Velux 5 Oceans, sprint four from Punta del Este, Uruguay to Charleston, USA.
In stark contrast to the grey, cold and wet Southern Ocean environment of the previous two sprints, the fleet has been relishing champagne sailing conditions after two days at sea.
The fleet have made good progress, blessed with bright sunshine, calm seas and a steady breeze since leaving Punta del Este on Sunday on the penultimate leg of The Ultimate Solo Challenge.
Having led the fleet for several hours following the start, British skipper Chris Stanmore-Major has dropped back to fourth place today 42 miles behind Brad after choosing a slightly more westerly course closer to land. However, in the 60 minutes prior to the last position report CSM’s Spartan was the quickest boat in the fleet, averaging 13.6 knots.
At the 1200 UTC position report just 40 miles separate the four skippers as they made their way north close to the coast of Brazil, bound for Charleston in South Carolina. American ocean racer and overall race leader Brad Van Liew was today out in front in Le Pingouin, with Canada’s Derek Hatfield chasing hard just ten miles behind. Operon Racing’s Polish skipper Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski, first over the start line, was today 40 miles behind Brad.
'It’s been a brilliant sail so far and an absolute revelation after the Southern Ocean which was dark, dreary and cold,' CSM told the Velux 5 Oceans race team today. 'In the last 24 hours it has been flat waters, a decent breeze and I’m really enjoying it. I’m just settling back down into life on the boat, going over a few things that have come up, and really enjoying being back at sea. I’m very much looking forward to more of this as we head north.
'The boats are very closely packed at the moment and I think we’re going to see a lot of changing back and forward of positions. We have had very stable conditions since leaving Punta. I tacked at the top mark and haven’t had to alter my course much since then. It’s about to get a lot more tactical as we get into the lighter breezes off Cabo Frio and then the Doldrums. Brad has built up a little bit of a lead but it’s no major concern right now. It will still be another 24 or 48 hours before I feel I am properly back in the saddle but there is a long way ahead of us yet so I’m not too concerned.'
The 5,700 nautical mile sprint to Charleston will see tactics become more important than ever as the skippers battle their way north through the St Helena High before facing the Doldrums for the second time since the race started in La Rochelle back in October. Once across the Equator the fleet will then pick up the north easterly tradewinds allowing the skippers to take a relatively direct course towards Charleston. 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: 5053.2/ 0/ 301.8 / 12.6
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 5063.5 / 10.3 / 300.1 / 12.5
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 5093.7 / 40.5 / 291.3 / 12.1
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 5095.5 / 42.3 / 272.9 / 11.4
Brad Van Liew leads overall after three ocean sprints. http://www.velux5oceans.com