The pair have been locked in a bitter duel for second place for the majority of the 30,000-mile solo round the world race since it began in La Rochelle last October. In an exciting twist both opted to enter stealth mode – which cloaks their positions from each other and the public for 24 hours – at 0000 UTC yesterday right as they entered the sprint five speed gate, each making their move for glory under the cover of invisibility.
When they appeared on the course again this morning it couldn’t have looked any different. Active House skipper Derek chose to sail fast and straight, and is now the most southerly boat on the race course. Onboard Operon Racing Gutek decided to split from Derek opting for a northerly position for the final few days of racing.
With both skippers tied on overall points, the outcome of the final sprint will decide which of the two skippers claims the second place on the podium behind outright leader Brad Van Liew. With a maximum of three bonus points on offer this leg for the quickest passage between longitudes 35° W and 20° W, the speed gate could prove the deciding factor in the overall podium positions.
“Now it’s going to be a real race to the finish,” Derek told the VELUX 5 OCEANS race team today. “We’re moving along really well. We’re all still in the speed gate and very close to one another. I think Gutek has a bit of an advantage now because of his angle to the wind but we will keep pushing hard and just see how it goes.
“I have been pushing harder on this leg but that is also tempered by the fear of breaking the boat at this last stage. We only have three days left now so I do feel I can push a little harder but you always temper that aggression with not wanting to break anything. We just have to get there now and get a good result. The dice have been cast and we just have to see how it all plays out.”
Despite notching up speeds of more than 16 knots in the past few hours Gutek is also wary of pushing his Eco 60 over the limit in the final stage of the race.
“The low pressure we had for the last few days left really big waves, monsters like in the Southern Ocean,” he said. “I haven’t been pushing so hard. I managed to escape from Derek, although our distance to the finish line is similar now. It all depends on the winds we get now.”
After ten days of racing, just 120 miles separate the entire fleet, with around 800 miles left to sail to the finish line. Brad’s ETA into La Rochelle is currently early afternoon on Friday, May 27.
Positions at 1200 UTC
Skipper / distance to finish (nm) / distance to leader (nm) / distance covered in last 24 hours (nm) / average speed in last 24 hours (kts)
Brad Van Liew, Le Pingouin: 761.5 / 0/ 321.3 / 13.4
Zbigniew Gutkowski, Operon Racing: 838.6 / 77.2/ 343.7 / 14.3
Chris Stanmore-Major, Spartan: 847.6 / 86.1 / 347.1 / 14.5
Derek Hatfield, Active House: 885.9 / 124.4 / 288.5 / 12