It was a podium finish for both Zbigniew “Gutek” Gutkowski (POL) and Chris Stanmore-Major (GBR), but what made the fight for second place so remarkable was how hard-fought the battle was.
As the 6,700 nm ocean sprint 3 in the Velux 5 Oceans race came to a close off the shores of Punta del Este, Uruguay, it was Stanmore-Major and Spartan Ocean Racing who held the lead with a mile to the finish gate. As a flotilla of boats spectated, Stanmore-Major, who took the course too close to shore, was forced to gybe twice to the layline, allowing his opponent to capitalize on the opportunity.
Gutkowski crossed the line at 4:40 pm local time on Thursday, and just forty seconds later, Stanmore-Major officially ended his ocean sprint. It was a photo finish, now regarded as the closest finish in solo ocean racing history. After docking, Stanmore-Major said, “This sprint has proven I have a fast boat and I have taken the handbrake off now and I think we have a good chance for the next leg. We have lost out on second place and that’s a great pity, I wish we were parked one boat closer to Brad, but I think we have made our point – we know what we’re doing now and we can go fast.”
Brad Van Liew (USA) aboard his ECO60, Le Pingouin, crossed in first place at 5:16 pm local time on Tuesday, and Canadian Derek Hatfield rounded out the standings in fourth place, crossing just an hour after Stanmore-Major and Gutkowski.
The end of sprint three marks one of the hardest-fought legs in the V5O, billed as the ultimate solo challenge. Racers had to round the unforgiving Cape Horn, which Gutkowski had to face with a keel problem. Stanmore-Major had his run-in with issues with the tearing of sails, and Derek Hatfield (CAN) suffered an engine oil leak aboard Active House.
Only Van Liew remained out of trouble. He has placed first on each leg of the V5O so far.
Ocean sprint four, a 5,700 nm leg up the Atlantic to Charleston, USA, will commence on March 27th.