On October 17, Brad Van Liew will return to the sport of solo sail racing after an eight-year break as the only American in a fleet of five boats sailing the VELUX 5 Oceans race around the world. While over 500 people have been shot into space, Van Liew is one of less than 180 that have sailed around the globe solo. Of those who have a circumnavigation under their belt, only 73 skippers have completed the VELUX 5 Oceans race since it’s founding in 1984. This could be Van Liew’s third.
The 30,000–mile race is being broken down into five high-pressure ocean sprints. Van Liew will streak south down the coast of Africa after setting sail at the start line in La Rouchelle, France to arrive in Cape Town. After any necessary repairs and resupply, Le Pingouin will then point southwest, crossing the roaring forties to arrive in Wellington, New Zealand. From there the race continues round Cape Horn to Salvador, Brazil, then up the Atlantic for a brief reunion in Van Liew’s hometown of Charleston, USA before the transatlantic finish back in La Rouchelle.
The rest of the field is made up of British born Chris Stanmore-Major sailing Spartan. Belgian Christophe Bullens acquired his boat Artech just days before the start after his original boat Five Oceans of Smiles was dismasted on the way to the start. Poland’s Zbigniew Gutkowski will be rounding the globe on Operon Racing, and Canadian Derek Hatfield will get underway on the Spirit of Canada.
In an effort to make the race both affordable and environmentally friendly, the VELUX 5 Ocean race has embraced the Eco 60 racing yacht class. Strict regulations require racers to use Open 60 class yachts built before 2003, refitted according to the race rules designed to limit expenses and encourage positive environmental practices. With the recent purchase and outfit of Le Pingouin, Van Liew’s Eco 60 race yacht has been equipped with cutting edge energy solutions that will harness the power of the wind and water to power the many electronics onboard.
In his two previous solo circumnavigations, Van Liew took third place as an unknown entrant in the 1998-98 Around Alone race (the precursor to the current Velux 5 Oceans race) and went on to finish first in 2002-03. During his second Around Alone, Van Liew both broke a world record by covering 345 miles in one day aboard his 50-foot monohull, and crossed the finish line 21 days before the second place finisher. This is his first global race in a 60-footer.
“The competition in this race will be as intense as anything I have faced before,” Van Liew said. “Some have asked me about the number of entries and suggested that fewer boats might equal less intense competition. Not so. The racers that are here in La Rochelle appear 100 percent committed and the talent runs deep.”
For more on Van Liew and the Velux 5 Oceans race, click here.