Brad van Liew through speed gate

Velux 5 Oceans leader sets benchmark time

Wednesday December 29th 2010, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Velux 5 Oceans race leader Brad Van Liew has powered though the end of the speed gate in the second leg of the round the world yacht race. Over the last 24 hours his Le Pingouin has been surfing along at an average of 12 knots, the fastest in the fleet, hitting top speeds of more than 20 knots.

Van Liew passed the longitude 50°E on Monday marking the start of the timed run to 75°E. The skipper who passes between these two longitudes in the shortest time is awarded three bonus points at the end of the leg. Van Liew sailed out of the speed gate at 01:02 GMT on Wednesday 29 December after two days of high-octane Southern Ocean sailing. His passage automatically sets the time to beat, with race rivals Derek Hatfield and Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski chasing hard around 170 nautical miles behind.

“I’m pretty happy with my position at the moment, but as well all know this race is like a chess match, we’re all constantly trying to get one over on our rivals,” van Liew said this morning. “It’s been a great boat race so far. Derek, Gutek and I are all still in touch with one another. Derek’s obviously working very hard and is very focused so I am thankful to have a little bit of a lead!”

It has now been 13 days since van Liew, a veteran of two previous Velux 5 Oceans, kissed goodbye to his wife and kids in Cape Town and set out into the Southern Ocean bound for Wellington, New Zealand. Back solo racing after an eight-year break, leg two has been a stark reminder of life in the Southern Ocean.

“The big wind that came through a couple of days ago, 40 knots or so, was a big reminder for me,” van Liew reported. “It’s been eight years since I was down in the Southern Ocean and Le Pingouin is a much lighter, much different boat from my previous yachts. To be in that weather was a real reminder that I definitely need to stay focused on the weather, make sure I stay in the 25 to 30 knot area.

“The waves are huge, the air is cold and damp and it all creates a really harsh environment. Conditions can really get dangerous really quickly. It has reminded me that I need to respect the power of ocean and tread lightly, take good care of Le Pingouin and just inch our way along. It’s amazing how you feel like you’re so far off the edge of the planet and so distant from other people. It’s fantastic and a wonderful thing to see and do but it quite intimidating.”

As he heads along the 46th parallel, van Liew has also had to contend with freezing conditions and a constant soaking from the icy seas of the Southern Ocean. With more than 4,000 nautical miles still to sail to Wellington, the relative comfort and warmth of the next stopover is still around two weeks’ sailing away.

“I have had to episodes where the boat got fairly damp and I felt like I was never going to get dry again,” he added. “It’s pretty tough without being able to get any respite from the cold and the wet. Constant cold and constant damp has made me really particular about keeping the wet stuff separated from the dry stuff.”

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