Photos; Ainhoa Sanchez

Van Liew on his home run

Leg four of the Velux 5 Oceans set sail from Punta del Este this Sunday

Tuesday March 22nd 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: Uruguay

Less than a week remains until the start of the fourth leg of the Velux 5 Oceans, 5,700 miles from Punta del Este, Urugary north up the Atlantic to Charleston, South Carolina.

At 1300 local time (1600 GMT) on Sunday the Velux 5 Oceans' four solo sailors will head out of Punta del Este Bay. After a close finished to the last leg, which saw Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski beat Chris Stanmore-Major in the south American stopover by just 40 seconds and all four boats finish within 48 hours of each other, the pressure is now on this penultimate leg.

After spending the past two legs enduring the tough downwind conditions in the Southern Ocean, the skippers will have to adopt a more tactical approach for the lighter, predominantly upwind conditions which they will now face as they head north up the Atlantic.

For Charleston resident Brad Van Liew, overall race leader and winner of all three legs, this next passage holds special meaning. “I have a lot of incentives to get to Charleston first,” the skipper of Le Pingouin said. “My kids are there, my family is there and my home is there. The sooner I get there the longer I get to spend at home. Mentally that is a bit of a liability, and it will be important for me to keep my head straight and not get too excited about sailing home.

“This is one of those legs where if tactically you make a bad decision it could mean you end up being left behind. Equally if you call a good move at the head of the fleet you could break away from the others. We’ve got a really competitive fleet so it’s going to be tough. We’re going to be heading back into chess match mode rather than scrum mode!”

After developing keel problems onboard Operon Racing, Gutkowski and his team have carried out repairs since arriving in Punta del Este. Due to the lack of specialist help in Uruguay, the team has taken the decision to complete the work once in Charleston. After consulting experts including the builders of the keel, it was agreed that the boat is safe to take on the next leg.

“It’s a long leg so anything can happen," said Gutkowski. "Getting it right with the weather is going to be key. If one of the other skippers makes a mistake I will use it as a good opportunity to pass them.”

Buoyed by his impressive performance on the last leg, Britain’s Chris Stanmore-Major is eyeing up another podium into Charleston. “Spartan is good for the fight and I’m keen to get back on the water,” he said. “The target for this leg is to come 40 seconds ahead of Gutek. I’m aware that the best legs for my boat were the Southern Ocean legs but we’ve stripped off as much weight as possible for sprint four. She’s as light as she can be and I have learnt how to sail her in light airs – hopefully that will prove to be a good combination.”

After slipping from second place to fourth in the dying stages of the last leg when his wind instruments died, Canadian Derek Hatfield has vowed to regain the podium positions he won during the first two legs. Also fixed is the engine oil leak that caused so many problems for the veteran racer on his way to Punta.

“The big problem for me was the oil leak in the engine which we sorted in the first week of being here in Punta del Este,” he said. “It wasn’t a huge fix but was just one that had to be done on shore. It’s all fixed now so I will be back up to full speed, pushing hard.

“I know the waters of the North Atlantic very well which will be a real strength. I was disappointed with my performance in the last leg so now I’m going to step it up again. In the last sprint the wheels fell off for me in the last 48 hours. Gutek and Chris managed to both get away from me. I’m really going to go after this one and notch it back up again to the podium.”

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