Unai Basurko the last Velux finisher into Freemantle

At 03:22 local time (18:22 UTC) yesterday morning, Unai Basurko crossed the finish line in Fremantle, Western Australia marking the end of an epic first leg of the Velux 5 Oceans. After 72 days, 7 hours and 22 minutes alone at sea, Pakea and her 33 year old skipper were met by friends and family from his home town of Bilbao, where the race started back on October 22, 2006. The young skipper with a brand new Open 60 yacht is taking part in his first competitive solo circumnavigation and learning constantly about his boat and the harsh realities of ocean racing. Despite numerous problems to Pakea and unfavourable weather patterns, the result places him fifth overall in the race.

Speaking as he stepped onto land, Basurko concluded: “It was a very hard leg and very long, but the important thing is I am here in Australia. I have already nearly circumnavigated the globe as the boat was built here in Australia. I am very happy and very proud now. The last few miles into Fremantle were hard. We had a lot of problems with the autopilot and the rudder. I sailed the last 5,000 miles with the port rudder up so I had to find a balance with the boat and it was very tricky. Not many days left until the next leg but my team is here and I need to rest and there is a lot of work to do. But the rest of the boat is alright so I think we can sail the next leg in good conditions.”

Basurko was forced to stop twice in his native Spain before heading down into the Atlantic. After the fleet left Bilbao on 22 October, the Basque skipper was forced to return home after sustaining heavy sail damage during the vicious storm that ripped through the Bay of Biscay. The hurricane-style conditions, unforeseen by any of the teams or race organisers, left a wake of destruction through the majority of the fleet. Five days later, Pakea set off again but was soon back on land as Basurko pulled into Vigo to make repairs and adjustments to the yacht’s autopilots, earning another 48 hour time penalty for receiving outside assistance.

Despite these setbacks, Basurko set off after the leaders and chasing pack, but suffered from less favourable weather conditions. In the Southern Atlantic, Pakea then developed damage to the port rudder which affected the boat’s speed and efficiency. Basurko sailed close to the Cape of Good Hope but decided not to pull into Cape Town to repair the rudder, instead continuing through the Southern Ocean towards Western Australia. Stronger winds allowed Pakea to catch up to Graham Dalton, but in the end the Basque skipper was beaten to the finish line.

Basurko will now only have a few short days to recover and prepare Pakea for the gruelling second leg, longer than the first returning the boat to the Southern Ocean, around Cape Horn before heading up the length of the Atlantic to Norfolk, Virginia. The fleet are due to set off from Fremantle on 14 January.