American ocean racer now on home straight to Punta del Este
by Sarah Hames
VELUX 5 OCEANS skipper Brad Van Liew has sailed into the history books rounding the iconic Cape Horn solo for a third time. The 43-year-old veteran ocean racer is the only American ever to race round the notorious landmark singlehanded three times.
Brad was the first of the VELUX 5 OCEANS skippers to round the Horn after setting sail from Wellington, New Zealand, on February 6 bound for Punta del Este in Uruguay. The current leg frontrunner and overall race leader is now heading out of the Southern Ocean for the first time in almost three months. Brad has around 1,300 nautical miles to sail through the South Atlantic to Punta.
Feared and respected by sailors for its extreme weather conditions, Cape Horn lived up to its reputation battering Brad and his Eco 60 Le Pingouin with huge seas and storm-force winds. But as Brad approached the famous landmark at around 2230 UTC last night the wind dropped and seas abated, providing him with a perfect view of Cape Horn.
“It’s been a lot of years since I was down here last and it was really a very special moment,” Brad told the VELUX 5 OCEANS team. “It was pretty emotional. I’m going to remember it forever. It’s a very small band of people who have been round Cape Horn solo three times and I am very proud to be one of them, it’s a remarkable feeling.”
“The run up to Cape Horn was a really tough one with really dangerous waves and a lot more wind than was anticipated,” he added. “It was supposed to be blowing 30 knots but I had 50. As I came up on to the shelf the waves were unbelievable. I stuck the bow into the back of a few waves really quite bad. On two different occasions the boat actually tipped up on its nose and the rudders came out of the water. It was a reminder of how unforgiving this place is.”
Numerous solo ocean racers have had their races ended trying to pass through this section of the Southern Ocean. Some lost their lives. In the 1990/1 edition of the VELUX 5 OCEANS South African John Martin hit a submerged iceberg on his approach to Cape Horn and was rescued by fellow countryman Bertie Reed. During the 1994/5 event, 70-year-old Briton Harry Mitchell was lost at sea trying to fulfil his dream of rounding Cape Horn. Four years later, French yachtswoman Isabelle Autissier was rescued by fellow competitor Giovanni Soldini just west of Cape Horn after her yacht was capsized.
In 1998 Brad himself was smashed by hurricane-force winds and seas over 20 metres high as he approached Cape Horn. Current VELUX 5 OCEANS competitor Derek Hatfield survived a dramatic capsize near Cape Horn in the 2002/3 edition of the race. Most recently in the 2007/8 Vendée Globe, Frenchman Jean Le Cam was rescued after his yacht lost its keel and turned upside down near Cape Horn.
“It is a huge relief to be round Cape Horn safely without incident,” Brad. “It’s now set to get really light and I am going to park up but I will worry about that later. Right now I’m just enjoying the moment.”
Second-placed Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski was this morning only 345 nautical miles from Cape Horn.
Ocean sprint three positions at 06h00 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: 1251.9 / 0 / 239.6 / 10
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 1649.5 / 397.5 / 240.7 / 10
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 1720.1 / 468.2 / 288.9 / 12
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 1893.8 / 641.9 / 292.4 / 12.2