Sunday, 1 May 2011

VELUX5OCEANS: Gutek Passes Major Milestone in Passage to Charleston

Gutek's Operon Racing. Image copyright Ainhoa Sanchez/onEdition.

by Sarah Hames

VELUX 5 OCEANS racer Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski has passed the halfway mark of his passage from Fortaleza in Brazil to Charleston, USA.

The Polish solo skipper was forced to pull into Fortaleza during ocean sprint four of the VELUX 5 OCEANS with severe damage to his Eco 60 yacht Operon Racing including a broken forestay and bowsprit. The 36-year-old was also nursing broken ribs following a fall early on in the 5,700-mile leg from Punta del Este in Uruguay.

Gutek set sail again last Thursday following an 11-day stint in port during which he carried out repairs to Operon Racing and allowed his broken ribs to heal. After a week at sea he has covered more than 1,600 nautical miles across the Equator and north through the Doldrums. Gutek is currently passing the Caribbean islands.

“Now I am halfway between Fortaleza and Charleston and making good progress,” Gutek said. “The wind is good and will stay like this for the next 24 hours, and up to 48 hours. Later on the big news will be the low pressure system forming over Florida. I can’t say how I will play it, but I think I will go more to the left side than right. If everything stays OK, I will be in Charleston in five to seven days.”

A fierce competitor who has finished second in each of the three previous sprints, Gutek admitted he is finding it hard to throttle back as he pushes north alone.

“It’s not easy for me to sail in a cruising mode,” he said. “Most of the time I am lying on my main bunk at the navigation table, trying to read or write. I don’t need to study tactics in detail or download weather forecasts every 3 hours as I usually do. It would be nice to sail with friends, but I am alone sailing from point A to point B. Not much fun.

“I am currently sailing on a little gennaker and the main on the first or second reef, depending on the wind. Boatspeed has been around 12 knots but I also had 24 knots today. If I was racing I would have more sails up, but now I don’t want to have too much physical exercise. Luckily the trade winds are quite stable and powerful.”

Positions at 1200 UTC, 29th April 2011
Skipper / distance to finish (nm) / distance to next boat (nm) / distance covered in last 24 hours (nm) / average speed in last 24 hours (kts)

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: 1590/ 0 / 284.1 / 11.8