The Velux 5 Oceans skippers Brad Van Liew and Le Pingouin are finding times are tough. Regardless of their 50-mile lead over the nearest rival they are finding life at the front of the fleet has been anything but easy.
As the 43-year-old American battles through the unpredictable weather systems of the South Atlantic he has had to contend with continuously changing wind speeds and directions, searing heat and lack of sleep as he pushes hard to escape the clutches of his fellow ocean racers.
'It’s been pretty difficult over the last 24 hours - a very hard day with no sleep,' Brad said this morning. 'One minute you have a ton of breeze, the next minute you don’t have any. The wind direction has been weird and it’s actually been pretty rough. It’s been a challenge for sure. I’ve been getting little catnaps here and there, but no real sleep. It’s pretty tiring right now.'
The four-strong fleet are now in their sixth day at sea acing in ocean sprint four, the penultimate leg of the 30,000-mile solo round the world race. Up until yesterday they were making good miles since leaving Punta del Este in Uruguay but then the typical South Atlantic weather conditions struck, bringing fickle light airs and erratic squalls.
Even for the man out in front it has been a challenge, having to constantly look ahead at what lies in store but also behind at his race rivals, all the time reacting to whatever Mother Nature decides to throw his way.
'I’ve been trying to get a breakaway but it’s just not happening,' Brad said. 'You can really put some ground in if you can make a little bit off each weather transition as you move north. Before you know it you can get really good separation, but it hasn’t really worked out how I wanted. The weather has been so abnormal – a lot different from what we expected.'
Aside from the wind another factor hampering the ocean racers is the air temperature and humidity.
'There’s nothing you can do but sweat,' Brad added. 'I’m already getting skin rashes. If you put your foul weather gear on to go on deck you get hot and sweaty so I’m often tempted to not bother, but it’s really wet on deck so you get soaked. Either way you end up wet. The boat is sweating down below, everything is already damp and stinky. Living down below is pretty uncomfortable.'
Then there is the constant threat from the other three Velux 5 Oceans skippers, each one capable of and determined to steal first place from Brad.
'I have been pushing really really hard, right on the edge of control. Derek has been unbelievable this leg, a man on a mission. I’d like to have a bit more of a break on the other guys but on the other hand it’s cool that Derek is right up here with me.' 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: 4338.5 / 0 / 226.1 / 9.4
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 4386.9 / 48.4 / 152.4 / 6.3
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 4402 / 63.5 / 192.7 / 8
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 4442.9 / 104.3/ 130.8 / 5.5 Event website