Velux 5 Oceans skippers have spent almost almost three weeks at sea during the third ocean sprint, and they are now firmly on the home straight towards Punta del Este.
The toughest part of the 6000 nautical mile leg may now be over, however there is no time to relax as changeable winds will make the next day or so crucial for the final standings and the battle for positions at the back of the fleet couldn’t be tighter.
Race leader, Brad Van Liew, passed Cape Horn in perfect conditions on Monday the twenty-first, but has endured light winds since turning up into the Atlantic. Although it allowed him time ‘to get some jobs done’ at first, it has led to a somewhat frustrating week for him, especially as the rest of the pack is making good progress.
'At first the quiet was welcome and I tended to many boat a personal chores that had been neglected' he said, 'Now I have cleaned, eaten and slept I want my thirteen knot averages back!'
Brad’s speeds on Le Pingouin are slowly climbing and in the hour before the 12h00 UTC position reports he averaged ten point eight knots. As long as he maintains the speeds and stays between his chasers and Punta del Este it appears that he will win ocean sprint three as he has done the first two legs of the race, billed as ‘the Ultimate Solo Challenge’.
Behind Brad, the situation is far from resolved. Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski and Derek Hatfield have been enjoying some good sailing conditions, and at 12h00 UTC only 28 nautical miles separated them.
Gutek and Operon Racing has had a week of highs and lows, having reported a worrying noise coming from his keel earlier in the week, which could have seriously jeopardized his race he then made a euphoric rounding of Cape Horn on Wednesday and since then he seems to have found a way to stabilize the issue:
'Now I have my boat heeled a lot because I noticed it's a very good position for my keel. When it's almost horizontal, the three point five tons of lead at its end make such a big lever that the keel can't move. Only when it's straight down it knocks again' he said, 'It's not very comfortable configuration for the boat, because I can feel she's tired. It's not so fast either, but I am satisfied with this solution. '
For Derek on Active House Cape Horn held huge significance, not just as a major achievement in this race, but also to lay to rest the ghost of races past. In the 2002-2003 edition of the Velux 5 Oceans Derek had a serious incident and pitch-poled and dis-masted whilst rounding Cape Horn. He could hardly contain his joy and relief at having got round safely on Wednesday, shortly after Gutek.
'For me Cape Horn was unfinished business, and that box is now ticked. It is such a weight off my shoulders. For the whole leg it’s all that any of us have been thinking about. I feel like I really lucked out, I couldn’t have asked for a better day to round Cape Horn' he said.
Onboard Spartan, Chris Stanmore-Major (CSM) has done an amazing job to make up the distance he lost on Derek and Gutek during his mainsail difficulties. At one stage last week he was almost 600 nautical miles behind Brad, but at today’s 12h00 UTC reports he’d closed that gap to just 222 nautical miles and the gap between him and Derek is a mere forty-four nautical miles.
As for what the weather may hold over the next few crucial days, from tomorrow there is a wave of disturbance form the Magellan Strait together with a low pressure bubble from Argentinean pampas; It will give a strong wind current from the South that will be favorable mainly for Gutek, Derek and CSM if he stays with them.
Velux 5 Oceans - Ainhoa Sanchez/w-w-i.com
Brad will probably have a close reach and a little less wind. Gutek and Derek should have a broad reach, also weakening but potentially lasting until the finish line. The conditions could easily see the second, third and fourth skippers finish within twenty-four hours of each other, and will make for an exciting close to the sprint, whatever happens. Skipper / distance to finish (nm) / distance to leader (nm) / distance covered in last Twenty-four hours (nm) / average speed in last Twenty-four hours (kts)
Brad Van Liew, Le Pingouin: 857.1 / 0 / 143.2 / 6
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 1007.1 / 150 / 140.9 / 5.9
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 1035.5 / 178.4 / 206.1 / 8.6
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 1079.4 / 222.3 / 186 / 7.7 Velux 5 Oceans