Velux 5 Oceans - In just over one week the stage will be set for the grand finale of the Velux 5 Oceans as the fleet heads back across the North Atlantic to La Rochelle, the place where their epic adventure began more than eight months ago.
At 1500 local time (1900 UTC) on Saturday May 14 the starting gun will fire and the four skippers will leave Charleston Harbor and begin the final sprint of the 30,000 nautical mile solo round the world race, known as The Ultimate Solo Challenge.
After winning all four legs so far, American Brad Van Liew has amassed an unassailable points lead on his Eco 60 Le Pingouin – but in order to secure victory he must finish the last sprint. However the real battle will be for second place, as Polish ocean racer Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski on Operon Racing and Canadian Derek Hatfield on Active House start the 3,600-mile race to La Rochelle tied on points.
'This next leg will be a hard one for me,' Brad said. 'I have accumulated a lot of points, but I don’t get to collect them until I get to France. I will have to continually remind myself that being in the lead does not equal winning. Gutek and Derek are going to have their own issues to resolve and I don’t want to get involved in that. Winning the last leg and taking a clean sweep would be pretty cool, but equally none of it will matter if I push too hard and don’t make it to the finish.'
After more than two weeks in port following his second-place success in sprint four, Derek said Active House is ready to go and that he is ready for the challenge that lies ahead.
'I’m looking forward to going racing again,' he said. 'I have fixed any issues I had on the boat and double checked everything – I’m quite relaxed but focused. I’m going to ramp it up even further on this next one. It’s going to be a great battle between Gutek and I. We have been close the whole race and I know Gutek will respond to the challenge.'
After podium finishes in sprints three and four, as well as picking up two bonus points in the last leg’s timed run, British skipper Chris Stanmore-Major will also be looking to cause a stir with his yacht Spartan.
'The psychology of this next leg is much different because we know we’re only going to be at sea for about a fortnight instead of a month,' CSM said. 'I know I have the boat speed and I had very few issues on Spartan in the last leg so I feel very prepared. On certain angles I can challenge Brad and I think we have a real chance of a good result. I’m going to be going hell for leather.'
After the changeable conditions that characterised ocean sprint four the skippers will relish in the downwind sailing the prevailing westerly winds will offer. Ocean sprint five could take as little as 12 days to complete in the right conditions.
Final statistics for ocean sprint four
Brad Van Liew, Le Pingouin: Finished 19.04.11 in 23 days 4 hours and 58 minutes
Derek Hatfield, Active House: Finished 20.04.11 in 23 days 19 hours and 36 minutes
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: Finished 21.04.11 in 25 days 9 hours and 45 minutes
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: Finished 05.05.11 in 38 days 13 hours and 20 minutes
Velux 5 Oceans: website