Life on land following my finish of the Velux 5 Oceans solo race around the world has been hectic. It seems weird to say that after everything I faced offshore for the last 8 months and 30,000 miles!
I am not faced with 40-plus knots of wind or fierce competitors trying to hunt me down to take the lead. However, the transition to life on land and the reality that this race is over presents new challenges.
Crossing the finish line was a relief and the entire fleet was treated to the warm hospitality of La Rochelle, France, and their enthusiasm for sailing. When I was approaching the dock and hoisted all the flags I had onboard, it was a proud moment to see the victory flags from each ocean sprint of the race.
The official prize ceremony was emotional. It was great to have everyone together, which included not only the racers, but each competitor’s shore crew, race organizers, media team, family, friends and sponsors. We have become a family over the course of the race, sharing time in each port and the ups and downs of joyous arrivals and intense goodbyes. It is strange to now say our final goodbyes and see each person head in a new direction.
I had the very odd experience this morning of waving off my race boat, Le Pingouin, as she left La Rochelle Harbor without me onboard. My good friend and project manager Jeffrey Wargo was at the helm, along with two other competent sailors who will sail across the Atlantic to South Carolina.
I am taking the fast way home via plane and looking forward to spending some time with my family. It was really weird to see the boat leave. She and I have been virtually attached for two years and for the last eight months I’ve called that carbon fiber shell home.
There was a small group down on the docks to see the boat and crew off. The early morning in La Rochelle was quiet, and as the bridge of the basin opened, Le Pingouin just seems to slip outside and pass by the towers of the historic port.
With Chris Stanmore-Major of Britain and Canada’s Derek Hatfield’s boats already gone, that left only Poland’s Zbigniew Gutkowski’s Operon Racing on the dock. The Velux 5 Oceans is over and this scene placed some emphasis on that fact.
I am now processing the reality of what I need to do to leverage the experience of the last year. I will need to move on to the next phase of my life. It becomes very emotional after all the ups and downs of the race to contemplate something more stable. I’ve been keyed up for so long, that stability seems unnatural and somewhat foreign. It will take some time to think about what the next chapter of life will be. Stay tuned at http://www.oceanracing.org.
Brad Van Liew is the very first American to ever officially finish three solo races around the globe. He is also the first person worldwide to sweep all legs of the VELUX 5 OCEANS race for two complete events. Follow Van Liew’s ongoing activities at http://www.oceanracing.org. He will be offering opportunities this summer for sponsors to sail aboard Le Pingouin and hold events in various U.S. markets. Brad Van Liew is the winner of the VELUX 5 OCEANS, the longest running solo round the world race. The race began on Oct. 17, 2010 in La Rochelle, France, and includes five ocean sprints to Cape Town, South Africa; Wellington, New Zealand; Punta del Este, Uruguay; Charleston, S.C.; and then concluded back across the Atlantic in France in May 2011. Find additional details about Brad’s journey and the race at: http://www.velux5oceans.com.