Thursday, 7 April 2011
Tight racing in ocean sprint four as Canadian ocean racer Derek Hatfield battles through strong winds
VELUX 5 OCEANS fleet in light winds. Image copyright Ainhoa Sanchez/onEdition.
by Sarah Hames
THE VELUX 5 OCEANS ocean racers today entered a frustrating weather window of variable and light headwinds which has brought an end to four frantic days of fast reaching sailing and which has seen the average speeds drop dramatically across the fleet. Active House skipper Derek Hatfield yesterday reported testing headwinds of more than 30 knots as he punched his way north up the coast of Brazil. The Canadian solo sailor tackled a low pressure system sitting off Rio de Janeiro, four days since leaving Punta del Este in Uruguay on the start of ocean sprint four.
“It was pretty nasty, lots of wind as we transitioned through this weather system,” Derek said. “It was pretty full. I had gusts of 29 or 30 knots almost on the nose. The last couple of days had been fantastic days sailing so we were due this. The reason for the weather is a low pressure system sitting off Rio de Janeiro. It’s actually quite stationary so it’s just a case of getting through it and into the tradewinds on the other side.”
The fleet have also had to deal with increasing air and water temperatures as they get closer to the Equator. After the freezing temperatures of the Southern Ocean, the outside heat is welcome when on deck – but down below inside the cabin on an Eco 60 life can quickly become uncomfortable.
“It’s overcast but very hot here,” Derek added. “The water temperature is 30 degrees. Inside the boat is humid, and on deck it’s really wet, so it’s foul weather gear for outside then nothing on when you’re inside – it’s a lot of work.”
Following his fourth-placed finish in ocean sprint three, Derek vowed to up the pace as the VELUX 5 OCEANS enters its penultimate leg, a 5,700-mile race to Charleston on the east coast of the USA. So far Derek has clung on to Brad’s Le Pingouin, and the 1200 position report even put him in first place, 8 miles ahead of British ocean racer Chris Stanmore-Major, one of the few skippers in the fleet who has been able to cover more than 200 miles in the last 24 hours.
Race leader Brad Van Liew has seen him classed in third place in relation to Charleston, officially 10 miles behind Derek, although his actual racing position should see him effectively continuing to lead the fleet as they round the bulge of the Brazilian coastline. With Gutek now only 59 miles behind Derek, the racing is tight across the fleet, and the light airs should mean that tactics and navigation will be key to entering the tradewinds in a strong position.
“I wasn’t happy with my fourth-place finish in the last leg so I really want to step up the pace in sprint four,” he said. “I’m going to push harder and hopefully it will turn out better. So far it’s going really well, the boat is going great and all is ok onboard. We’re still in the early stages but I’m happy with my position so far.”
Positions at 1200 UTC 1 Apilr 2011
Skipper / distance to finish (nm) / distance to leader (nm) / distance covered in last 24 hours (nm) / average speed in last 24 hours (kts)
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 4568/ 0/ 181.2 / 7.6
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 4576 / 8 / 223.6 / 9.3
Brad Van Liew, Le Pingouin: 4578.1 / 10 / 141.9 / 5.9
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 4627.4 / 59.4 / 182.7 / 7.6