The Ultimate Solo Challenge takes centre stage at the star-studded Charlie St Cloud UK premiere
There was glitz, glamour and a generous helping of Hollywood stars – and the VELUX 5 OCEANS was at the centre of all the action. Thousands of screaming fans and dozens of press photographers packed London’s Leicester Square this evening for the UK premiere of The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud, starring teen heartthrob Zac Efron and featuring the VELUX 5 OCEANS.
The film is an adaptation of the best-selling Ben Sherwood novel The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud, in which the eponymous hero falls in love with young sailor Tess Carroll days before she is due to go to sea in a challenging solo round the world yacht race. Producers chose to base the film on the 35,000-mile VELUX 5 OCEANS race – the oldest regularly-held ocean race in the world – for its rich heritage spanning 28 years and reputation as one of the toughest sporting challenges known to man. The character of Tess is also loosely based on Emma Richards, the British solo sailor who became the youngest ever female to complete the VELUX 5 OCEANS in 2003 aged 27.
Adoring fans began arriving at Leicester Square in their masses hours early, hoping to find a spot where they might get a glimpse of Hollywood’s leading man of the moment, Zac Efron. The atmosphere was electric as the crowds waited in nervous anticipation for the stars to arrive.
Crowd pleaser Efron arrived to the deafening screams of his admirers and was joined on the red carpet by his British co-star Augustus Prew, who plays Charlie’s best mate Alistair, and director Burr Steers. Efron, who learnt to sail for his role in the film, said: “Initially, it was difficult to learn. There are so many factors that go into it. It’s not just wind blowing into a sail and propelling your boat. It’s incredibly precise. One mistake, one lapse in judgment, and it can very quickly capsize.”
VELUX 5 OCEANS at the Charlie St Cloud premiere in London this evening

Also walking the steps well-trodden by many a Hollywood star as a guest of the VELUX 5 OCEANS was Britain’s leading female solo sailor and ‘real life Tess’ Dee Caffari. In 2006 Dee became the first woman to sail solo non-stop around the world against prevailing winds and tides – and in 2009 she did it again in the opposite direction. Amanda Crew, who plays Tess, paid homage to solo sailors after filming her part.
 “You’re up for four hours, then you sleep for 20 minutes, and you’re up for another four hours,” Crew said. “These are your shifts because if something happens, you don’t want to be dozing when it does.  You’re never getting a full night’s sleep, you’re never eating properly, and you have to stay incredibly fit and strong because you’re manning this 50-foot boat all by yourself. I wondered in amazement how one girl could do this all by herself.”
Fittingly the yacht used in The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud is none other than VELUX 5 OCEANS skipper Brad Van Liew’s old yacht Tommy Hilfiger, believed to be the fasted 50ft boat in the world. Van Liew sailed the yacht, renamed Gryphon Solo, to victory in class two of the 2003 edition of the race, winning every leg. The yacht appears in the film as Tess’ boat The Querencia with the VELUX 5 OCEANS flag flying proudly on the forestay and featured on her sails. The timing couldn’t be better, as American skipper Van Liew is once again returning to the race, which sets out from La Rochelle in France on October 17 this year.
 “It is a real privilege for us that the makers of Charlie St Cloud decided to feature our race in their film,” said VELUX 5 OCEANS Race Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. “The VELUX 5 OCEANS race is known as The Ultimate Solo Challenge for a reason – it really is the pinnacle of what a person can push themselves to do. It is really exciting to be associated with a major Hollywood picture, and we are delighted that it will bring the world of ocean racing to a whole new audience. Maybe in four years time we’ll have a totally new breed of skippers who were inspired to take to the seas after watching this film.”
The VELUX 5 OCEANS, run by Clipper Ventures PLC, starts from La Rochelle in France on October 17 and features five ocean sprints. After heading from La Rochelle to Cape Town, the race will then take in Wellington in New Zealand, Salvador in Brazil and Charleston in the US before returning back across the Atlantic to France.

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