Will the defending champion win the Velux 5 Oceans again?

With only four days to go before the start of the Velux 5 Oceans from Bilbao this Sunday, Swiss solo sailor Bernard Stamm is gearing up to defend his title.

Stamm, 45, won a decisive four out of five legs of the previous race and set two speed records – for the fastest passage from England to South Africa in an Open 60 (29 days, 21 hours, 59 minutes, 45 seconds) and single-handed Atlantic Open 60 record (10 days, 11 hours, 55 minutes, 19 seconds) – looks set to be a strong contender in a fleet battling for the podium.

Powering his Open 60 around the planet exacted a heavy toll and Stamm was forced to make a swift pit stop in the Falkland Islands during Leg 4 when critical canting keel problems struck shortly after rounding Cape Horn: a brief diversion that would not rob the unstoppable skipper from taking line honours at the end of the leg in Brazil.

A series of intense depressions swept through the Open 60 fleet in early June 2004 during The Transat race, dismasting two of the leading boats and causing a dangerous crisis for Stamm as his keel detached completely, inverting the yacht 400 miles from the coast of Newfoundland.

Two years and a total refit later,Cheminées Poujoulatis ready to race and her skipper is more than eager to win.

For more news and regular updates on the Velux 5 Oceans 2006-7, see www.velux5oceans.com