by Sarah Hames
Velux 5 Oceans sprint two has been taken by Polish solo sailor Zbigniew Gutkowski in the solo round of the world race. The 36-year-old skipper from Gdansk crossed the finish line in Wellington, New Zealand, on his Eco yacht Operon Racing at 6.27am local time (5.27pm UTC).
Zbigniew ’Gutek’ Gutkowski gets underway, onboard his yacht Operon, for the second leg of the Velux 5 Oceans; Ocean Sprint two from Cape Town to Wellington. - Velux 5 Oceans
In an adrenaline-fuelled race the 36-year-old from Gdansk, known as Gutek, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand, less than 24 hours behind leg winner Brad Van Liew.
Gutek sailed across the finish line on his 60ft Eco 60 yacht Operon Racing at 6.27am local time (5.27pm UTC) as the sun rose over the city before berthing in Queens Wharf at around 8.30pm to the cheers of watching crowds. It brought an end to a gruelling Southern Ocean leg which saw him overcome huge waves and strong winds despite major problems with his autopilot, the electronic system used to steer the boat. During ocean sprint two Gutek sailed 7,753 nautical miles at an average speed of 10.3 knots.
'I’m really happy to be on dry land, alive and in one piece,' Gutek said as he stepped off Operon Racing. 'The boat is also in one piece too which is great considering I have spent more than three weeks with major problems with my autopilot. There is a big difference between the Southern Ocean and the Atlantic. The Southern Ocean is no joke. There are monstrous waves and huge gusts – 50 knots is normal. If you make one mistake you could lose your mast or even your life. For the first time in my life I was scared, and I took a real battering in this leg.'
Ocean sprint two has seen some of the closest racing in the Velux 5 Oceans so far with positions changing frequently as the fleet battled through the huge winds and mountainous seas that characterise the bleak Southern Ocean leg. Gutek held the lead for a number of days over Christmas before being overtaken by Brad. A bold tactical decision to sail up the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island saw Gutek make up hundreds of miles on his race rivals.
Among the crowds waiting to welcome Gutek to Wellington was his wife Eliza and their 11-year-old daughter Zusanna. Gutek added: 'I haven’t seen my daughter since I left La Rochelle back in October and just in two months she has changed so much. Seeing Zusanna and my wife again is an absolute pleasure.'
For second place Gutek is awarded ten points which are added to the points he won for taking second in the first ocean sprint from La Rochelle, France, to Cape Town.
Ocean sprint two positions at 18h00 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: finished January 16, 30 days, nine hours, 49 mins
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: finished January 17, 31 days 8 hours and 27 mins
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 199.3/ 0 / 208.4 / 8.7
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 1072.4/ 873/ 227.8/ 9.5