Wednesday, 20 April 2011
American ocean racer sails home to Charleston victorious
Brad Van Liew wins Sprint Four into Charleston. Image copyright Ainhoa Sanchez/onEdition.
by Sarah Hames
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.