American Brad Van Liew wins the first ocean sprint of the Velux 5 Oceans

American ocean racer Brad Van Liew sailed into Cape Town yesterday to claim victory in the first ocean sprint of the Velux 5 Oceans. Under clear blue skies and with a fresh south easterly breeze, the 42-year-old from South Carolina, blasted across the finish line in Table Bay at 17:51 local time (15:51 GMT) at 10-12 knots in a 15-knot wind.

Brad, winner of the Velux 5 Oceans in 2002 and a veteran of two editions of the race, took 28 days, 1 hour and 51 minutes to race from La Rochelle, France to Cape Town. A small fleet of support boats sailed out to meet his 60ft Eco yacht Le Pingouin in Table Bay. During ocean sprint one Brad sailed 8,003 nautical miles at an average speed of 11.9 knots.

Brad said: “It feels great to be in Cape Town. Four weeks door to door is pretty good, as good as I could have hoped for. I had a real incentive – Gutek pushed me pretty hard. The weather forced my hand a few times too. I wasn’t sure when I left France exactly what my motivations were for doing this race but now I know – I’m having fun.”

Despite leading the Velux 5 Oceans fleet for the majority of the sprint, it was by no means an easy victory for Brad. He has been chased hard by rival ocean racer Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski since day one, the 36-year-old Pole constantly challenging for the lead on Operon Racing.

He left La Rochelle feeling ill with flu and it was more than a week at sea before he started to feel better. Plus, Le Pingouin was knocked flat just days into the leg while travelling at more than 20 knots when the yacht crash-gybed in strong winds. However his luck came in crossing the Doldrums, which he crossed relatively quickly.

While skirting the coast of Brazil, he became constantly hounded by Gutek, before taking on the St Helena High – a tricky weather system which sits in the South Atlantic. After making the left turn towards Cape Town Brad was becalmed in light winds allowing Gutek to reduce Brad’s lead to just 0.2 nautical miles.

But the experienced solo sailor clung on to his lead and finished strongly, putting more than 600 nautical miles on Gutek in the past few days. Gutek is expected to arrive in Cape Town on Wednesday.

For his win Brad is awarded the maximum score of 12 points. He also takes home the first place prize of €24,000.

Positions, Sunday 14 November 18:00 UTC:
(Skipper; distance to finish (nm); distance covered in last 24 hours (nm); average speed in last 24 hours (kts))

Brad Van Liew: Finished Sprint 1 – 28 days 1 hour 41 mins
Gutek: 627.5; 255.8; 10.7
Derek Hatfield: 1203.4; 276.4; 11.5
Chris Stanmore-Major: 1408.7; 260.5; 10.9
Christophe Bullens: 3840.9; 217.1; 9