Velux 5 Oceans off to lively start

As three boats run for shelter and repairs ashore, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the oldest competitor in the race and the legend of solo sailing, is still continuing through the storm, and sent a short text message by email to race HQ last night, stating “wind 48-54knts. not racing but surviving. white sea wiv spindrift. OK thanks irish coffee”

These are some of the most brutal conditions an offshore sailor can expect to face, with huge banks of waves and incessant winds that power these racing machines forward even with minimal sail areas. All the boats will incur a minimum 48 hour time penalty for stopping for assistance before rejoining leg 1.

Following the exciting departure from Bilbao, Spain on Sunday, the fleet of 6 high performance Open 60 yachts has been blasted by enormous waves and violent winds of over 50 knots. The race is certainly living up to its name as the Ultimate Solo Challenge, as 3 boats have been forced to turn back to land to make essential repairs following a torrential 24 hours of exceptional weather conditions.

The returning boats include two of the favourites to win the race, Mike Golding (ECOVER) and Alex Thomson (HUGO BOSS), as well as local Basque hero Unai Basurko (PAKEA). Meanwhile, Bernard Stamm (CHEMINEES POUJOULAT) continues to lead the fleet as the rounds the northwest corner of Spain, with Kojiro Shiraishi (SPIRIT OF YUKOH) close behind in second and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston (SAGA INSURANCE) battling for survival in third position.


David Adams, Race Director, speaking from race HQ in Gosport, explained the horrendous conditions the skippers were facing in the infamous Biscay, “The boats have been facing extremely violent storms of over 50 knots, with a number reporting 60-70 knots on the nose and huge seas. The main problem is that you can’t slow these formula 1 boats down and they simply crash on through – it is bone breaking action!”


Commenting on the weather patterns sweeping into the region, Adams added, “We always knew that this would be a nasty corner to negotiate. We were expecting strong winds of 40 knots, but none of the weather models or advisors predicted 60 knots, and it looks as if this big storm might be around for at least another 24 hours. With such conditions, you can expect waves of 12-14 metres. I spoke to each of the teams and their weather advisors before they left Bilbao and none of the skippers had concerns about leaving on Sunday.”


At 18:30 local Spanish time yesterday, Alex Thomson (GBR) was the first boat to stop racing and make it back to land, arriving in Gijon onboard his battered HUGO BOSS. Alex was left with no choice but to head for land to make repairs following a gear failure.