
south from Cape Town into the notorious Roaring Forties and Screaming Fifties, named so
because of the sheer force of the winds that are found in those latitudes. The Southern Ocean is the only ocean in the world that is not constricted by land allowing waves and wind to mount
up as they circumnavigate the globe unimpeded.
Run by Clipper Ventures PLC, the VELUX 5 OCEANS started from La Rochelle in France in
October and features five ocean sprints. After heading from La Rochelle to Cape Town, the race
is now headed for Wellington in New Zealand. Following that the race takes in Salvador in Brazil
and Charleston in the US before returning back across the Atlantic to France. The 2010/11
edition of the race is the eighth its 28-year history.
Ocean sprint one results:
1 Brad Van Liew 12 3 15 USA November 14, 28 days, 1 hour, 51 minutes 2 days, 6 hours, six minutes
2 Zbigniew Gutkowski 10 2 12 POL November 17, 31 days, 6 hours, 3 minutes 2 days, 11 hours, 49 minutes
3 Derek Hatfield 9 1 10 CAN November 20, 33 days, 22 hours and 37 minutes 3 days, 0 hours, 17 minutes
4 Chris Stanmore-Major 8 0 8 GBR November 22, 36 days, 0 hours and 44 minutes 3 days, 14 hours, 25 minutes
5 Christophe Bullens 7 0 7 BEL December 6, 49 days, 22 hours and 55 minutes 3 days, 17 hours, 17 inutes
Brad Van Liew:
“The second leg is a tough one to prepare for mentally because it is so different to leg one. This
time round we have to face extreme winds and seas and cold. I’m definitely more apprehensive
than I was at the start in France. This leg is about getting down south and once you’re there
there’s only one way to go. It’s a bit like jumping off a high dive – you’ve just got to commit to it.
It is a daunting leg to get into. I’m just going to go out there, sail my boat and try to stay safe.
Safety is the key to this leg. I’m very competitive by nature so I will just see what happens once
I’m there. I’m not going to go out all aggressive with a bone in my teeth. I think I’ll just get stuck
into it and let the cycle of the leg do its own thing.”
“You never want to be too over-confident with these things because it can be the kiss of bad
luck but the boat is ready and I am ready to leave. The weather is making everyone a bit
nervous and going into the south you can’t underestimate the weather. I have been there twice
and it’s one of those places that if I never went to again I wouldn’t feel too bad! First of all you
don’t want to go there and as soon as you get there you want to get away from it. I feel a bit of
nervousness but I just have to put it to one side and get on with the job and get through the
start. The start is always a nervous time because you have boats romping around on the start
line often in breezy conditions and also each skipper wants to be the first across the line. It’s
important to get across the line cleanly and then settle things down, get into a routine, get round
the Cape and then south of 40 degrees into the westerlies and then high-tail it to Wellington and
be there right after the New Year.
“Leg one was a bit of a trauma for me because I struggled through the first couple of weeks
before I found my stride. I found myself in third place and a little bit behind. I was able to
maintain third place but I’m hoping for better positioning in the next leg. I’m not saying I’m going
to be first or second necessarily but I am hoping to be nearer the front and pushing harder and
be a lot more competitive.
“I don’t feel too bad about spending Christmas away from my family. I have been away for
Christmas before – all these major ocean races seem to involve being away for Christmas. It
will be a bit emotional but I will be able to call in. I know the kids will be with Patianne and their
grandparents and having a good time. It’s a special day at home but for me it’s just another day
racing. All the days meld together so when you’re alone at sea there is no real special day. It’s
just another race day.”
“I’m a little bit nervous about ocean sprint two because of the weather conditions and also the
boat is not yet 100 per cent ready so I am a little bit stressed. The good thing is I know the boat
better now than I did when I left La Rochelle. In that respect the second leg should be easier for
“The big challenge of ocean sprint two is going to be the conditions, the terrain we will be going
through. The Southern Ocean is mountainous; it’s part of the world where the seas can orbit
without stopping. You get huge seas building up, massive winds, and waves that are taller than
the top of the mast. It’s going to be very hard on the boat and very hard on me. We’re going to
get the best the Southern Ocean has got to give. I face it with some trepidation but I have a lot
of confidence in my boat. I think she will be good for it. I am going to take it very gently. You
can’t compete for the overall results if you don’t make it to the finish line. As we came out of
Spain in leg one I was second and I had Brad in my sights. If I can keep my errors down and my
boat in one piece then there’s a chance I can get to the front.”
“For the next leg it’s totally different to the first leg. In comparison, the first leg was easy. The
Southern Ocean is storm conditions nearly all the time. You’ve got to keep the boat in one
piece. Safety comes first, and then the speed of the boat. For sure I will be looking out for Brad
and the other guys and trying to make the best tactical decisions but staying safe is the top
priority. It’s really easy to break something out there and if you do, you’re on your own with no