Velux 5 Oceans leg two podium complete
The podium is now complete for leg two of the Velux 5 Oceans following the arrival of Derek Hatfield in third place.
Polish solo sailor Zbigniew Gutkowski crossed the finish line in Wellington, New Zealand on Sunday after exactly a month at sea to claim second place. The 36-year-old from Gdansk, known as Gutek, arrived less than 24 hours behind leg winner Brad van Liew and Le Pinguoin.
Gutkowski arrived aboard his Eco 60 Operon Racing at 6.27am local time (5.27pm UTC) as the sun rose over the city before berthing in Queens Wharf at around 8.30pm. It brought an end to a gruelling Southern Ocean leg which saw him overcome huge waves and strong winds despite major problems with his autopilot, the electronic system used to steer the boat. During leg two Gutkowski sailed 7,753 nautical miles at an average speed of 10.3 knots.
“I’m really happy to be on dry land, alive and in one piece,” Gutkowski said as he stepped off Operon Racing. “The boat is also in one piece too which is great considering I have spent more than three weeks with major problems with my autopilot. There is a big difference between the Southern Ocean and the Atlantic. The Southern Ocean is no joke. There are monstrous waves and huge gusts – 50 knots is normal. If you make one mistake you could lose your mast or even your life. For the first time in my life I was scared, and I took a real battering in this leg.”
Gutkowski held the lead for a number of days over Christmas before being overtaken by van Liew. A bold tactical decision to sail up the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island saw the Polish skipper make up hundreds of miles on his race rivals.
Among the crowds waiting to welcome Gutkowski to Wellington was his wife Eliza and their 11-year-old daughter Zusanna. Gutek added: “I haven’t seen my daughter since I left La Rochelle back in October and just in two months she has changed so much. Seeing Zusanna and my wife again is an absolute pleasure.”
For second place Gutek is awarded ten points which are added to the points he won for taking second in the first ocean sprint from La Rochelle, France, to Cape Town.
Derek Hatfield cross the finish line aboard Active House at 3pm local time (0200 UTC) today, less than 60 hours behind leg two winner and overall race leader Brad van Liew. The 58-year-old Canadian sailed more than 7,500 nautical miles through the Southern Ocean from Cape Town in South Africa in 32 days and 17 hours.
Hatfield described the leg two of the Velux 5 Oceans as the toughest sailing of his life. After a month at sea the finish couldn’t come soon enough for Hatfield, who was running dangerously low on food supplies onboard Active House. He arrived in Wellington with just two bottles of water left and no more food, having eaten his last freeze-dried meal earlier in the day.
“It’s been a long, difficult and brutal leg and I’m glad to be here,” Hatfield said. “It was just relentless storms, high pressure systems, low pressure systems... It’s good to have it over with. This is my third race around the world and this last leg was the toughest sailing I’ve ever done.”
Hatfield too was reunited on the dock with his children Ben, 2, and Sarah, 6, for the first time since the Velux 5 Oceans started on 17 October. “It’s very special to see the kids again,” he said. “They are growing up all the time. I am going to spend the next few days just relaxing with my family.”
During the second leg, after passing through the safety gate south east of Australia, Hatfield had engaged in a bitter duel with Gutkowski for second place. At one point their two boats were separated by just a few nautical miles. The Pole eventually beat Derek to the finish line by 36 hours after his brave route up the east coast of New Zealand's south island paid off.
“I was a lot more competitive this time,” Derek added. “Gutek and I found ourselves in the same patch of water, it was great to have such close competition. At one point we were getting so close I called him in the middle of a storm just to make sure his radar was on. I made one slip up by tacking too soon about a week ago and that set the scene for the rest of the race with Gutek just beating me by a day.”