The competition in this race will be as intense as anything I have faced before. 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% committed and the talent runs deep.
Here’s a quick look at the competition I face:
Derek Hatfield cannot be underestimated as a serious threat, sailing a boat that has previously beaten my Le Pingouin on many occasions. During the 2002-3 Around Alone, Derek’s boat (then sailed by Thierry Dubois) smoked Le Pingouin (then sailed by Simone Bianchetti) in every leg of the race. Derek is a man on a mission in his third solo race around the world. He is determined to have a successful voyage following a valiant sail in the Vendee Globe that ended exactly half way around with damage to his rig.
Gutek Gutkowski from Poland is determined. He is a strapping strong guy with experience. He ran the ORMA 60 Bonduelle and also served as Watch Captain onboard WARTA-POLPHARMA in The Race, the non-stop race around the world for multihulls. He appears totally determined and would be the first Polish sailor to race solo around the world. He also has a hefty load of inshore racing experience, a strong team on land and a new sponsor.
Chris Stanmore-Major will be an interesting challenge. He is super focused and intense. Having just finished captaining one of the Clipper Round the World boats, his skin’s still wet and his oillies (foul weather gear to those in the US) still smell. That can be an advantage, having been in the offshore mindset so recently for a complete circumnavigation. He is confident and has a strong look of intent, which reminds me a bit of me when I took on my first solo race around in 1998-99. Chris is no underdog though, sailing the champion boat Giovanni Soldini won the race with in 1999.
Christophe Bullens may have been the best prepared of all entries, until the devastating loss of his rig and sails on his way to the start. He completed his qualifying sail before anyone else, and seemed to have ample time training with his boat. With no time to repair the boat he intended to sail, he is faced with looking at other ECO-60 boats end how race-ready they might be. The guy was a tank Commander in the military for eight years and sails 10,000 miles per year, so his boat maybe a wild card, but he appears ready to race. I hope he finds a race boat that he is comfortable and confident racing.
So there you have it. My brief and personal look at those that are here to face 30,000 miles at sea alone in the VELUX 5 OCEANS. Some have done it before; others are new to the game. All appear steadfast in their intent to compete hard and win. I’m sure we will learn more as the race gets underway and we are all challenged by the elements. If you have not been checking the race website at www.velux5oceans.com there are some great news stories, photos and videos posted everyday.
Cheers and stay tuned as we get closer to Sunday’s start,