Veteran solo sailor arrives in Cape Town after 33 days alone at sea

CANADIAN solo sailor Derek Hatfield today sailed into Cape Town to take the third podium position in the first ocean sprint of the VELUX 5 OCEANS. Derek’s arrival in the South African city ends a gruelling 33 days at sea for the 57-year-old, the oldest skipper in the VELUX 5 OCEANS fleet.

Derek, who won class three of the 2002/3 edition of the VELUX 5 OCEANS, crossed the finish line at 2.37pm local time in stormy 25 knot winds from the north west and rough seas. During ocean sprint one, the first of five legs that make up the 30,000 nautical mile round the world race, Derek sailed 7,932 nautical miles at an average speed of 9.74 knots in 33 days, 22 hours and 37 minutes.

After crossing the finish line, Derek was reunited with his wife and fellow solo sailor Patianne Verburgh. Patianne joined Derek on his 60ft Eco 60 ocean racing yacht Active House to help bring the boat alongside the dock in front of waiting crowds at the North Wharf. Ocean sprint one winner Brad Van Liew and second placed Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski joined Derek to celebrate his arrival, a tradition of the VELUX 5 OCEANS. Brad arrived in Cape Town six days ahead of Derek last Sunday, while Gutek arrived on Wednesday.

“It’s fantastic to be here,” Derek said as he stepped onto dry land for the first time in over a month. “All those hard times of the last month are going to disappear pretty quickly now! It’s been a good leg though, not my best ever but I am very happy with third. The first two weeks of the race I found very difficult. I really missed the children and I had a hard time getting motivated. I was still getting to know the boat but I think I know her pretty well now and I have some ideas about how to go quicker on the next leg.”

Problems with his autopilot meant Derek could never drop his guard at sea, which made it difficult for him to get much-needed rest. Amazingly Derek did not sleep inside his boat once during ocean sprint one - any sleep Derek could get was on deck just in case something went wrong with the boat’s steering.

Derek also had to sail hard to defend his position against constant attack from British skipper Chris Stanmore-Major, who at one point was just 100 nautical miles behind in fourth place. After a long battle, Chris is expected to arrive in Cape Town on Monday.

For third place Derek is awarded nine points and takes home €12,000 in prize money.

Statistics from 12pm UTC position report: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: finished Nov 14, 28 days, 1 hour, 51 mins Gutek: finished Nov 17, 31 days, 6 hours, 3 mins

Derek Hatfield: finished Nov 20; 33 days, 22 hours and 37 minutes

Chris Stanmore-Major: 468.6; 224.9; 9.4 Christophe Bullens: 3,189.9; 95.8; 4