Photos: Ainhoa Sanchez

Brit Velux 5 Oceans finisher

Chris Stanmore-Major and Spartan reach Cape Town

Tuesday November 23rd 2010, Author: James Boyd, Location: South Africa

British skipper Chris Stanmore-Major today became the fourth skipper to complete opening leg of the Velux 5 Oceans. After 36 days and 44 minutes at sea, the 33-year-old from Cowes, Isle of Wight, crossed the finish line in Cape Town, South Africa, at 4.44pm local time.

Chris Stanmore-Major, known by his nickname CSM, sailed 7,849 nautical miles aboard his Eco 60 Spartan at an average speed of 9.08 knots on on the leg from La Rochelle - a major accomplishment for the skipper who is a newcomer to singlehanded ocean racing.

“I’m pretty jubilant to be here,” said Stanmore-Major arriving at the North Wharf at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront where he was welcomed in by his fellow skippers Brad Van Liew, Zbigniew Gutkowski and Derek Hatfield. “Sailing 7,800 nautical miles on your own in the first leg of the Velux 5 Oceans is a pretty big challenge and it’s one I’ve now completed. There have been some challenges but we – me and Spartan – have made our way through them. I knew it was going to be a learning curve and it was.

“I made lots of mistakes but I managed to come back from them and continue on. It’s been hugely challenging but the boat’s lasted pretty well. I think she can be quicker but I’ve got to be a bit smarter. I’m just very pleased to be in.”

Stanmore-Major joined the Velux 5 Oceans line up less than two months after completing the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. His first foray into solo ocean racing was a baptism of fire which began moments after the starting gun on October 17, minor breakages on Spartan hampering his start.

After shooting up through the rankings into second place behind American race leader Brad Van Liew as he crossed the Bay of Biscay, Stanmore-Major chose to hug the coast of Portugal and paid the price when he was becalmed for several days, allowing Polish ocean racer Gutek and Canadian rival Derek Hatfield to slip past.

Then, a week after the start, the fitting holding the spinnaker to the front of Spartan shattered and the giant sail flew up in the air, attached only by one rope at the top of the 28-metre high mast. It was the second time the fitting had broken in two days and it caused substantial damage to Spartan. Recovering the sail from the water took Stanmore-Major several exhausting hours.

After passing the Equator he turned his attentions to hunting down third placed Derek Hatfield, and at one point was just 100 nautical miles behind. It was a close fight right until the end of the leg, with Hatfield arriving in Cape Town just over 48 hours ahead of him.

“The prospect of hot food is a nice one,” said Stanmore-Major on his arrival. “My gas stove stopped working a week ago so I haven’t had hot food for seven days – I’ve been warming things up on the engine! Beer is tasting good right now too so I’m looking forward to having another one, a steak, a salad and some chill-out time.”

He also had a few unexpected visits from nature during the ocean sprint. While crossing the Doldrums Spartan sailed through a cloud of insects some of which stayed with the boat for most of the following 4,000 nautical miles to Cape Town. Then, a few days before finishing the leg, a whale burst out of the water showering Spartan in a plume of spray.

At midday UTC, Belgian ocean racer Christophe Bullens had 2,833 nautical miles left to sail.

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