American ocean racer Brad Van Liew sailed into Cape Town on Sunday to claim victory in the first ocean sprint of the VELUX 5 OCEANS.
Under clear blue skies and with a fresh south easterly breeze, the 42-year-old from Charleston, South Carolina, blasted across the finish line in Table Bay at 17.51 local time (15.51 UTC) doing 10-12 knots in a 15-knot wind.
Brad, a past winner of the VELUX 5 OCEANS in 2002 and a veteran of two editions of the race, took 28 days, 1 hour and 51 minutes to race from La Rochelle in France to Cape Town. A small fleet of support boats sailed out to meet Brad and his 60ft Eco yacht Le Pingouin in Table Bay and welcome him in to Cape Town as the winner of the first of five ocean sprints that make up the 30,000-mile solo round the world race, known as The Ultimate Solo Challenge. During ocean sprint one Brad sailed 8,003 nautical miles at an average speed of 11.9 knots.
It was a frustrating day for Brad, who was battered by 45-knot winds just early this morning before becoming becalmed just ten nautical miles from the finish line. Finally the wind filled in and Brad crossed the finish line before berthing at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront to the cheers of the watching crowds.
There were emotional scenes on the dock as Brad was reunited on the dockside with his wife Meaghan and two children Tate, 7, and Wyatt, 6. Stepping off Le Pingouin for the first time since leaving La Rochelle on October 17, Brad said: "It feels great to be in Cape Town. Four weeks door to door is pretty good, as good as I could have hoped for. I had a real incentive - Gutek pushed me pretty hard. The weather forced my hand a few times too. I wasn't sure when I left France exactly what my motivations were for doing this race but now I know - I'm having fun
Despite leading the VELUX 5 OCEANS fleet for the majority of the sprint from La Rochelle to Cape Town, it was by no means an easy victory for Brad. He has been chased hard by rival ocean racer Zbigniew 'Gutek' Gutkowski since day one, the 36-year-old Pole constantly challenging for the lead on Operon Racing.
Brad left La Rochelle feeling ill with flu and it was more than a week at sea before he started to feel better. Le Pingouin was then knocked flat just days into the leg while travelling at more than 20 knots when the yacht crash-gybed in strong winds.
However his luck came in crossing the Doldrums, the notorious area of low pressure either side of the Equator which can snare sailors for days, and he crossed relatively quickly. After the Doldrums Brad skirted the coast of Brazil, constantly hounded by Gutek, before taking on the St Helena High, a tricky weather system which sits in the South Atlantic. After making the left turn to Cape Town Brad was becalmed in light winds allowing Gutek to reduce Brad's lead to just 0.2 nautical miles.
But the experienced solo sailor clung on to his lead and finished strongly, putting more than 600 nautical miles on Gutek in the past few days. Gutek is expected to arrive in Cape Town on Wednesday.
For his win Brad is awarded the maximum score of 12 points. He also takes home the first place prize of €24,000.
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