It has been a busy 24 hours at the Antigua Yacht Club. At dawn on the fifth day of the RORC Caribbean 600, only three yachts were still at sea vying to complete the course before tonight’s Prizegiving celebrations and all of the class winners are now provisionally decided. The bar at the Antigua Yacht Club has been in full swing, buzzing with stories between the crews and songs in a myriad of different languages.
Team Selene skippered by Benjamin Davitt finished yesterday morning. The Swan 80 sailed an excellent race to claim third place overall and will lift the prestigious Swan Caribbean Challenge Trophy later this evening.
Without doubt, the closest racing for this year’s event was in IRC One. Colin Buffin’s Swan 62, Uxorious IV, was first to finish, but the team did not celebrate a class win. Buffin and his young team knew that Amanda Hartley’s Swan 56, Clem, was extremely close to eclipsing their corrected time. Just over three and half hours passed before Clem crossed the finish line to win the class by just 21 seconds on corrected time. There were ecstatic scenes dockside as the Spanish crew of Clem celebrated their class win. The entire crew of Uxorious IV including Colin Buffin sportingly applauded their rivals. Amanda Hartley spoke of their win.
“‘We had no idea until we crossed the line and turned on our phones which went crazy with people calling in from Spain. By our calculation we thought we had lost out by five minutes. We got stuck at Guadeloupe for four hours and we could only sit and watch Uxorious get away. We are obviously extremely delighted and really appreciate Colin and his team coming over to give us such a lovely welcome back to Antigua.”
Jaime Torres’ Puerto Rican First 40, Smile And Wave, finished shortly after midnight last night to claim third in IRC One.
Scarlet Logic, co-skippered by Ross Applebey and Tim Thubron, finished the RORC Caribbean 600 shortly after 2300 last night. The Oyster 48 has been vying for the overall win for the last two days. In the end Scarlet Logic missed out, but the team had put in an incredible effort and have been rewarded with a convincing win in IRC Two. Scarlet Logic has the best corrected time in IRC One, Two and Three and as a result will be awarded the fantastic prize of a week’s accommodation at the luxurious Inn at English Harbour.
“Fantastic, elated but bloody tired,” admitted Tim Thubron, co-skipper of Scarlet Logic. The weather lined up nicely for us and we were aware that we were in with a chance of beating the big, well funded professional teams and that really spurred us on and made us push even harder. A lot of credit must go to the whole team, especially Ross Applebey. Scarlet was immaculately prepared and we hardly had a single breakage, however we did need to drop the main to replace a sail slide. The job was done and the main back up in eight minutes, that to me says it all.”
There was joy and pain for both IRC Canting Keel and the Class40s. Ernesto Cortina’s Volvo 70 Gran Jotiti finished the race in just over two days. The Spanish team is racing the yacht formerly known as Telefonica Black in the last Volvo Ocean Race. Ernesto spoke about his team shortly after finishing. “This has been a great experience, even though our result was badly affected by a lot of sail damage. Many of the sails are tired from thousands of miles of racing. However, the crew have been a joy to sail with and this race is helping us build for the future. Gran Jotiti’s aim is to create a world class amateur Spanish offshore sailing team and we have learnt a lot through this race.
Ron O’Hanley’s Cookson 50, Privateer, showed exceptional pace and boat handling throughout. Unfortunately the American team failed to start correctly and accepted a 10% penalty from the race organisers resulting in Gran Jotiti being declared winner of IRC Canting Keel.
The Class40s turned into a battle royale between Christophe Coatnoan’s Partouche and Christof Petter’s Vaquita. The two Class40s were locked in a heroic tacking duel for the final push to the finish line, a 40-mile beat from Redonda to the finish in Antigua.
Vaquita crossed the line just after sunset beating Partouche by a slender margin, just 15 minutes in a race lasting over 3 days. However, Vaquita failed to start the race correctly and to the Austrian crew’s disappointment, the class win was awarded to Partouche: “It was a tough race and we had a couple of moments that really slowed us down,” commented Christophe Coatnoan who raced two-handed with Eric Calmard. “We picked up a fishing float after Nevis without realising and we probably lost 8 miles before we knew it was there. Later at Guadeloupe, I had to dive into the water to free Partouche from yet another fishing buoy. The race was an excellent test for our new design especially for our sails as I think we used every one of them during the race.”
Vaquita’s Andreas Hanakamp commented: “Obviously we are disappointed to have been penalised but we were delighted with our performance. Partouche is a brand new Finot design, whilst Vaquita is a 2006 Akilaria. The RORC Caribbean 600 is a testing race course and a very tough race, exactly what we needed to prepare for our main competition of the season, The Atlantic Cup later this year.”
The latest competitor to finish the RORC Caribbean 600 is Bernie Evan-Wong’s Mumm 36, High Tension. Falmouth Harbour exploded with noise as the smallest yacht in the race tied up right outside the Antigua Yacht Club. Thunderous blasts from megayachts, superyachts and foghorns literally shook the dock as the whole of the sailing community in Falmouth heralded the arrival of local hero Bernie and his crew.
“I said we would be here tonight but I always like to be early for appointments,” joked the Antiguan dentist. “It was a hard but satisfying race and the beat from Redonda to the finish seemed to take forever. We could see Antigua but it just didn’t seem to be getting any bigger, however a few miles out a massive rain squall hit and veered the wind favourably for us to speed our way to Antigua. After last year’s dismasting, I think maybe someone was looking out for us!”
Tonight the RORC Caribbean 600 Prizegiving Ceremony will take place at the Antigua Yacht Club. The two yachts still racing are Igor Zaretskiy’s, First 40.7 Coyote II and the RACYC Offshore Racing Team – White Knight’s Spirit of Venus. Both are expected to make tonight’s party, which should be a momentous occasion.
The 4th RORC Caribbean 600, starts at 1100 on Monday 20th February. There isn’t a single hotel room left near Antigua Yacht Club, as competitors fly in to the magical island of Antigua from all four corners of the world – Falmouth Harbour is filled to the brim with astounding yachts.
Niklas Zennström’s JV72, Rán, and George David’s RP90, Rambler, are the hot favourites for the RORC Caribbean Trophy, but the two highly impressive yachts are almost hidden in Falmouth Harbour. Rán were out practicing today and Navigator Steve Hayles reports that conditions were a bit lighter than usual, but he expects 15-20 knots of trade winds for the race with their weather routing predicting that they could finish the race in 48 hours, may be less.
RORC member, Stan Pearson has lived and sailed the sublime waters around Antigua for over 20 years. He was one of the creators of the RORC Caribbean 600 and will be racing this year on Adela, the 181′ twin masted schooner:
“I can’t remember ever seeing Nelson’s Dockyard and Falmouth Harbour with so many impressive yachts but I know why they are here; there is nowhere in the world quite like Antigua and the ’600 is a real celebration of all that the Caribbean has to offer. The sailing is just fantastic; constant trade winds, warm water and air temperature in the high 20′s provides brilliant sailing, but this is a tough race. The course has a lot of corners and there is a lot of activity for the crews. Looking at the fleet, there are going to be some great duels going on, it is going to be a very competitive race.”
For the first time, a Volvo Open 70 will be competing in the RORC Caribbean 600. Some might suggest that the canting keel carbon fibre flyer could have been designed for this course. Ernesto Cortina’s Gran Jotiti has a highly talented Spanish crew and could well be a contender for line honours and an overall win.
IRC Zero has 16 entries and may well be the class to watch for the overall winner. George David’s Rambler 100 is the trophy holder and George David’s all-star crew will not be giving it up without a fight.
With a combined water line length that would soar 500ft above the Eiffel Tower, there are some truly amazing yachts in IRC Zero. The 214′ ketch Hetairos is an impressive sight. The crew of 36 have been out practicing all this week and on board there are enough sails to cover a full size football pitch. Sojana is expected to have a Superyacht duel with 124′ Pernini Navi, P2, owned by businessman and philanthropist, Gerhard Andlinger. Sojana was on mark laying duty today. The only laid mark of the course is the North Sails mark, off Barbuda. No doubt the crew, will be using the exercise to practice the first 45 miles of racing.
In the Spirit of Tradition class Adela will line up against Windrose. This will be the first time these magnificent yachts have raced against each other offshore, however Adela did get the better of Windrose in The Superyacht Challenge inshore regatta. A close battle with these two powerful yachts fully off the leash is a mouth-watering prospect. Past RORC Commodore, Andrew McIrvine and a team of 11 RORC members including current Commodore, Mike Greville, have chartered the 145ft Windrose.
The multihull record for the RORC Caribbean 600 has not been beaten since the inaugural race in 2009. The 63′ Trimaran, Paradox, skippered by Olivier Vigoureux says the six crew on board are out to ‘beat the current record’. The American, French and British crew members have raced in the Figaro Race, Transat Jacques Vabres, America’s Cup and Mini Transat.
Anders Nordquist’s Swan 90, Nefertiti, has an international crew including Rolex Middle Sea Race winner, Christian Ripard from Malta. They should have a close battle with Wendy Schmidt’s Swan 80, Selene, and Irish entry, RP78, Whisper.
There are a huge variety of yachts racing in IRC One, including Hound, skippered by Hound from Maine USA. The 60′ classic will be competing in the Caribbean 600 for the first time with a family crew of avid racers. Hound has competed in the last 8 Newport-Bermuda races, winning her class twice.
Ondeck’s 40.7 Spirit of Venus is chartered to the Royal Armoured Corp Offshore Racing Team. The majority of the 11 strong crew are part of the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank Regiment which returned from Afghanistan last spring.
Lt Col Paul Macro RTR: “Soldiers have to work together as a team, under time pressure, when cold, wet and tired, in difficult and even dangerous conditions. The adventurous team spirit required by a successful offshore racing crew is the same as that required by the crew of a tank or any other armoured vehicle.”
There are four Class40s competing. Close duels are expected right through the fleet, but a hard fought and close encounter is expected in this class. Trade wind sailing provides perfect conditions for Class40s, with long reaches and downwind legs, these pocket rockets are capable of surfing at speeds of up to 25 knots. Class40s from America, Austria, France and Great Britain are taking on the 600 mile Caribbean odyssey; Tim Fetch’s Icarus Racing, Christophe Coatnoan’s Partouche, Andreas Hanakamp’s Vaquita and Peter Harding’s 40 Degrees, co-skippered by Hannah Jenner. The Class40s will be level-racing under their own rules. First to finish will claim the Concise Trophy; a full barrel of English Harbour rum.
IRC Two includes the smallest yacht in the fleet, Bernie Evan-Wong’s Mumm 36, High Tension. Antiguan dentist, Bernie has competed in all four RORC Caribbean 600 races, however last year, High Tension did not finish the race.
“It is definitely a case of unfinished business,” said Bernie. “We have actually used our downfall to modify the rig, so we have made something good out of the incident. Like many Antiguans, I am amazed how this race has developed since 2009, I have been sailing in the Caribbean for over 50 years and what has been really missing is a well-run, exciting offshore race. The RORC Caribbean 600 has provided that and made my dreams come true.”
Polish ocean racer overcomes problems to finish ocean sprint four
HE’S done it! Tenacious Polish solo sailor Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski brought to an end a gruelling 38-day sprint from Punta del Este in Uruguay to Charleston, USA, today as he crossed the finish line of the fourth leg of the VELUX 5 OCEANS.
As the South Carolinian city slept, a small celebration was taking place out in the harbour as the VELUX 5 OCEANS race director’s horn sounded at 0120 local time (0520 UTC) marking the end of an epic sprint for Gutek and his Eco 60 yacht Operon Racing.
Just a few hours later, and over a month since starting the 5,700-nautical mile sprint with the rest of the VELUX 5 OCEANS fleet, the 36-year-old ocean racer docked at Seabreeze Marina, stepping off Operon Racing and onto dry land to rapturous applause from fellow competitors, friends and fans.
“I am very glad to finally be in Charleston,” Gutek said. “Sprint four was a very long leg full of problems. Each leg has had its own challenges for me and this one was no different. It feels very good to be here.”
Ocean sprint four was a huge hurdle for Gutek, who was dogged with problems onboard Operon Racing from early on in the leg. After setting sail from Punta del Este on March 27, Gutek was left with no choice but to turn round and head for Fortaleza, Brazil, when the forestay on Operon Racing broke. At that stage he was already battling a broken alternator and a cracked bowsprit. Gutek was also suffering from broken ribs which he sustained in a nasty fall early on in the sprint. He was
just eight miles across the Equator when he was forced to turn back to Fortaleza. Gutek spent 11 days in port during which he and his shore team carried out repairs to Operon Racing and allowed his broken ribs to heal. Ironically, Gutek had stopped in Fortaleza to make repairs on his first voyage around the world in The Race ten years ago After leaving Fortaleza, and his fellow racers practically uncatchable, Gutek promised to take things easy – but, ever the racer, he made quick progress across the Equator and through theNorth Atlantic, making the 3,300-mile journey from Brazil to Charleston in 13 days at an average of 10.3 knots. It seemed nothing could deter him – not even when his bowsprit broke again, this time parting from the bow completely. Gutek and his team now have ten days to prepare Operon Racing for the finale of the VELUX 5 OCEANS, a 3,600-nautical mile blast through the North Atlantic to La Rochelle, France, where the race started eight months ago. It is set to be a thrilling finish to the race for Gutek, who will go into the leg tied in second place with Derek Hatfield.“Fixing the bowsprit is the number one job now because there will be a lot of downwind sailing in sprint five,” Gutek added. “I have a long list of things to do here but I will fight to the last drop of blood in the final sprint.”
Ocean sprint five starts from Charleston on May 14.
Final statistics for ocean sprint four
Brad Van Liew, Le Pingouin: Finished 19.04.11 in 23 days 4 hours and 58 minutes
Derek Hatfield, Active House: Finished 20.04.11 in 23 days 19 hours and 36 minutes
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: Finished 21.04.11 in 25 days 9 hours and 45 minutes
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: Finished 05.05.11 in 38 days 13 hours and 20 minutes
Canadian skipper will enter final sprint tied on points with Polish race rival
THE stage is set for a thrilling finale to the VELUX 5 OCEANS solo round the world yacht raceafter Canadian ocean racer Derek Hatfield claimed second place in the penultimate sprinttoday.
The result, Derek’s first second-place finish of the event, means he will start the fifth and finalleg of the epic 30,000-mile race tied on points with his race rival Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski,giving him a shot at second place overall. Breakages onboard Gutek’s yacht Operon Racingforced him to pull into the Brazilian port of Fortaleza to make repairs, all but cementing fourth
position for the Pole.
“After the disaster of ocean sprint three when I expected to finish second and ended up fourth I am so pleased to have got this result,” an exhausted but jubilant Derek said as he stepped off Active House for the first time in more than three weeks.
“The VELUX 5 OCEANS is a long race so for the first three legs I was concerned with lookingafter the boat but for sprint four I knew I wanted to step it up. I’m really looking forward to thefinal sprint now. I wish Gutek well and hope he gets to Charleston in fine shape and ready torumble. Chris is also really ramping it up. The last leg is going to be a really great finale to therace.”
Derek steered his 60ft yacht Active House into Charleston, USA, and across the finish line at 0736 EST (1136 UTC) just over 15 hours behind ocean sprint four winner and Charleston resident Brad Van Liew, who sailed into his home port yesterday evening. Throughout the sprint
the 58-year-old veteran solo sailor piled the pressure on Brad and in the final few days of the sprint less than 100 miles separated the pair.
Shortly after crossing the finish line in Charleston Harbor Derek was reunited with his fiancé Patianne who helped bring Active House alongside at the city’s Seabreeze Marina. Waiting for him there were his children Sarah, 6, and Ben, 2, as well as his extended family and a host of ellwishers.
During ocean sprint four Derek sailed Active House just shy of 6,000 nautical miles at anaverage speed of 10.5 knots. He completed the leg in 23 days, 19 hours and 36 minutes.
Third-placed British skipper Chris Stanmore-Major was just 233 miles from the finish line at the1200 UTC position report and is expected in Charleston in less than 24 hours. Gutek is alsoexpected to restart ocean sprint four tomorrow leaving Fortaleza bound for Charleston.
Positions at 1200 UTC
Skipper / distance to finish (nm) / distance to next boat (nm) / distance covered in last 24 hours
(nm) / average speed in last 24 hours (kts)
The challenge began in October, www.velux5oceans.com
Brad Van Liew, Le Pingouin: Finished 19.04.11 in 23 days 4 hours and 58 minutes
Derek Hatfield, Active House: Finished 20.04.11 in 23 days 19 hours and 36 minutes
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 233.2 / 0 / 141.8 / 5.9
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 3205 / 2971.8 / 0 / 0
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
It was Polish ocean racer Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski who took an early lead over his race rivals as the fourth ocean sprint of the VELUX 5 OCEANS got underway from Punta del Este today. The 36-year-old former Polish national dinghy champion snuck across the start line in Operon Racing five seconds in front of fellow competitor and overall race leader Brad Van Liew on Le Pingouin.
In one of the closest starts of the round the world race so far, all four boats blasted across the line in Punta del Este bay within a few minutes of each other. Gutek laid down his intentions for the race ahead rounding the first mark ahead of the fleet but close behind were Le Pingouin, Derek Hatfield’s Active House and Chris Stanmore-Major’s Spartan.
With the sun beating down and a south south-easterly breeze of around 10 knots, conditions were near perfect for the start of the fourth of five ocean sprints which will take the solo sailors 5,700 nautical miles to Charleston on the east coast of the US. Hundreds of people lined the breakwater in Marina Punta del Este to wish farewell to the skippers following a successful stopover in the Uruguayan resort, the fourth time Punta del Este has hosted the race.
A completely different beast to the past two Southern Ocean legs, ocean sprint four will see tactics become more important than ever as the skippers battle their way north through the St Helena High before facing the Doldrums for the second time since the race started in La Rochelle back in October. Once across the Equator the fleet will then pick up the northeasterly trade winds allowing the skippers to take a relatively direct course towards Charleston.
A new addition for ocean sprint four is the option to use ‘stealth mode’, enabling each skipper’s position to be hidden from their rival racers and the public for 24 hours. Skippers will be allowed to enter stealth mode twice during the leg, but not in the first 48 hours of racing or within 500 nautical miles from the finish line. When a skipper enters stealth mode his position on the VELUX 5 OCEANS race viewer will be frozen for 24 hours.
POSITIONS AT 1200 UTC:
Skipper / distance to finish (nm) / distance to leader (nm) / average speed in last 60 minutes (kts)
Brad Van Liew, Le Pingouin: 5335 /0 /14.3
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 5363 / 8.6 / 12.9
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 5368 / 13.4 / 13.1
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 5384 / 29.9 / 11.7
Brad Van Liew:
I wouldn’t say I’m nervous, more anxious. I’m really excited to be getting going on the leg to Charleston. I’ve had a really good couple of days of relaxation just tidying up the boat and working with my guys. I feel really ready and the boat is really ready. Mentally I am in the groove.
I really enjoy the north-south legs in the Atlantic. They’re a really good tactical challenge and I enjoy that. It’s nice to not have icebergs and 70-knot winds on the brain. Hopefully we won’t have any severe tropical weather during the leg. It takes a bit of stress off to be back in the Atlantic.
It will be interesting to see how everyone settles into this leg. It is so different from the last one. The other skippers have been concentrating so hard on improving their speed, and we can see from the results that it really is turning into one hell of a good boat race. I know everyone is excited to get going again.
The friendships we have made during this race are very real but on the water we are rivals. This part of the race becomes very interesting in terms of rivalry!
There is always a bit of apprehension about the start of a leg. You want to get away cleanly without any incidents. We haven’t been sailing in a month now so there is always a bit of pre-start jitters! I’m really looking forward to getting back to sea, turning the corner and getting going. I’m looking forward to seeing my family in Charleston too, it feels like I’m sailing home.
There are four different weather systems for us to navigate on this next leg. We have to make sure we make the best strategy for the next couple of days and read the weather forecasts well. This is the key to keeping the other guys really close. Maybe Brad will have to win this one because he has promised me he will be waiting on the jetty with a ‘welcome Gutek’ flag and a beer. But if I can, I will pass him and I will be the one welcoming Brad home from the jetty!
Last night there were definitely some nerves and emotions but I dealt with that by coming down to the boat, spending the night here and going through the processes just as I would at sea. That really gets my mind fixed. Once we’re on the boats it’s a closed world so I have just been enjoying taking my time walking around Punta and soaking up all the little details. That way when I get to my boat I will be totally focused on the job in hand. I feel very relaxed and ready for the start.
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.”