Velux 5 Oceans 2010-11 is the longest single handed event in the world. After nine months the racing has finished.
It was an epic battle full of thrills and spills, highs and lows, drama and action – but like all good things it must come to an end.
The arrivals of solo sailors Derek Hatfield and Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski into the French port of La Rochelle on Sunday marked the end of racing in the 2010-11 edition of the Velux 5 Oceans, following the arrivals of winner Brad Van Liew and Chris Stanmore-Major in the days previously.
It was the eighth edition of the race, which started out life as the BOC Challenge in 1982, making it the world’s longest-running regularly-held race – and what a race it was. Despite a small fleet of just five ocean-going Eco 60 class yachts setting sail from La Rochelle back in October, the 30,000-mile race provided some of the closest and most exciting racing seen in solo sailing in recent times.
Five skippers from five countries spread far and wide took on the race, known as The Ultimate Solo Challenge. They were five totally different personalities, each bringing their own traits to the race, helping to mould it into the great success it was.
From boat breakages to one of the closest ever finish in solo ocean racing history – just 40 seconds separating Gutek and Chris after 7,000 miles at sea – the Velux 5 Oceans had it all. It saw Brad become the first American ever to sail solo around the world three times, as well as the only sailor in the history of the race to win with clean sweeps twice.
Gutek became the first Pole to race solo around the world, and his and Chris’ names were added to the history books as the 182nd and 183rd people ever to sail solo around the world, an exclusive club epitomised by race chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston back in 1969.
It also saw the introduction of the Eco 60 class, premiered in the event as a sustainable vision for solo ocean racing. The Eco 60 class is for Open 60s built before 2003, launched as an affordable and more sustainable alternative to the big budget campaigns that have dominated solo ocean racing in recent years. The class is governed by rules and regulations designed to attract skippers with limited budgets through reduced running costs, as well as encouraging positive environmental practices.
The birth of the Eco 60 class helped the Velux 5 Oceans set a precedent in solo ocean racing – never before have such a high percentage of entries completed the race, with four out of the five skippers making it successfully back to La Rochelle to complete their singlehanded voyages around the world.
Sir Robin said: 'There has never been a singlehanded round the world race where 80 per cent of the boats finished. All the boats are in Europe, none of them broke a mast, none had serious damage – even the fifth boat that was forced to retire is back in Europe, as time was the key factor that forced the withdrawal of Christophe Bullens. This is a record. It says a great deal for the sailors themselves and it says a great deal for the Eco 60 class.
'Brad performed brilliantly and was always the one to beat. The excitement was behind him because the positions were always changing, especially towards the end of the race. It’s been a very exciting race and the last leg was one of the most exciting. These guys have proved they are good sailors, they’re very competitive, and they can get a boat round the world safely. That is the highest praise you can give a sailor.'
The final prize-giving will be held at the Velux House by the Bassin des Chalutiers in La Rochelle on Friday at 6pm local time. There, Brad will be crowned winner of the 2010/11 Velux 5 Oceans, and one last celebration of this edition will be held.
Ocean Sprint 5 finishing times:
Skipper / distance to finish (nm) / distance to next boat (nm) / distance covered in last 24 hours (nm) / average speed in last 24 hours (kts)
Brad Van Liew, Le Pingouin: finished 27.05.11 in 12 days 23hrs and 52 minutes
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: finished 28.05.11 in 13 days 14hrs and 06 minutes
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: finished 28.05.11 in 13 days 18hrs and 07 minutes
Derek Hatfield, Active House: finished 29.05.11 in 14 days 12hrs and 07 minutes