The latest from the VELUX 5 OCEANS…
Solo skipper Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski is today facing a nervous rounding of Cape Horn after developing keel problems on his Eco 60 yacht Operon Racing. The 36-year-old Polish yachtsman reported hearing dull knocking sounds as his yacht smashed through huge Southern Ocean waves on the approach to Cape Horn, the Everest of sailing and the pinnacle of leg three of the VELUX 5 OCEANS. On closer inspection Gutek found to his horror that the pins joining Operon Racing’s keel to the hull were moving.
It is suspected that a composite part covering the two pins that hold the keel in place has broken, allowing the four-tonne keel to move around 3mm at the top of the keel blade. The movement makes a knocking noise as Operon Racing accelerates down waves.
Weather conditions approaching Cape Horn, one of the most notorious bodies of water in the world, have not helped Gutek’s situation. While struggling to solve the problems on Operon Racing Gutek was hit by a huge storm which brought 75-knot winds and 15-metre waves. Operon Racing was close to rolling over on two occasions. “I was really scared at first,” Gutek said. “We are so close to Cape Horn, the hardest part of this leg, after more than 4,000 miles sailed. I almost cried. But I have had many words of hope and encouragement, and I also got some opinions from the architect who built this keel. It’s made in such a way that it should hold.”
It is thought the problem may be related to an incident just a few days after leaving Wellington where Gutek hit a submerged tree. At 19 years old, Operon Racing is the oldest yacht in the VELUX 5 OCEANS fleet and has been round the world three times previously.