The Velux 5 Oceans skippers appear desperate to escape current weather conditions

It has been a gruelling start to the second sprint of the VELUX 5 OCEANS with the fleet battling strong currents, unpredictable weather and severe sleep deprivation. After starting from Cape Town on Thursday, the ocean racers have been pushing south into the Southern Ocean in search of the prevailing westerly winds that will propel their yachts towards New Zealand.
But instead of battling against the notorious weather conditions of the Roaring Forties and Screaming Fifties latitudes, the VELUX 5 OCEANS fleet has had to face an unexpected challenge in the form of a massive area of high pressure sitting in between them and the westerly winds they are searching for. The high pressure zone has brought with it squalls, thunderstorms and south easterly winds – uncomfortable conditions for solo ocean racing.

The racers have also had to face the Agulhas Current, a strong-running warm-water river that is constantly pushing them back to Cape Town. After four days at sea Brad Van Liew’s Eco 60 yacht Le Pingouin leads the fleet having just nudged south past Derek Hatfield on Active House.

Despite being out in front, things onboard Le Pingouin are tough, and the constant slamming of his yacht from the huge waves whipped up by winds and current have been making life a misery.
“Without a doubt the toughest part of this leg so far has been the weather,” said Brad, winner of ocean sprint one. “It has just been the worst slamming session I have ever had. Before that it was all I could do to keep the boat moving. It’s really been tough. The weather thing has been an absolute conundrum. Instead of the normal Southern Ocean conditions it’s been more like sailing in the Gulf Stream – puffy white clouds, warm water, violent thunder storms, squalls. The current is anything from one to six knots and changes direction in an instant. I have just been waiting for something on the boat to go bang.”

Derek echoed Brad’s sentiments: “It’s been so tough so far. Everyone is really frustrated about the weather situation – we just can’t get down to the westerlies. We are slowly making our way south but it is brutally difficult to do. I just wish that a low pressure system would come past and sweep the high out of the way but I don’t see anything coming. Overall it’s been a gruelling start to the leg.”
Veteran solo sailor Derek, third placed in the race’s first ocean sprint, was first to cross the line as ocean sprint two started in Cape Town. Although he has just lost his position to Brad there is less than a mile between them.
“Being out in front felt good but then with it was the pressure to stay there,” Derek added. “I’m so tired because I am pushing so hard. I’m really tired and my body aches from all the crashing around the boat is doing. I’ve been catnapping a bit out on deck but I haven’t had a lot of sleep. It’s a real balancing act to push hard but not so hard that you break the boat.”
Positions at 06:00 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: 6470.2/ 0/ 184.7/ 7.7
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 6471.1 / 0.9 / 151.5 / 6.3
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 6503.9 / 33.8 / 177.6 / 7.4
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 6644.2 / 174 / 36 / 1.5
Christophe Bullens, Five Oceans of Smiles too: 6898.5 / 4284 / 0 / 0
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COURSE CHANGE – 20 Dec 2010

Clipper Ventures today announced a change to the route of the present Velux 5 Oceans. The third leg was to have concluded in the Brazilian port of Salvador, however once the Eco 60s have departed Wellington, New Zealand, on 6 February they will be heading for Punta del Este, Urugary. Punta is of course famous for hosting the earliest round the world races, both Whitbreads and the BOC Challenge. It is also to feature in the forthcoming Global Ocean Race for Class 40s.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Chairman of Clipper Ventures and the Velux 5 Oceans, said: “Punta del Este will provide a fantastic stopover for the Velux 5 Oceans. The Uruguayan port has hosted this classic race three times in 1990, 1994 and 1998, and provides the ideal backdrop for the skippers, teams and race partners. While we were not keen to change route mid-race, Salvador was unfortunately not able to fulfil our demands with regards to the obligations to host the race. We therefore felt a change in route was in the best interests of all the race stakeholders.”