Close racing at front of fleet in Southern Ocean drag race

TENACIOUS solo sailor Christophe Bullens is set to restart sprint two of the VELUX 5 OCEANS after making yet more repairs to his yacht Five Oceans of Smiles too. It will be the third time the determined Belgian has set sail from Cape Town to start the 7,000 nautical mile sprint across the Southern Ocean to Wellington in New Zealand.

After a catalogue of problems in sprint one, Christophe had less than two weeks to prepare Five Oceans of Smiles too before ocean sprint two start day on December 16. Following a monumental effort to get his boat ready Christophe set sail with the rest of the fleet but was forced to turn round just over 24 hours into the leg with electrical problems.

Several days later the 49-year-old restarted the race but was again hit with technical problems, a broken mast track leaving him with little option other than to return to Cape Town once more. Showing an impressive and unfaltering resolve to fight on, Christophe is now expected to leave Cape Town in the early hours of Saturday, just over two weeks behind the rest of the fleet. He is around 3,000 nautical miles behind race leader Brad Van Liew.

Meanwhile Christophe’s fellow ocean racers have been experiencing their toughest challenge to date. The intrepid skippers have faced mountainous waves, howling winds and freezing temperatures as they battle through the mighty Southern Ocean. Reports of winds of more than 50 knots, waves as high as 10 metres and boat speeds in excess of 20 knots have characterised the sprint so far. 

Racing remains tight at the front of the fleet, with the leading trio separated by just 120 nautical miles, and it is set to become even more interesting. Less than 2 nautical miles separate Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski, racing on Operon Racing and Derek Hatfield onboard Active House, and they are both closing on Brad Van Liew after the American got caught in light winds, recently posting speeds as low as 1.5 knots in Le Pingouin. In the last 24 hours they have sliced 50 nautical miles off Brad’s lead.

Brad, Derek and Gutek have all now passed through the speed gate between longitudes 50E and 75E. Chris Stanmore-Major is set to enter the gate today. The skipper who passes between these two longitudes in the shortest time is awarded three bonus points at the end of the sprint.

Ocean sprint two positions at 06h00 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: 4092.4/ 0 / 139.2 / 5.8

Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 4187.3 / 94.9 / 244.5/ 10.2

Derek Hatfield, Active House: 4189.2 / 96.8 / 228,4 / 9.5

Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 4799.1 / 706.7/ 218.8 / 9.1

Christophe Bullens, Five Oceans of Smiles too: 6898.5 / 2806.1 / NA / NA