Velux 5 Oceans solo skippers enter the final quarter of ocean sprint four with only 1,500 miles remaining.
With around a week left at sea in the sprint to Charleston on the USA’s eastern seaboard, just 288 miles separate the front three boats.
As the fleet pass the Caribbean islands they are entering one of the most tactical sections of the leg as they sail close to the USA’s east coast where they will be affected by fluky winds and localised currents. Clever tactics and precise weather reading will now become more important than ever for the skippers, each of whom has a shot at reaching Charleston first.
Buoyed by his victory in this leg’s timed run, second-placed Derek Hatfield and Active House have been making good progress in the stronger breezes to the east of the racecourse. Quicker still has been Chris Stanmore Major’s Spartan in third position, the fastest boat in the fleet for the past few days.
'My speed has been very good and on every new point of sail I learn new tricks about how to make the boat faster,' CSM said. 'If we can keep the average speeds up there’s still a chance of running right round the outside of the others. The last section of this leg is going to be very tactical, and will be all about sailing hot angles in the light breezes while all the time heading as directly as possible towards the finish. Everyone has a lot to play for right now.'
Instead of going for the timed run bonus points, American ocean racer Brad Van Liew opted for a more westerly course close to the Caribbean islands giving him a more favoured angle of sailing towards Charleston. However the veteran racer, a past winner of class two of the Velux 5 Oceans, has not made the gains he would have liked on his rivals. The advances made by Derek and CSM have clearly troubled Brad, despite his lead over them.
'I do think you are looking at two lucky dogs to my right,' he wrote in his latest blog. 'They both wanted the speed gate points and pushed hard to get them, while I disregarded the speed gate and focused on my positioning to get the best possible weather to reach Charleston first. As it turns out Derek and Chris have had better wind patterns for the last 24 hours, and I believe will continue to have better weather for the next 24 as well. We will see what I get handed, but right now I am not very happy about it.'
Polish skipper Zbnigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski remains in port in Fortaleza, Brazil, to make repairs to his Eco 60 yacht Operon Racing as well as recover from a broken rib. Positions at 0600 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: 1460.2 / 0 / 239.9 / 10
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 1611.8 / 151.6 / 246.8 / 10.3
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 1747.8 / 287.5 / 298.4 / 12.4
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 3205 / 1744.7 / 0 / 0 Velux 5 Oceans website