Velux 5 Oceans - All to play for in final stretch of sprint three

Velux 5 OceansSkipper Gutek rounds Cape Horn onboard his yacht Operon Racing during Ocean Sprint 3, from Wellington New Zealand to Punta del Este Uruguay.
Zbigniew / Velux 5 Ocean
Velux 5 Oceans and with just over 1,000 nautical miles left to sail to the finish line of ocean sprint three, the race just got even more exciting. After 19 days and 5,000 nautical miles of Southern Ocean sailing including rounding the mighty Cape Horn, the fleet is separated by just 300 nautical miles.

Prayers to the weather gods paid off with all four skippers making it round the notorious landfall safely in good conditions.

'For me Cape Horn was unfinished business,' said Active House skipper Derek Hatfield, whose yacht was pitch-poled and dismasted rounding Cape Horn in the 2002/3 edition of the Velux 5 Oceans. 'That box is now ticked. It is such a weight off my shoulders. It feels fantastic.'

After struggling with keel problems for the past few days, Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski had his spirits lifted when he was visited by a pod of dolphins as he rounded the Cape on Operon Racing just a few hours ahead of Derek. 'It was really amazing and wonderful,' said the Polish skipper. 'I am so happy to have made it round without any more technical issues - I feel like a child!'

Despite rounding the Horn in the middle of the night, British solo sailor Chris Stanmore-Major said nothing could take away the sense of achievement. The skipper of Spartan said: 'We came in to the Drake Passage with 35-40 knots behind us. It was exhilarating. I couldn’t actually see Cape Horn but I could see the lighthouse and I knew it was there, and that makes it just as special.'

With the stress and strain of the rounding behind them, all efforts are now being thrown into reaching the sprint finish line in Punta del Este, Uruguay, as quickly as possible. For the past two weeks it has been all about riding the Southern Ocean ‘freight train’, with strong westerly winds providing classic downwind sailing conditions en route to Cape Horn.

Now into the final stretch of sprint three, it is about to become tactical, with the skippers trying to pick their way through the fluky weather systems rolling down over the Andes. Canadian ocean racer Derek Hatfield has already made his move for second place, cutting inside of Gutek close to the Isla de los Estados, an island to the east of Tierra del Fuego. Derek was this morning leading Gutek by 14 miles.

'There’s not far to go to the finish line but it’s anyone’s game still and we will all be trying to step it up a gear,' Derek said.

British skipper Chris Stanmore-Major coaxed Spartan up to speeds of 26 knots to reel in Derek and Gutek. After spending 36 hours fixing a ripped mainsail in the middle of the Southern Ocean CSM was 300 nautical miles behind his fellow competitors, but at this morning’s 0600 UTC position update CSM was just 69 miles behind Gutek.

'It’s exciting to be back in the action,' CSM said. 'The boat’s flying; everything is going really nicely, I have no technical issues at all. I have learnt where the boost button is on Spartan and I think we’ve got a really good chance of getting on the podium in this leg.'

Despite rounding Cape Horn first and sneaking through the La Maire Strait, Brad Van Liew has seen his 300-mile lead on the pack reduced to less than 200 after being hampered by light winds as he makes his way north up the coast of South America.

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: 1031.8 / 0 / 102.2 / 4.3
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 1231/ 199.2 / 239.4 / 10
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 1245.5 / 213.7 / 196.4 / 8.2
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 1314.7 / 282.9 / 321.8 / 13.4

Velux 5 Oceans