Contemplating the Horn

Brad van Liew and Le Pingouin continue their Velux 5 Oceans domination

Friday February 18th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

The Velux 5 Oceans boats continue to make good progress through the Southern Ocean bound for Cape Horn. After 13 days at sea they have covered more than 3,000 nautical miles as they head ultimately for Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Out in front by just over 200 nautical miles remains overall race leader and winner of the first two legs, Brad van Liew on Le Pingouin. Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski’s Operon Racing and Derek Hatfield’s Active House are once again locked in battle for second and third positions, just 23 miles separating them at the 1200 GMT position report.

Once again it is turning into a thrilling fight, with Gutkowski ahead but his Canadian rival chipping away each day at his lead. In the 24 hours leading up to midday GMT today, Active House was the fastest boat in the fleet, averaging 12.3 knots, almost half a knot quicker than the Polish boat.

“It’s very comforting to see that we are putting in some fast runs and keeping the numbers high,” Hatfield said. “I’ve taken about eight miles off Gutek’s lead in the last day but no matter how hard I try I can’t seem to pass him. It’s a bit of a cat and mouse thing – he just stays out of reach. One of these days I’ll get by him and hopefully we’ll be able to break into a different weather system.”

After spending 24 hours repairing a rip in the mainsail onboard Spartan, last placed Chris Stanmore-Major is now back up to speed, posting the second fastest average speed – 12.3 knots - in the hour running up to the midday report.

“I’d work for an hour, then have a ten minute rest, then go back on deck for another hour,” the British skipper said. “During the night it was extremely cold and there were a lot of waves breaking over the boat. I was there in my drysuit with my needle and palm just cursing the day I ever decided to sail solo around the world! The repair is looking good though and she’s ready to go back up. We’re ready to go. When the sail goes up there will be a lot of pride onboard Spartan.”

The fleet are expected to round Cape Horn within the next five or six days before starting the short leg up to Punta del Este. Having rounded Cape Horn before as crew on the catamaran Warta-Polpharma in The Race ten years ago, Gutkowski knows how fickle the weather can be there.

“The weather forecast says that for the next few days – I mean until Cape Horn – the conditions are going to be very challenging,” he said. “I can see a lot of no-wind zones where a boat can park for two or three days. So it’s going to be a different sailing and I need to think hard how to get through. Again we have a situation where we can gain a lot or lose a lot. And we can’t go much faster because the swell is really big and surfing with a big sail surface is not a safe game. So we need to find a proper balance between all these factors. Now I am just waiting for Cape Horn, we’ll see what we’ll have there.”

Positions at 1200 GMT:

Skipper / distance to finish (nm) / distance to leader (nm) / distance covered in last 24 hours (nm) / average speed in last 24 hours (kts)

1. Brad Van Liew, Le Pingouin: 2451.4/ 0/ 287.5/12
2. Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 2656.3/205/ 285.8/11.9
3. Derek Hatfield, Active House: 2680/228.6/ 294/12.3
4. Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 2958.3/ 507/ 240.7/ 10

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