gone daddy gone
8 years since his last campaign and two kids haven’t slowed Brad Van Liew down; he’d horizon-jobbed the Velux 5 Oceans fleet just a few hours into the race, which started under crisp, clear skies in 15ish knots from the Northeast. Poland’s Olympic vet and multihull round-the-worlder "Gutek" actually got the jump on Van Liew at the start, a somewhat lazy affair that saw Derek Hatfield going backwards and CSJ and Christopher Bullens mostly disregarding the clock. While Brad has played down his aggressiveness in interviews, the 500,000 GB pounds of prize money recently announced by Velux is something that he sorely needs to help fund his still title sponsorless team, so he’ll be pushing plenty hard. Lazarus shore crew and Open 60 prep guru JC Caso hoped that Brad wouldn’t push the way he did in ’03, when he won the race by a margin of more than a week, and even beat Open 60s in his O50 Tommy Hilfiger. "This is a points race, and if he wins it five minutes in front of the next boat, that’s perfect," JC said. "Why show up with a tired and beaten-up boat just to be there a few days earlier than another boat?" But push he did, and while Hatfield got Activehouse rolling over the top of Gutek, Van Liew’s experience and a light-air optimized Open 60 (Le Pingouin has the tallest mast at 98′ and the lightest overall weight) made short work of the fleet, and 10 hours after the start he’d taken a full 10 mile lead on Gutek, who was just ahead of Hatfield, with Bullens taking it easy on the boat he bought and outfitted barely more than a week ago. Track ’em here, and listen to an interview we did with Bullens talking about the effort it took to get to the line with a new boat, and to Derek explaining what’s different between his unsuccessful shot at this race the last time around and this one.
With two more weeks in France, I’ve got some motivation to dig into the unique French racing culture as I become surrounded by it – so look for a story later this week on just how powerful their passion for sailing is even for a British-managed race without a single French entrant…But here’s an anecdote that might help you get your head around it:
On Friday, I spent about two hours freezing my balls off on a small RIB mapping and measuring the 3G signals and capacity in the racing area, and was pleasantly surprised at how quick and robust the Orange network was. In fact we were so stoked to be able to do a good live OTW stream that Velux wrote a press release about it and got their viewer up so our feed could play through it. But when we got to the course, I found our webcast almost impossibly slow and nearly impossible to watch. I knew there’d be a lot of people in town to watch the sailors off (though the crowds still blew my mind), but I never imagined that so many of them would be on the water as well. Of course they all have mobile phones, and the network simply shit the bed with no capacity left for our stream. During one spell, I counted around 200 boats on the water, and that was maybe half of them, including four enormous ferries packed to the gills with spectators, but more on that on Wednesday’s front page.
Everything turned out for the best on our front – we got to shore and restreamed the videos, garnering an incredible 70,000 views in under four hours of the delayed feed. It’s not like we’ve got the "A" team with us either – my shaky camera work combined with a broken out drive and inexperienced driver meant the coverage admittedly left a lot to be desired, but we continually get surprised by just how many people will keep live sailboat racing on their screen when given the opportunity. That’s good, because the atmosphere at one of these races is something that everyone should see – it gives one hope for the future in less sailing-obsessed places. You can watch the race start Part 1 here, Part 2 here, the awesome departure ceremony here, and a short piece with Velux’s CEO here that should convince you to buy their damned windows and skylights already and thank them for their passion.
Updates are on the thread, and we’ll get more interviews and photos up there soon. Big thanks to Velux, Magic Marine, and the International Farr 30 Class for supporting our trip to cover three major French events – the Velux, the Farr 30 Worlds next week in Hyeres, and the Route Du Rhum. Bon Voyage? Photos by Meredith Block.