Van Liew readies for Velux Five Oceans Race

Vanliew Rochelle

Brad Van Liew arrived in La Rochelle, France on Sept. 23, having sailing Le Pingouin more than 4,000 miles to mark his qualifying sail to compete in the upcoming VELUX 5 OCEANS solo race around the world. A small crew accompanied Van Liew on the transatlantic voyage from Charleston, South Carolina to France, a perk allowed by VELUX 5 OCEANS race officials based on Van Liew’s two previous solo circumnavigation races. This offered Van Liew the chance to utilize a team to test equipment, document areas to improve, and put the brand new sails, rigging, lines and electronics to the test under various extreme conditions.
“The boat is a really fast machine and has been prepared immaculately by our small team in Charleston,” Van Liew said. “The Atlantic put us through the paces, with every condition I would want to encounter before starting the race. Thanks to the enthusiasm and hard work of many friends, I will be at the start line on October 17th.”
Life aboard an Open-60 race boat is less than comfortable for one, so with four aboard, things got quite interesting. Reducing weight aboard the boat is a major priority for Van Liew, if not an obsession. This translates into Le Pingouin’s stark interior space measuring the size of small walk-in closet. One pipe berth tucks up against each side of the hull’s interior for the fits of sleep allowed, while accommodations like a sink, toilet, and galley are absent. The nerve center of the interior is the navigation station, where Van Liew downloads various weather analytics with his B&G electronics, monitors radar and other alarms, and communicates via his Inmarsat satellite system.
“Re-entry into the lifestyle of extreme ocean racing has been a trip,” said Van Liew. “I imagine it would be somewhat like when an astronaut goes on another mission into space. You eat, sleep, dream, work, and live in a totally different realm. For me it takes a few days for my body to adjust, but then it is like a machine, focused on two main goals – performance and safety.”
Van Liew has competed in this epic solo race twice before aboard 50-foot race boats, taking third place as an underdog entry in 1999 and winning first place in his class in 2003 with a convincing cumulative lead of 21 days. This will be Van Liew’s first entry in the race aboard a 60-foot boat. With the start looming a mere month away, Van Liew feels prepared and enthusiastic for the challenge ahead.
Following his arrival, Van Liew and his shore-based crew will attend to repairs, make adjustments to systems they have tested offshore, conduct final sail testing, and continue the search for supporting sponsors. Although Van Liew has attained support from industry leaders such as Samson, B&G, Simrad, Gill, and West Marine, finding a Title Sponsor to name the race boat and enjoy the lion’s share of branding space has eluded the team. Ondeck joined the effort recently as the first Associate Sponsor, and the team is actively pursuing additional companies that would like to benefit from the vast media exposure and hospitality opportunities that exist for the 9-months of racing.
The Velux 5 Oceans starts from La Rochelle in France on October 17, 2010 and features five ocean sprints. After heading from La Rochelle, France to Cape Town, South Africa, the race heads across the vast Southern Indian Ocean to Wellington, New Zealand.  From there, the racing yachts will head to Salvador, Brazil, then up the Atlantic to Charleston, USA before returning across the ocean to France to the finish.  

By Ocean Navigator