Velux 5 Oceans - Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski is heading for port after the forestay on his Eco 60 yacht Operon Racing broke. Although the rig is secure, the damage has forced Gutek, who was lying fourth in ocean sprint four, to turn his boat round and head for Fortaleza on the northern coast of Brazil to carry out the vital repairs.
Gutek was this morning around 300 nautical miles from the port, which will take him around 48 hours to cover. He had just sailed into the Northern Hemisphere and was eight miles from the Equator when he sustained the damage around 0400 UTC this morning.
The 36-year-old explained: 'There was a wind change so I went to the bow to drop the gennaker and hoist up the Solent. When I finished my job I was tidying the ropes when I heard a loud bang. It was pitch black but I had a head torch and I saw the sail in the water.
When I made it up on deck I saw a fitting connecting the forestay to the mast was broken. It’s very solid piece of equipment dealing with the strongest forces onboard – there is nothing more solid than a stay fitting.
'The fact that the north trades are quite strong winds means I will not risk going there without a main rigging line stabilising the mast. I need to go to Fortaleza, Brazil to avoid the risk of losing the mast. It was not an easy decision. The main task now is to get my boat safe to Brazil, change the fitting, and then sail to Charleston to make a start to La Rochelle.'
It is a huge blow for the Polish skipper who is currently placed second overall in the Velux 5 Oceans overall rankings. Gutek has been blighted with bad luck onboard Operon Racing since developing keel problems rounding Cape Horn during ocean sprint three.
Unable to carry out a full repair to the keel during the stopover in Punta del Este, Gutek started ocean sprint four strongly but before too long was battling to fix a broken alternator as well as nursing bruised ribs after a nasty fall while reefing the mainsail last week. The bowsprit on Operon Racing, the oldest of the Eco 60s aged 20, then broke and Gutek was forced to carry out a temporary repair by bracing the broken section with his two emergency tillers.
The Velux 5 Oceans race management are in regular contact with Gutek and will continue to monitor his situation. 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: 2833.6/ 0/ 266 / 11.1
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 3007.4 / 173.8 / 216.1 / 9
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 3130 / 296.4 / 230 / 9.6
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 3232.1 / 398.5 / 151.7 / 6.3 www.velux5oceans.com