Native son Van Liew is back in business with a new mast; Garside is cookin' up a storm

Jet-lagged, bleary, and a tad more confused than usual, this Around Alone correspondent found himself taking in the sights yesterday at Pacific Sail Expo, the impressive in-the-water sailboat show currently underway here on the East Bay. One of the main topics of conversation throughout the day was the status of Around Alone competitor Brad Van Liew, who grew up in San Diego and even named his campaign “California Challenge” before securing a sponsorship deal with Balance Bar Company. People here are proud of what Van Liew – who had never participated in a solo sailing event before Around Alone, but who has sailed a strong, consistent race – has accomplished. And everyone seemed genuinely bummed out that he might be forced to retire due to the dismasting he suffered some 24 hours into Leg 4.

There will be good news on the docks today. Late yesterday, Van Liew’s camp announced that he’d secured the funding to purchase a new aluminum spar from the South American division of Hall Spars, the Bristol, Rhode Island-based mast maker. “I feel incredibly awesome,” Van Liew was quoted as saying. “It feels like the world has picked me up by the scruff of the neck and said, ‘You will not stop here!'” Indeed, Van Liew has had incredible support. Balance Bar Company has pledged to match every dollar he raises. The Conrad Resort and Casino in Punta del Este made a significant contribution. So too did the generous members of the Yacht Club Punta del Este. Marc Thiercelin has donated the mainsail he used on the replacement mast that brought him to Punta from the Falkland Islands. Fellow Class II skippers J.P. Mouligne and Mike Garside have loaned headsails. The list goes on and on and on…

Race Director Mark Schrader has been in on the amazing effort. “The guys at Hall said they can build the mast in 30 hours and they’re already well into it.” he said. “Brad’s team has ordered a crane to come at noon tomorrow. That’s a big deal here, there’s only one! The feeling is the mast will be rigged and ready. Hall Spars plans to put the mast on a ferry that will bring it down the River Plata to Uruguay. Once it’s stepped, Brad plans on doing a test run and if all goes well he could be underway again as early as Saturday.”

With the Punta waterfront in a mild frenzy, the action continued to unfold on the race course. At 0940 GMT today, in Class I Giovanni Soldini held a 62 mile lead over Thiercelin. In Class II, Garside’s advantage over Mouligne had slipped to eight miles. But the frontrunners should be concerned, because each of their antagonists are rolling up from astern on the wings of a new southerly that has not yet reached the leaders. At the early report Thiercelin was making an average speed of 8.4 knots, while Soldini was doing just 4.9 knots. Likewise, Mouligne was cruising at 6.9 knots while Garside was only managing 3.9 knots.

In fact, Mouligne may be charging after Garside for other reasons. Yesterday, he reported that his propane stove had packed up, and he could be facing the prospect of cold food until Charleston. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Garside today sent a COMSAT email that was decidedly single-minded: “It’s unusual for me to enjoy food at sea, but this time it’s been different. [I received] the best piece of barbecued Uruguayan beef and twelve of the freshest eggs I have ever had just as I left. They were out of this world. Steak and fried eggs for breakfast. Delicious. [My] succulent fruit cake and full-bodied French filter coffee are still going strong… Supper was out of this world last night. Piping hot chicken with boiled rice and gravy. And I’m really looking forward to my Tortellini con Proscuitto di Parma e Parmigiano Reggiano tonight, thanks to Giovanni and his team. Bellissima!”