GUTEK TAKES SECOND PLACE IN VELUX 5 OCEANS FIRST LEG
Polish skipper surprises in first solo ocean race
AFTER exactly one month at sea, Polish ocean racer Zbigniew Gutkowski sailed into Cape Town this evening to claim second place in the first ocean sprint of the VELUX 5 OCEANS. The 36-year-old, known as Gutek, crossed the finish line off the South African coast at 10.03pm local time, 31 days, six hours and three minutes after leaving La Rochelle in France.
After a frustrating few days of light winds on the approach to Cape Town, Gutek completed the leg in fresh conditions, a south easterly breeze of between 20 and 25 knots powering him across the finish with the lights of Cape Town illuminated in the background.
Gutek, a former national champion dinghy racer, impressed right from the start of the solo round the world race, leading the VELUX 5 OCEANS fleet across the start line of this first stage and out into the Bay of Biscay. Despite problems with his Eco 60 yacht Operon Racing early on, Gutek kept pace with American rival Brad Van Liew, constantly challenging for first place right until the end of the 7,400-mile leg.
Setting foot on land for the first time since ocean sprint one start day on October 17, Gutek said: “I am so glad to be here. It was a really exciting race. All the time I was so close to Brad – beating him was my motivation. I found out one very important thing on this trip – I can sail solo. I had never done it before, and so before the start I didn’t know if I could do it or not. But now I am confident I can sail solo anywhere.”
Gutek’s finish comes just three days behind Brad, who won the ocean sprint on Sunday evening. The feat is all the more impressive considering Gutek is a newcomer to solo sailing and, at 19 years old, Operon Racing is the oldest boat in the VELUX 5 OCEANS fleet and seven years older than Brad’s Le Pingouin. But she is by no means a slow boat – she was built by French sailing legend Alain Gautier who sailed her to victory in the 1992/3 Vendée Globe.
In the tradition of the VELUX 5 OCEANS, the 42-year-old American was on the dock to welcome in his rival and friend. Gutek was also reunited with his wife Eliza and his shore crew.
Ocean sprint one was something of a baptism of fire for Gutek. Just days into the race Gutek had to climb the mast to repair a broken halyard. Then, just over a week in, Gutek suffered deep cuts to his forehead after being hit by his wind generator. After shaving his hair off he then had to stitch up the wounds.
While chasing Brad through the South Atlantic another halyard broke and Gutek was forced to climb the mast once more, this time in strong winds and huge seas. Just moments after setting his gennaker following the repair the halyard snapped again and the sail was lost over the side of the boat. This all but ended Gutek’s chances of catching Brad.
“I do feel a little bit upset because I lost out many times because of things breaking, mainly the sails,” Gutek added. “When I lost the gennaker just before Cape Town I tried to find conditions that would suit sailing with no gennaker but I couldn’t find them. I lost three, four, maybe five days.”
Canadian skipper Derek Hatfield and British ocean racer Chris Stanmore-Major are due to arrive in Cape Town over the weekend. For the latest ETAs go to the VELUX 5 OCEANS Twitter page www.twitter.com/velux5oceans or the Facebook fan site www.facebook.com/velux5oceans.
Statistics from 12pm UTC position report:
Skipper; distance to finish (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: 693; 176; 6.3
Chris Stanmore-Major: 943.9; 118.6; 4.9
Christophe Bullens: 3,578.2; 124.2; 5.2