Velux 5 Oceans Polish skipper Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski has had a difficult start to ocean sprint 5 which left Charleston SC for La Rochelle, France on Saturday.
At around 130 miles behind race leader Brad Van Liew already Gutek’s latest interview reveals that he has been battling with a catalogue of issues, some of which still need to be resolved before he can get back on the pace.
On Saturday night Gutek’s position meant he hit some bad weather that the rest of the fleet avoided. 'The thunderstorm made me slower; the worst thing was that the wind was constantly changing its direction so the sea was very confused. Anyway – I am through it now. The other guys went closer to the shore and that turned out to be better decision' he said.
Another of Guteks’s problems was his boat speed, Operon Racing was moving far slower than he would have expected, and the reason turned out to be some old fishing nets. 'I caught fishing nets on my keel – there was no vibration, nothing; I just noticed that the boat is slower with no particular reason. So I took my Go Pro camera (the small waterproof one that all the skippers have) and put it through the emergency hatch down below – and then saw on my computer that I have a huge fishing net around my keel. I’m not sure how long I was going like that – probably all night and half a day, what made me some 50% slower. It was an old net, submerged, but not sinking because of the last flotation device it had' he said.
Unfortunately his plan to free the net was thwarted by a couple of large visitors…Gutek explained: 'I was considering diving but saw two killer whales playing around, so gave up this idea. Finally I was sailing backwards so long that I got rid of this stuff.'
As if this wasn’t enough, Gutek also has some problems with his mainsail and needs to climb the mast. 'Now I am sailing with one reef on my main but the conditions allow me to go faster. One of the cars on my mainsail track is blocked, so I can’t put up more sail nor reduce it further. Now I have a big swell, so can’t risk climbing up the mast. I did it once in similar conditions but I don’t want to repeat this experience. Hopefully a high pressure system is coming with sort of calm, so I will go up as soon as possible'
With Derek Hatfield and Gutek currently tied on points, and less than 3000 miles of the race left, Gutek will need to remedy his difficulties as soon as possible if he is to get back in the fight for second place on the podium. 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: 2729.4 / 0 / 307.7 / 12.8
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 2753.8 / 24.4 / 306.2 / 12.8
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 2809.3 / 79.8 / 308.2 / 12.8
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 2862.3 / 132.9 / 275.2 / 11.5 Velux 5 Oceans website