Brad Van Liew has won the fifth and final stage of the Velux 5 Oceans Race, logging a perfect score for the round-the-world event aboard his Eco 60 Le Pingouin. The finish in La Rochelle, France, marks the end of Van Liew’s third solo circumnavigation and the second time he has swept the field in the Around Alone/Velux 5 Oceans series, solidifying his place as America’s most accomplished solo ocean racer.
"I feel the exuberance and joy of winning an incredible race and experiencing the unforgettable journey of sailing around the world alone," Van Liew says. "There is just nothing else in the world like it. The challenges are unique and can be dangerous and invigorating at the same time. It is a test of the soul and involves reaching deep to overcome physical and mental challenges I have seen nowhere else in sport or life."
The Velux 5 Oceans started from La Rochelle last October, and included five separate ocean stages: from La Rochelle to Cape Town, South Africa; from Cape Town to Wellington, New Zealand; from Wellington to Punta del Este, Uruguay; from Uruguay to Van Liew’s home town of Charleston, South Carolina; and then from Charleston back to La Rochelle.
Taking second overall in the four-boat fleet was Polish skipper Zbigniew “Gutek” Gutkowski aboard Operon Racing, making him the first Pole to race solo around the world. In third place overall was Canadian Derek Hatfield aboard Active House, following by British sailor Chris Stanmore-Major aboard Spartan.
Although the race featured a smaller fleet than was hoped for, it was not lacking in drama, including the smallest delta in solo ocean racing history when Gutowski edged out Stanmore by an incredible 40 seconds at the end of the 6,700-mile leg from New Zealand to Uruguay.