Velux 5 Oceans Polish skipper Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski finished the race at at 1507 local time (1307 UTC) earning him second place overall. The Operon skipper has now made it into the record books as the very first Polish skipper to race single-handed around the world.
Gutkowski ended up taking the third place spot in ocean sprint five from Charleston to La Rochelle, arriving only four hours behind second placed Chris Stanmore-Major. He ended up accumulating just enough points to beat his nearest rival Derek Hatfield.
'I still can’t believe it’s real,' Gutek said as he stepped onto the dock. 'I am tired, but if I had to make my decision again, I would go for it again. I am very happy – I just sailed round the world on my own! I knew my boat would not be the fastest one in the fleet but I was surprised at how well she could do.'
The 36-year-old displayed incredible skill and seamanship throughout the race, overcoming a catalogue of disasters including two serious injuries and major boat damage. During the first leg from La Rochelle to Cape Town, Gutek suffered a nasty cut to his head after being hit by the wind generator on the stern of Operon Racing and was forced to perform surgery on the wound.
Gutek secures his 2nd place overall, on the final leg of the Velux 5 Oceans, Ocean Sprint 5 arriving into La Rochelle, France today. - Ainhoa Sanchez/Velux 5 Oceans
He was to take another blow to the body during ocean sprint four when he fell from the cockpit of Operon Racing breaking two ribs. The injury required him to stop in Fortaleza for ten days to recover.
Although it was Gutek’s first circumnavigation, for his 20-year-old yacht Operon Racing it was the third time completing a successful trip around the world having been sailed to glory by Alain Gautier in the 1992 Vendée Globe as Bagages Superior and to fourth place in the 1996 Vendée as Eric Dumont’s Café Legal.
Operon Racing’s age took its toll on Gutek’s campaign, with breakages hindering his attempt to snatch the top spot from overall winner Brad Van Liew.
During the first leg Gutek had to climb the mast three times to replace broken halyards, while on leg two he spent three weeks battling autopilot problems which starved him of rest.
Rounding Cape Horn Operon Racing developed keel problems after a composite part surrounding the keel pins shattered. Despite the setbacks Gutek held it together to beat race rival CSM into Punta del Este by just 40 seconds.
As well as dealing with broken ribs during ocean sprint four, Gutek also had to contend with a broken alternator as well as a bowsprit that snapped twice during the leg.
Keel problems resurfaced during the final 300 miles of the final sprint when one of the rams which operate the canting keel broke after the fleet was pummeled by heavy seas. Gutek used his emergency tillers plus a heavy duty strap to create a temporary fix and continued to push right until the end of the race.
Born in Gdansk, Poland, the father of one Gutek comes from a national dingy-racing background and has also completed one circumnavigation of the world in a crewed boat in 'The Race' in 2000. During ocean sprint five Gutek sailed 3,894 miles from Charleston in South Carolina to La Rochelle in 13 days, 18 hours and seven minutes at an average speed of 11.8 knots. Positions at 1200 UTC
Skipper / distance to finish (nm) / distance to next boat (nm) / distance covered in last 24 hours (nm) / average speed in last 24 hours (kts)
Brad Van Liew, Le Pingouin: finished 27.05.11
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: finished 28.05.11 - 0906 UTC
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: finished 28.05.11 – 1307 UTC
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 124.6 / NA / 188.7 / 7.9
Gutek secures his 2nd place overall, on the final leg of the Velux 5 Oceans,Ocean Sprint 5, arriving into La Rochelle, France today. - Ainhoa Sanchez/Velux 5 Oceans