Indomitable solo sailor Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski has made a break from the leading pack in the second sprint of the Velux 5 Oceans as the finish line draws close. While rivals Brad Van Liew and Derek Hatfield have chosen a more direct course to Wellington along the west coast of the South Island, the gutsy Pole has split to the east, opting to take an unconventional route around the South Island and up the east coast of New Zealand in a last ditch attempt to snatch victory.
It’s a bold and risky move by the second-placed sailor but one that just might pay off if Gutek can take advantage of the strong south westerly winds round the back of the South Island. But in order to beat Brad into port Gutek will have to punch through 40 knot headwinds forecast to develop in the Cook Strait towards the end of the week.
'The plan is to go round the southern side of the South Island so I will be entering Wellington from the Pacific Ocean,' said Gutek, 872 nautical miles from the finish line according to the 00h00 UTC position report. 'Brad is sailing the opposite way and he still has a lead of 300 nautical miles. There is a chance that if I push very hard and make my boat perform to her best, I could maybe fight with him. I am very curious to see what weather Brad will get. Looking at the GRIB files it looks like it will ok for him and for me but as for how it will be for real we'll have to wait and see.'
Gutek’s yacht Operon Racing is, at 19 years old, the oldest boat in the Velux 5 Oceans fleet and is seven years older than Brad Van Liew’s Le Pingouin. After a 7,500 nautical mile dogfight with Brad in the first ocean sprint from La Rochelle to Cape Town Gutek has been a constant threat at the front of the fleet during ocean sprint two from Cape Town to Wellington despite a host of problems including unreliable autopilots. Despite the high-pressure climax to the leg Gutek reported that he was enjoying the sailing as he blasted towards Wellington.
'For the first time on this leg the weather is perfect,' he said. 'There is not a cloud in the sky, and if it wasn’t for the big waves that are being created by a big storm about 100 miles away I would have said I was sailing in the Mediterranean. If we had conditions like this all the time there would be as many sailing boats in the world as cars - it is that perfect.' Ocean sprint two positions at 00h00 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: 508.2/ 0 / 310.5/ 12.9
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 871.9/ 363.7 / 231.7/ 9.7
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 1078.8/ 570.6/ 122.1/ 5.1
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 1842.3/ 1334.1/ 189.9/ 7.9