Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Gutek onboard Operon Racing. Image copyright onEdition.
by Sarah Hames
With two full days at sea now under their belts, the skippers racing in the VELUX 5 OCEANS are finding their rhythm and enjoying the psychological boost of the first major milestone - rounding Cape Finisterre and getting out of the busy shipping lanes.
American, Brad Van Liew, remains in the lead, but Polish ocean racer Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski is hot on his heals with the first four boats separated by just 40 NM. Chris Stanmore-Major’s Spartan, steered a different course to the rest over night, dropping close to the Coruna coastline in search of better wind. The pressure looks set to stay low over the next 48 hours and the skippers will have to take the tactical decision of whether to travel the extra miles out to the Azores in search of better wind or say close to Portugal on a shorter, but potentially windless course.
It is clear that Brad’s enjoying the competitive side of the race: “Gutek is obviously pushing pretty hard but we’re all getting to know each other and you have to just keep sailing and not think about it too much.”
Although he is in the lead, Brad is not having the most easy time of things, he has been unwell since before the start and has managed hardly any sleep since starting on Sunday 17th.
He said: “I have had a couple of 20 minute naps but that’s about it. I can race the boat and I can do all the physical stuff but my head still feels pretty stuffed up and my throat is very sore.”
Brad has had to make repairs to his hydro-generator: “Ironically my super-duper, eco-friendly hydro-generator picked up a trash bag which got wrapped around it and broke the system for holding it down, so I have been trying to find a new way to hold it down.” At least Brad managed to do his bit for the environment: “You’ll be pleased to know I did manage to retrieve the trash bag...”
The battle between Gutek and Brad shows no signs of calming down, and Gutek who’s boat Operon is the oldest of the fleet, and who’s solo offshore sailing is relatively untested compared to Brad, doesn’t intend to give him a moments peace: “I saw Brad not long ago, we were sailing together side by side with about 2 miles distance between. Later on we both got into a no-wind pattern, he managed better with it so he went. His boat is very much faster than mine, so I am glad how I am doing now” said Gutek.
The highly competitive Pole seems relaxed despite also having slept only a little, with his focus squarely on going faster: “I didn’t get my proper rhythm yet. There are too many things around, a big shipping traffic, I have to be very careful. The weather situation also needs constant reconsidering and I don’t want to miss any chance to go faster than now. That’s why I don’t sleep too much, one hour non-stop was my best.” Said Gutek.
Canadian, Derek Hatfield is looking forward to the temperature getting warmer but frustrated with his speed: ” I’m a bit disappointed with my position since the start. I can’t seem to sleep too much, and the wind is so light that you have to concentrate all the time on the weather and keeping the boat going.”
However he recognises that it is still very early on in the sprint to Cape Town: “It’s the start, so everybody is pushing hard and we’ll all settle down into a routine. It’s only day two, which is really hard to believe as it feels like I’ve been at sea for at least five days!”
Meanwhile Belgian Skipper Christophe Bullens has arrived back in La Rochelle aboard Five Oceans of Smiles Too having completed a 48 hour mini-qualification sail, to test his new boat and satisfy the Race Management of his ability to sail it.
“It’s a very good boat. The sails are good and the boat is very fast. I have a few jobs to do and I have to learn her a bit but that will be okay.” He said.
Christophe aims to set off on Friday morning and the fleet of five will continue on their 7,500 NM sprint to Cape Town where they are expected to arrive from mid-November.
The VELUX 5 OCEANS, run by Clipper Ventures PLC, is the longest running solo round the world race, and has 28 years of rich heritage as the BOC Challenge and then the Around Alone. This edition features five ocean sprints over nine months. After leaving from La Rochelle on October 17th the fleet now head to Cape Town, the race will then take in Wellington in New Zealand, Salvador in Brazil and Charleston in the US before returning back across the Atlantic to France.