BASURKO left Bilbao with the rest of the fleet on 22 October 2006, and has experienced numerous challenges over the 12,000 miles separating the Spanish Basque Country from Fremantle in Western Australia. The skipper, who is undertaking his first competitive solo circumnavigation, designed and built a new Open 60 in Australia in 2005 and has had to carefully control the boat through harsh storms, damage and difficult weather patterns.
Speaking as he stepped onto land, BASURKO concluded, 'It was a very hard leg and very long, but the important thing is I am here in Australia. I have already nearly circumnavigated the globe as the boat was built here in Australia. I am very happy and very proud now. The last few miles into Fremantle were hard. We had a lot of problems with the autopilot and the rudder. I sailed the last 5,000 miles with the port rudder up so I had to find a balance with the boat and it was very tricky. Not many days left until the next leg but my team is here and I need to rest and there is a lot of work to do. But the rest of the boat is alright so I think we can sail the next leg in good conditions.'
BASURKO was forced to stop twice in his native Spain before heading down into the Atlantic. After the fleet left Bilbao on 22 October, the Basque skipper was forced to return home after sustaining heavy sail damage during the vicious storm that ripped through the Bay of Biscay. The hurricane-style conditions, unforeseen by any of the teams or race organizers, left a wake of destruction through the majority of the fleet. Five days later, Pakea set off again but was soon back on land as BASURKO pulled into Vigo to make repairs and adjustments to the yacht's autopilots, earning another 48 hour time penalty for receiving outside assistance.
Despite these setbacks, BASURKO set off after the leaders and chasing pack, but suffered from less favourable weather conditions. In the Southern Atlantic, Pakea then developed damage to the port rudder which affected the boat's speed and efficiency. BASURKO sailed close to the Cape of Good Hope but decided not to pull into Cape Town to repair the rudder, instead continuing through the Southern Ocean towards Western Australia. Stronger winds allowed Pakea to catch up to Graham DALTON (NZL), but in the end the Basque skipper was beaten to the finish line.
The fifth position is an important result for BASURKO. The first leg of the VELUX 5 OCEANS has delivered some incredible stories of drama and high octane action. Two of the pre-race favourites were forced to retire as Hugo Boss sank after British skipper Alex THOMSON abandoned ship in the icy conditions of the Southern Ocean. After being heroically rescued by fellow competitor Mike GOLDING (GBR), Ecover was struck by its own bad luck as her mast broke in two places and limped into Cape Town, where GOLDING took the difficult decision not to continue in a race that had already beaten him once in the past.
To finish a solo ocean leg as tough as the first leg of the VELUX 5 OCEANS is an amazing accomplishment, especially given the challenges and problems faced by the skippers. BASURKO will now focus on preparing Pakea for the gruelling second leg, a longer run that will take the brave sailors into the deepest parts of the Southern Ocean, around Cape Horn and up to Norfolk (Virginia). The fleet will set off from Fremantle on 14 January.
BASURKO has taken on the role of 'local hero' for the VELUX 5 OCEANS host start-finish city of Bilbao, and is acutely aware of the Basque region's tradition and history of seafaring. The first man to sail around the world, Juan Sebastian ELCANO, was from the Basque region. In the 1990-91 edition of the VELUX 5 OCEANS, BASURKO's emotional connection with solo sailing magnified as he watched local hero Jose Luis UGARTE and Australian skipper, Kanga BIRTLES, race each other round the planet.
The first leg of the VELUX 5 OCEANS started on 22 October from Bilbao, Spain. Six international skippers crossed the start line in the Bay of Biscay bound for Fremantle, Western Australia. The leg is expected to take approximately six weeks with the first boat arriving in Australia around the first week in December.
The VELUX 5 OCEANS is the longest race for any individual in any sport. Over the first few days, the fleet will make their way along the northern coast of Spain to Cape Finistère where they will turn south towards the Southern Ocean. However, all of the skippers know that this race is a marathon and not a sprint. During the 30,000 miles sailed in the VELUX 5 OCEANS race, the yachts will encounter some of the most extreme sea and weather conditions on the planet.
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