CHRIS STANMORE-MAJOR TAKES FOURTH IN EPIC SECOND SPRINT OF VELUX 5 OCEANS
BRITISH yachtsman Chris Stanmore-Major today sailed across the finish line of the second sprint of the VELUX 5 OCEANS ending an epic 39-day voyage from Cape Town, South Africa, to Wellington in New Zealand. With the sun still rising, the 33-year-old solo sailor from Cowes, Isle of Wight, crossed the finish line at 7.25am and sailed into Wellington Harbour on his Eco 60 Spartan.
Dozens of people flocked to the dockside at Queens Wharf in the centre of the city to give the fourth and final VELUX 5 OCEANS skipper the welcome he deserved after being at sea for a gruelling 39 days, nine hours and 25 minutes. During ocean sprint two CSM overcame numerous challenges, not only having to battling horrendous Southern Ocean weather conditions but also contending with battery failure onboard Spartan.
Once safely tied up on the dock next to the other three Eco 60s, CSM celebrated his arrival with a glass of champagne and raised a toast to Belgian sailor Christophe Bullens who was forced to pull out of the VELUX 5 OCEANS in Cape Town due to boat breakages.
“I feel fantastic for being here,” CSM said. “The process of getting into Wellington has been so complicated and convoluted that getting here really feels special. It’s been a really tough leg with a lot of challenges but now I am here, it’s a glorious day, the sun is shining and already it’s like all the stuff that has happened in the last week didn’t occur.”
In the later stages of the sprint CSM chose to follow a route close to the coast of Australia through the Bass Strait between the mainland and Tasmania so that if his batteries – and subsequently his autopilots – failed, he could reach land without too much difficulty. Determined not to stop, CSM made a quick passage through the Tasman Sea and into the Cook Strait. But that was where his luck ran out – after several frustrating days becalmed off the northwest tip of New Zealand’s South Island CSM then had to face 45-50 knot headwinds as he tried to punch his way towards Wellington.
“The issues I had with the batteries were a real low point,” CSM added. “It was tough making the decision to head north away from the racing line and though the Bass Strait but it was what I needed to do. The other big challenge was the Cook Strait. I knew I was going to get wind but the weather forecast just kept increasing. It was pretty angry out there. The flipside of that was that the boat performed brilliantly which will ease my nerves for the next leg.”
Ocean sprint two was won by and overall race leader Brad Van Liew from the USA, with Polish skipper Zbigniew Gutkowski taking second and Canadian Derek Hatfield completing the podium in third.
CSM and his fellow racers now have less than two weeks to prepare their Eco 60s for the third ocean sprint which starts on February 6. The third leg sees the fleet head back into the Southern Ocean then around Cape Horn, the most feared of all capes, as they race to Punta del Este in Uruguay.
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: finished January 18, 32 Days 17 Hours
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: finished January 25, 39 days, nine hours 25 mins
TENSION MOUNTING AS VELUX 5 OCEANS SPRINT THREE START LOOMS
The ECO 60s in Wellington - credit Ainhoa Sanchez/VELUX 5 OCEANS
Third leg to Punta del Este starts on Sunday, February 6
THERE is less than one week to go until the start of sprint three of the VELUX 5 OCEANS round the world yacht race. The countdown has begun to the 7,000 nautical mile leg from Wellington, New Zealand, to Punta del Este in Uruguay. In six days the fleet of international ocean racers will blast out of Wellington Harbour on the next stage of their solo adventure around the planet.
Since they finished the gruelling second sprint from Cape Town to Wellington around two weeks, the VELUX 5 OCEANS skippers have hard at work preparing their Eco 60 ocean racing yachts for their next challenge. Ocean sprint three will see the fleet once again take on the mighty Southern Ocean before rounding Cape Horn, the southerly tip of South America and one of the most notorious bodies of water in the world.
Active House skipper Derek Hatfield said: “When I arrived in Wellington the boat was actually in quite good shape. However we are halfway round the world now so the boat is starting to feel the wear and tear. It’s all under control though, we’re feeling pretty good.”
Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski, skipper of Operon Racing, added: “Almost everything on our list of repairs has been done. There are still a few little things left. The sails have come back from the sailmaker and I’m just waiting for an engineer from Raymarine to check my new autopilots and navigation gear. Apart from that Operon Racing is in good shape.”
After the starting gun fires at 2.30pm on Sunday, February 6, the VELUX 5 OCEANS fleet will dip south into the icy latitudes of the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties, passing Nemo Point, the most remote place on the planet. Their biggest challenge will be Cape Horn, where shallow waters, fierce winds and strong currents combine to create huge and dangerous waves which can end a skipper’s race in an instant.
One who knows that better than most is Derek Hatfield, whose yacht was flipped upside down and dismasted rounding Cape Horn in the 2002/3 edition of the VELUX 5 OCEANS. “For me the next leg is the pinnacle of this race,” Derek said. “Cape Horn can be treacherous and I’m hoping for a good safe passage. Until that happens I won’t be able to breathe easy! Once Cape Horn is under my belt I’ll be a lot happier.”
Ocean sprint three starts from Wellington Harbour at 2.30pm on Sunday, February 6.
VELUX 5 OCEANS FLEET FACE TOUGHEST CHALLENGE YET IN OCEAN SPRINT THREE
HOWLING winds and mountainous seas, the most remote place on the entire planet and the infamous Cape Horn – that is what lies in store for the VELUX 5 OCEANS racers during ocean sprint three. The 6,000 nautical mile leg from Wellington, New Zealand, to Punta del Este in Uruguay will see the four ocean racers head deeper into the Southern Ocean than they have been yet.
Along the way the skippers will face waves up to 30 metres tall and winds that will consistently blow between 25 and 40 knots and often more. They will also pass Point Nemo, the most remote spot in the world, more than 2,000 nautical miles from land in every direction. After surviving all the Southern Ocean can throw at them they must round Cape Horn, one of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world, where millions of tonnes of water are forced through a 400-mile wide gap between the South American continent and Antarctica.
Ocean sprint three is arguably the most dangerous leg of the VELUX 5 OCEANS. Numerous sailors have had their races ended trying to pass through this section of the Southern Ocean. Some lost their lives. In the 1990/1 edition of the race South African John Martin hit a submerged iceberg on his approach to Cape Horn and was rescued by fellow countryman Bertie Reed. During the 1994/5 event 70-year-old Briton Harry Mitchell was lost at sea trying to fulfil his dream of rounding Cape Horn.
Current VELUX 5 OCEANS competitor Derek Hatfield survived a dramatic capsize near Cape Horn in the 2002/3 edition of the race. Most recently in the 2007/8 Vendée Globe, Frenchman Jean Le Cam was rescued after his yacht lost its keel and turned upside down near Cape Horn.
After setting sail from Wellington at 2.30pm on Sunday, February 6, the ocean racers will dip south straight away to get into the strong to gale-force westerly winds that characterise the Southern Ocean. Once down there it should be a typical Southern Ocean passage – big following seas and fresh to strong winds pushing them towards Cape Horn.
The Eco 60s will be set up for heavy weather sailing, sails reefed right down, and they will be going fast. These boats are capable of speeds of up to 30 knots surfing down the giant Southern Ocean waves and they could easily travel over 350 nautical miles a day. In good stable surfing conditions the Eco 60s could sit between 15 and 25 knots of boatspeed for hours on end. En route to the Horn they will pass Point Nemo, the most remote point on the planet, thousands of miles from land, civilisation or help.
After making it through the deadly Drake Passage, between Cape Horn and Antarctica, the skippers will feel like they’re nearly home and dry but it won’t be over by any means – the last section of the race will be a different challenge altogether. The racers will then be on the opposite side of South America to the prevailing winds, and that huge land mass with its mountains influences the weather patterns. The last 1,300 nautical miles up to Punta del Este will be characterised by tricky sailing that could see variable winds from constantly changing directions. The skippers will have to work hard right until the very end of the sprint.
Ocean sprint three starts from Wellington Harbour at 2.30pm on Sunday, February 6.
WET AND WILD START FOR VELUX 5 OCEANS SPRINT THREE
IT was a wild, wet and windy start to the third sprint of the VELUX 5 OCEANS solo round the world yacht race today as the four ocean racers blasted out of Wellington Harbour. Grey, drizzly conditions with strong 25 to 30 knot winds greeted the skippers as they set sail on the sprint to Punta del Este Uruguay, the third of five legs that make up The Ultimate Solo Challenge.
Despite the weather, hundreds of people flocked to Queens Wharf in central Wellington to watch the emotional departure ceremony before thousands lined the city’s waterfront for the race start which took place just a few hundred metres from the shore.
As the starting gun fired at 2.30pm local time (0130 UTC) it was American skipper Brad Van Liew, the overall race leader, who was first across the line on Le Pingouin and out towards the first turning mark laid inside the harbour, two nautical miles from the start. But it was Polish ocean racer Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski on Operon Racing who stole a march on the fleet rounding the turning mark first.
After a dramatic run-up to the start, where he had to fix an oil leak onboard Active House, Canadian Derek Hatfield crossed the start line in third place but overtook Brad Van Liew on the way to the first mark. By the time the racers headed out through Barrett Reef and Pencarrow Head and into the Cook Strait, winds had reached 50 knots. By that point Brad and Derek were already locked in battle, at times just a few boatlengths separating the pair. British skipper Chris Stanmore-Major started the race in fourth after problems with the genoa on Spartan meant he could only put up a storm jib.
The 6,000 nautical mile sprint from Wellington to Punta del Este in Uruguay will see the fleet head deeper into the Southern Ocean than they have been yet as they dip down to the latitude 56 degrees south to get round Cape Horn, the southerly tip of South America. Along the way the skippers will face waves that could reach up to 25 metres tall and winds that will consistently blow between 25 and 40 knots - and often more.
They will also pass Point Nemo, the most remote spot in the world, more than 2,000 nautical miles from land in every direction. After surviving all the Southern Ocean can throw at them they must round Cape Horn, one of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world, where millions of tonnes of water are forced through a 400-mile wide gap between the South American continent and Antarctica.
GUTEK HITS SUBMERGED TREE IN FIRST INCIDENT OF VELUX 5 OCEANS SPRINT THREE
POLISH ocean racer Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski suffered the first setback of ocean sprint three today after Operon Racing hit a submerged tree. Just over 24 hours after the start of the leg from Wellington to Punta del Este, the 36-year-old from Gdansk reported hearing a dull bang on the hull of his Eco 60 - and when he checked for damage he found a tree caught on the yacht’s keel.
Gutek was forced to sail backwards to untangle the keel from the tree’s branches. He lost precious miles on his fellow ocean racers but luckily Operon Racing was not damaged in the collision.
“Around three hours before sunrise I hit something,” Gutek told the VELUX 5 OCEANS race team today. “I was sailing with two reefs in my mainsail and the Solent jib. All of a sudden my boat slowed down and I heard a dull bang. I thought it might have been a container that I had hit. I looked all round, checked inside for leaks, but it was all clear.
“I set up a gennaker but Operon Racing was still going very slow. Then the sun rose, so I looked round once more and decided to go upwind and stop the boat. When I stopped I just saw this thing as it came on surface – a big tree or branch, with one part long enough to stick out the stern, so it could have been about 10 metres long. It took me half an hour to sail backwards and get rid of this stuff. It was really so heavy. That’s why I was going so slowly overnight.”
After just over a day at sea American skipper Brad Van Liew has stolen back the lead from race rival Derek Hatfield according to the 0600 UTC position report. Chris Stanmore-Major was just 16 miles behind the leader, with Gutek 20 miles behind Brad.
Ocean sprint three positions at 06h00 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: 5553.9/0/256.5/10.7
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 5562.1/8.1/248.7/10.4
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 5569.5/15.6/241.5/10.1
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 5573.6/19.7/238.2/9.9