Full Noise or No Noise
American solo sailor Brad van Liew's dominant performance in the Velux 5 Oceans Race should've raised a racket, but when it comes to marathon singlehanded racing in the United States, is anyone listening? A special report from our September 2011 issue.
“Brad sailed a very good race,” Adams continued. “But I don’t think he’s racing against the same caliber of [sailor as in previous races], which allowed him a little bit more leeway.”
Of course, Van Liew could only compete against the sailors who showed up, but if it was in some ways a hollow victory, he viewed it as such for an entirely different reason.
“I wanted to be the guy who took solo sailing prime time,” he said. “That’s why I came back. This sport suits the American mindset. It’s not sailing, it’s adventuring. But it hasn’t stuck. I wanted to grab the imagination of kids in Oklahoma who watch ESPN that are talking Daddy into buying a jet-ski instead of an International 14 and dreaming about crossing oceans someday. I wanted that to be my legacy—to take sailing to a place it’s never been before. And we didn’t pull that off.”
As for the future, it’s unclear whether Velux will return for another event. “It’s become a very expensive race to put on,” said Adams. “Are we getting value back from these skippers? And the answer at the moment is no, in my opinion, because I don’t believe that their level of professionalism is at the level that we’re paying for.”
The real pros, implies Adams, are the French sailors; and the Major League, it follows, is the Vendée Globe. The next one is scheduled for 2012, and Van Liew hasn’t ruled it out.
At this point in time, he represents America’s last, best, only hope of a top finish. There’s no one else waiting in the wings, no willing hand ready to accept the passed torch.
“Now whether Brad could go into the Vendée and mix it up with the good guys in a good campaign, only time will tell,” said Adams. “He’s certainly got the right character, but whether he’s getting a bit long in the tooth now is the concern. You’ve got to have that real inner burning desire to go out there and do it, and I don’t know whether he still has that. But what he did in this race, you can’t fault it. He didn’t miss a hitch. He was spot on every time.”
So for Brad Van Liew, who’s spent the better part of his adult life either racing around the world or planning to do so, it’s apparently come down to one of two options: Full noise?
Herb McCormick is CW’s senior editor and the author of the recently published anthology, Gone to the Sea (www.paracay.com).