Velux 5 Oceans 72 hours of drama

Gutek and Operon Racing - Velux 5 Oceans
Ainhoa Sanchez/
Velux 5 Oceans fleet continues to race north through the South Atlantic in ocean sprint four.

Over the last 72 hours each of the four solo skippers have had to contend with an array of problems on their Eco 60 yachts, now starting to tire having sailed more than 22,000 miles through the world’s oceans in the last six months.

After falling into the cockpit of Operon Racing while trying to reef his mainsail, Polish skipper Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski feared he might have broken some ribs and was forced to rely on painkillers to carry out even the most menial of tasks onboard. Then, the alternator – responsible for charging the batteries on Operon Racing – broke, leaving Gutek to rely solely on his hydro and wind generators. In a final blow to the Pole’s run of bad luck, the bowsprit on Operon Racing broke, limiting the ability to fly spinnakers.

'I think I have found a solution,' Gutek said this morning. 'I have two spare tillers in case I need temporary steering gear, so I have used them to reinforce the bowsprint and I hope it will hold.'

On Active House, Canadian Derek Hatfield got a scare when he found one of his watertight compartments full with nearly 1,000 litres of water. It was initially thought the leak was due to a crack in the keelbox and Derek informed the race committee of his intention to stop in Brazil to repair the damage, but the problem was later found to be a broken ballast tank line and the decision was taken to continue racing.

British skipper Chris Stanmore-Major reported this morning that he is facing a shortage of water onboard Spartan. To keep weight down on what is predominantly a lightwind leg, CSM chose to only take 20 litres of water in his tanks, however problems arose when he discovered his water maker was broken.

'I now have no water maker and only about ten litres of water left onboard,' he said. 'I have a replacement pump head on the boat which I will try to fix today and get the water maker going again. I’m feeling pretty confident about how things are going, I just need to fix the water maker and grab some miles back.'

In the most bizarre story emerging over the weekend, American ocean racer and Le Pingouin skipper Brad Van Liew was brought to his knees after being hit in the back – by a huge flying fish. A second then ‘flew’ straight into his shoulder, leaving him battered and bruised. 'This entire incident or series of incidents left me in pain and concerned about the boat, but also wishing this was all on tape because it was so unbelievable,' Brad reflected.

Over the past few days Brad, Derek and Chris also opted to go into stealth mode, hiding their positions from their fellow racers and the public for 24 hours. A new addition for sprint four, each skipper is allowed to enter stealth mode twice during the duration of the leg. Due to a technical glitch Derek Hatfield exited stealth mode prematurely at 1200 UTC today and will be allowed to use stealth mode a further two times during the leg.

The fleet have now been at sea just over a week and have sailed more than 1,700 nautical miles up the coast of South America from Punta del Este. Around 4,000 miles of tough sailing still lie ahead of them as they race towards the sprint four finish line in Charleston, USA.

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: 3843.6 / 0 / 179.4 / 7.5
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 3899 / 55.3 / 134.1 / 5.6
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 3938.8 / 95.1 / 152.4 / 6.3
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 3991.3 / 147.7 / 150.9 / 6.3