By Nick Harris
17 October 2010
The latest edition of longest race in the world of sport got underway today as the five solo sailors in the Velux 5 Oceans set off from Rochelle in France on round-the-world journeys they hope will carry them more than 30,000 miles over the next nine months.
At the first timing point this evening as the fleet headed out in the Bay of Biscay, the field was led by America’s Brad Van Liew aboard Le Pingouin, followed by Canada’s Derek Hatfield on Active House, Poland’s Zbigniew Gutkowski aboard Operon Racing (attempting to become the first Pole to sail solo round the world), Britain’s Chris Stanmore-Major about Spartan, and Belgium’s Christophe Bullens aboard Five Oceans of Smiles.
The ‘V5O’, formerly the BOC Challenge (1982 , 1986, 1990, 1994) and then the Around Alone (1998, 2002) takes place every four years and is the longest, and longest established, solo round-the-world ocean race. Unlike the Vendee Globe, which is non-stop, the Vo5 comprises five legs and four stopovers; in this edition the stops will be in Cape Town (South Africa), Wellington (NZ), Salvador (Brazil) and Charleston (USA).
Three competitors have died during the race in its previous runnings, with a variety of others sunk, capsized, dismasted or otherwise forced to retire in the face of the many obstacles that ocean racing delivers: storms, icebergs and mystery submerged objects being but three.
Where the Vendee Globe is shorter and more intense because it’s non-stop, the V05 presents its own unique challenges in having stops; knowing repairs are possible, skippers often push their boats to the max in the way that a non-stop race dissuades. The Vendee by definition keeps the racers at sea at all times, largely away from coastal hazards and heavy maritime traffic.