Friday finish expected for Velux 5 Oceans

As Brad van Liew endures his last storm of the solo round the world race

Tuesday May 24th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

The end may be in sight of the Velux 5 Oceans but overall leader Brad Van Liew and his Eco 60 Le Pingouin has spent the last 24 hours battling a North Atlantic storm.

The 43-year-old American skipper has continued his form in leading the charge across the North Atlantic from his hometown of Charleston in South Carolina to the finish of this leg and the race overall in La Rochelle, France.

At yesterday’s 1800 GMT position report Van Liew had a lead of just over 60 miles on his race rivals. Choosing to seek out stronger winds to up his speeds towards La Rochelle Van Liew positioned Le Pingouin close to the centre of a depression and was rewarded with boat speeds hitting more than 25 knots – but also paid the price for the move, encountering 47-knot winds and giant seas.

“This low pressure area I’m in is quite a barn-burner,” Van Liew reported this morning. “I’ve had up to 47 knots this morning with lots of squalls. The seas have got really gnarly too – not huge but really short and steep. Right now I’m just trying to take care of the boat – I’ve got three reefs in the main and no jib at all. I wanted to stay north to get the stronger breeze but it has got pretty serious.

“I should probably have a storm job up but I don’t think I’m going to have these winds for too much longer, plus I’m sailing pretty deep downwind. Everything is under control and I have made some really good miles over the last few position reports. I’m just trying to keep my promise to Le Pingouin to push hard and do well but not break anything and get her there in one piece.”

With the storm set to ease and the wind direction due to back in the next 12 hours, van Liew only has to hang on a little while longer to escape what will probably be his last big storm of this Velux 5 Oceans.

“This really is the last big weather moment of this race for me and LP,” van Liew said. “The wind is going to start backing soon and I will gybe in about six hours and then start playing northerlies all the way to La Rochelle. At the moment I’m going to be in La Rochelle by midday on the 27 May in a nice mellow NNEerly breeze. That’s the plan at the moment. I’m ready for a break, I’m pretty burnt out. This race has been a fantastic event and the boat has been really special but now I’m tired!”

Despite entering the speed gate yesterday van Liew insisted his main priority is keeping his boat in one piece. “The speed gate for me doesn’t matter too much, there is no reason for me to focus on it now,” he added. “I’m not going to push so hard that I risk doing damage to my boat.”

The speed gate is however a major importance to neck and neck skippers Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkoswki and Derek Hatfield, both currently in 24-hour stealth mode. Tied on points for second place, both will reappear on the racetrack at tonight’s 0000 UTC position report.

Positions at 1200 UTC

Skipper / distance to finish (nm) / distance to leader (nm) / distance covered in last 24 hours (nm) / average speed in last 24 hours (kts)
Brad Van Liew, Le Pingouin: 1082.8 / 0 / 369.1 / 15.4
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: STEALTH MODE
Derek Hatfield, Active House: STEALTH MODE
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 1194.6 / 111.8 / 331.7 / 13.8

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