Skippers are preparing for a classic Southern Ocean battering as a huge storm speeds towards them

The ocean racers can expect winds of more than 40 knots of breeze and giant swells when the low pressure system sweeps through.

Despite enjoying a 200 nautical mile lead on his nearest rivals Zbigniew Gutkowski and Derek Hatfield, it’s been an apprehensive couple of days for sprint leader Brad Van Liew as he prepares his Eco 60 Le Pingouin for the storm, which promises to be a test for both man and boat.

“I’m a little anxious, I want to make sure I take care of the boat,’ the American skipper said this morning. ‘The thing that is a little nerve-wracking is that there are two low pressure systems which are merging. Merging lows can be a lot deeper and intense than what is forecast by the weather models. If it doesn’t bring too much unexpected weather we could get some good fast sailing from it. If it ends up bringing a lot more wind than forecast it could be a lot more dangerous.”

After 20 days at sea Brad and his fellow ocean racers have covered around 5,000 nautical miles but still have more than 2,500 left to sail to the finish line in Wellington, New Zealand. Finding a balance between speed and safety is paramount. With another three sprints remaining after ocean sprint two, the Velux 5 Oceans skippers must first ensure they stay in the race if they are to stand a chance of a podium position. Onboard Le Pingouin that has meant a thorough check of the boat from top to tail as she sails headlong towards the storm at around 12 knots.

“I have spent time going through the boat from front to back,’ said Brad, this morning sailing at 44 degrees south. ‘I’ve gone back into the steering compartment and checked everything is tight. When the sun comes up there are a few more things I want to do. I’ll have the storm jib ready and I will put it up early. It’s obviously a big system and one that’s heading in our direction.”

Ocean sprint two positions at 18h00 UTC (3 January 2011):

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: 2944.4/ 0 / 214.9 / 9
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 3137.8/ 193.1 / 222.3/ 9.3
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 3148.4/ 203.8 / 229/ 9.5
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 3820.8/ 876.1/ 200.3 / 8.3

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