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Velux 5 Oceans skipper Gutkowski closes in

by Velux 5 Oceans on 21 May 2011
Gutek on Operon Racing - Velux 5 Oceans Ainhoa Sanchez/Velux 5 Oceans
Velux 5 Oceans skipper Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski has made up 100 miles in the last couple of days leaving a little over 50 miles separating him from first placed Brad Van Liew in the final ocean sprint.

Despite the problems that have plagued Gutek and still persist on Operon Racing he has clocked the fastest speeds over the last 24 hours.

Having left Charleston SC some seven days ago, the fleet is currently sailing under New Foundland after negotiating a tricky area of high pressure off the Canadian coast. As Gutek explains 'I went up the mast finally, but for the first time not too high – it was too dangerous. So I waited few hours more and climbed up again. It turned out that the mainsail track is ripped out from the mast for a length of like 30 cm. In this place two screws were missing, and the third went out a bit so it was blocking the sail movement up and down. I threw it out as well because it was useless.

'I tried to put the new screws in, but there is no thread yet. The track is bent. I was trying to straighten it with the simplest tool in the world – a hammer. But to repair it properly, it would be best to take down a whole section of the track.'

As for the position he now finds himself in, the competitive Pole is realistic: 'Now my only hope is that I will not need my second reef, because then the head of mainsail stays exactly in the place where the track is ripped off. It’s a pity, because with second reef up, on a strong wind, Operon Racing is really fast, it was my advantage so far.

'I can’t do anything about it – I wasn’t pushing too hard for sure, I think that now Operon Racing has further 30,000 miles under her belt and it’s just wear and tear.'

As all the skippers cope with particularly cold weather and fog, combined with busy shipping traffic, the leg poses many dangerous threats to the solo adventurers. 'It's freezing cold now. It's much colder than it was in the Southern Ocean - the water is warmer there I think. Now the air temperature is one degree Celsius,' said Gutek.

'So the shipping traffic is really intense here. As I look on my AIS receiver I can see that during the last 24 hours six big ships passed like 1 to 1.5 miles away, so really very close. Because of fog I could see none of them. Without a help of radar and AIS sailing through these waters is really dangerous,' he added.

Elsewhere in the fleet third placed Derek Hatfield ignored the call of home despite sailing extremely close to Nova Scotia and has cut his deficit over Chris ‘CSM’ Stanmore-Major to just 2.4 miles at the last position report. CSM has dived down to take a more southerly route than his fellow competitors but the fleet remains tightly packed after one week of intense racing.

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: 2217.7/ 0/ 185.2 / 7.7
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 2253.6 / 35.8 / 176.3 / 7.3
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 2255.9 / 38.2 / 197.5 / 8.2
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 2272.3 / 54.6 / 232.9 / Velux 5 Oceans website
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