Race leader Brad van Liew posts time to beat in the Southern Ocean timed run

Velux 5 Oceans race leader Brad Van Liew has powered though the end of the speed gate in the second sprint of the round the world race. Over the last 24 hours the American has been surfing his Eco 60 yacht Le Pingouin at an average speed of 12 knots, the fastest in the fleet, and hitting top speeds of more than 20 knots as he heads for New Zealand.

Brad passed the longitude 50E on Monday marking the start of the timed run to 75E. The skipper who passes between these two longitudes in the shortest time is awarded three bonus points at the end of the sprint. Brad sailed out of the speed gate at 01:02 UTC on Wednesday 29 December. His passage automatically sets the time to beat, with race rivals Derek Hatfield and Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski chasing hard around 170 nautical miles behind.

“I’m pretty happy with my position at the moment, but as well all know this race is like a chess match, we’re all constantly trying to get one over on our rivals,” Brad said this morning. “It’s been a great boat race so far. Derek, Gutek and I are all still in touch with one another. Derek’s obviously working very hard and is very focused so I am thankful to have a little bit of a lead!” It has now been 13 days since Brad, a veteran of two previous VELUX 5 OCEANS races, kissed goodbye to his wife and kids in Cape Town and set out into the gruelling Southern Ocean bound for Wellington, New Zealand. Back solo racing after an eight-year break, sprint two has been a stark reminder of life in the Southern Ocean.

“The big wind that came through a couple of days ago, 40 knots or so, was a big reminder for me,” he said. “It’s been eight years since I was down in the Southern Ocean and Le Pingouin is a much lighter, much different boat from my previous yachts. To be in that weather was a real reminder that I definitely need to stay focused on the weather, make sure I stay in the 25 to 30 knot area.

“The waves are huge, the air is cold and damp and it all creates a really harsh environment. Conditions can really get dangerous really quickly. It has reminded me that I need to respect the power of ocean and tread lightly, take good care of Le Pingouin and just inch our way along. It’s amazing how you feel like you’re so far off the edge of the planet and so distant from other people. It’s fantastic and a wonderful thing to see and do but it quite intimidating.”

As he heads along the 46th parallel, Brad has also had to contend with freezing conditions and a constant soaking from the icy seas of the Southern Ocean. With more than 4,000 nautical miles still to sail to Wellington, the relative comfort and warmth of the next stopover is still around two weeks’ sailing away.

“I have had to episodes where the boat got fairly damp and I felt like I was never going to get dry again,” he added. “It’s pretty tough without being able to get any respite from the cold and the wet. Constant cold and constant damp has made me really particular about keeping the wet stuff separated from the dry stuff.”

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