Van Liew’s on a Tear

American’s only skipper in the Velux 5 Oceans Race is sailing solo and ripping up the seas as he piles on the points with three first-place finishes.

March 3, 2011

Brad Van Liew

The Eco 60 Le Pingouin is in its element, reaching along in a good, brisk breeze. Ainhoa Sanchez/

I know Americans are supposed to have a ho-hum reaction to sailboat racing and that cruising sailors have a well-earned reputation for not giving a hoot about who can sail fastest around a couple of buoys.

But being both an American and a big fan of cruising, I have to ask: How can you not want to stand up and high five Brad Van Liew. Perhaps the best known US solo sailor, in recent years, at least, Brad has just won his third ocean sprint in a row during this year’s running of the Velux 5 Oceans Race. Aboard his Eco 60 Le Pingouin, he pulled into Punta Del Este, Uruguay, just after 5 p.m. local time on March 1, and en route became the first American to have raced round Cape Horn single handed, three times. Three times! And better than that, a day later, his closest competitors were still 200 miles from port!

Sprint 3 was a 6,000-mile, 23-day dash from Wellington, New Zealand, across the cursed Southern Ocean, round the Horn, and then up the east coast of South America. Heck, even a cigarette-puffing, bikini-wearing Frenchman would tip his beret to this feat of solo sailing. The least we can do is make a little noise to recognize one of our countrymen, no?


“Three legs won and three times round Cape Horn safely–those are two very important facts for me, two massive hurdles,” Brad said in an interview carried on the Velux 5 Oceans website.

“Cape Horn is always nerve-wracking and there’s nothing you can do about that,” he said in the Velux report. “The reality is when you head down south to Cape Horn there is a point where you jump off the cliff and there is nothing you can do about it–you have to deal with whatever is thrown at you. Fortunately I got pretty lucky rounding the Horn; I think we all did. We know that because we all made it. If you get unlucky, you don’t make it. It was a very special experience for me this time round. It was really exciting as much as nerve-wracking.”

Sprint 4 will take the fleet north, across the Equator, to Brad’s homeport of Charleston, South Carolina. Let’s hope us Yanks can rally and give him a good rousing welcome home.


Thank you to Velux 5 Oceans for this amazing video of Brad passing Cape Horn.


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