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1 March 2011, 09:23 am
VELUX 5 OCEANS Yachts Neck And Neck As Sprint Three Nears End
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Spartan Is 30 Miles Behind Operon Racing And Active House

VELUX 5 OCEANS 2010-11
Wellington, New Zealand

Derek Hatfield and Zbigniew 'Gutek' Gutkowski are neck and neck in the sprint for the finish line of the third leg of the VELUX 5 OCEANS.
Separated by just a few miles, the race rivals could see each other from their yachts, an incredible achievement given they have been at sea for more than three weeks and have covered more than 6,000 nautical miles through the Southern Ocean.

With Chris Stanmore-Major and Spartan just 30 miles behind them, positions are now up for grabs in what is set to be a thrilling end to the sprint from Wellington, New Zealand via Cape Horn to Punta del Este in Uruguay.

"Gutek has been outside my window for a day now," Active House skipper Hatfield said. "I picked him up yesterday and around noon and watched his lights all night long. I have gained on him and I'm now in second which is fantastic.

"What's more worrying is that Chris is fast approaching from behind. He's got the bit between his teeth and has really found his groove. He's going to give us trouble all the way in and he might even steal second place. The first one who blinks will be left behind! It's going to be exciting right through to the finish."

After problems developed with the keel on Operon Racing several days ago, Gutek has had no choice but to sail with it fully canted to prevent it from moving around. "Tomorrow we'll reach the middle of the high pressure system and we'll have to tack," he said.

"That will be probably the final course for Punta. I would really need a miracle to defend my second or even third position, because the guys are pushing really hard and I can't trim my keel because I need it to be blocked in one position for safety reasons. So, now I am focused on getting my boat safely to Punta del Este in one piece."

With a 300 mile lead on the chasing pack, overall race leader Brad Van Liew is expected to cross the finish line this afternoon local time. But it hasn't been easy going for the American - since rounding Cape Horn he has been battling light winds which have seen Le Pingouin's average daily mileage drop to less than 200 miles.

"It's rather excruciating but I'd rather have that than be having my brains beaten out in gnarly bad weather," Van Liew said. "It's amazing that after so long the fleet is so close. It really has been fantastic racing."
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