IT has been a full-on week for the skippers of the VELUX 5 OCEANS as the countdown to race day continues. Four of the solo round the world race’s six ocean sailors have now gathered in the beautiful French port of La Rochelle, the home of the VELUX 5 OCEANS, ahead of start day on October 17.
The Eco 60 yachts sailed by Brad Van Liew, Derek Hatfield, Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski and Chris Stanmore-Major are already a spectacle, sitting side by side on the VELUX 5 OCEANS pontoons in the Bassin des Chalutiers in the heart of La Rochelle’s historic Vieux Port.
With the pressure of their qualifying passages behind them, there was no time to waste as the ocean racers and their small but dedicated teams set about working through their jobs lists. Skippers had to juggle work to their yachts along with official obligations set down by the race management. The process of scrutineering, whereby a yacht is checked over rigorously to make sure it complies with the race rules, began.
Skippers took part in a hands-on medical training course organised by Medical Support Offshore, the VELUX 5 OCEANS team doctors. Marine Camera Solutions also began installing a series of state-of-the-art cameras onboard the yachts, as well as satellite broadband units.
American ocean racer Brad Van Liew, the first skipper to arrive in La Rochelle, has spent eight days working on his Eco 60 Le Pingouin with his team. “The boat will definitely be ready,” he said. “We had a problem with rudder bearings so had to lift the boat out of the water. We’re juggling that with getting measured by the race organisers and getting back in the water. There’s a lot of logistics.”
Brad, who has competed twice before in the race, winning the 2002/3 edition, added: “It’s all going to work out good. We’ve got the sails off and the guys in the sail loft are working at night on those and at day on the boat. The boat will be ready and I will be ready.”
Canadian Derek Hatfield arrived in the early hours of Sunday morning with Active House and immediately hit the ground running. “As soon as we arrived on Sunday we took everything off the boat ready for scrutineering and the testing for the Eco 60 class,” he said. “That’s all done now so we’re very happy with that. We’re starting to put the boat back together now, the new sails arrive at the end of next week and everything’s going really well. We’re quite relaxed. My plan is to have everything done by the end of next week and then the final week will be spent sail testing and loading the boat with food.”
Britain’s Chris Stanmore-Major on his yacht Spartan arrived on Wednesday evening, 12 hours after Gutek’s Globe pulled into the Bassin des Chalutiers. Christophe Bullens set sail for La Rochelle from Belgium this morning while Garry Golding is currently conducting final tests to the rig of Oz before making the short trip across the English Channel from Gosport.
After several days of work, the VELUX 5 OCEANS race village is starting to take shape. Located on Esplanade Eric Tabarly, the race village has been constructed with the VELUX House, an eco-friendly show home which is title sponsor VELUX Group’s vision for sustainable housing, at its centre. The race village will feature stands from local exhibitors from the La Rochelle region, an official merchandising shop, restaurant, grinding competition, a VELUX tent as well as an interactive display from the VELUX 5 OCEANS’ transportation partner Maersk Line. The race village will be officially opened by the ocean racers at 10am on October 9.
The VELUX 5 OCEANS, run by Clipper Ventures PLC, is the longest running solo round the world race, and has 28 years of rich heritage as the BOC Challenge and then the Around Alone. This edition features five ocean sprints over nine months. 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. The VELUX 5 OCEANS will start at 4pm on October 17 from La Rochelle.

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