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Around Alone • Leg 5

Brad Van Liew sweeps all five legs by winning Class 2 in Newport

dimanche 4 mai 2003Redaction SSS [Source RP]

The global sailing community watched in awe as Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America sailed into Newport Harbor this morning at 05:53:48 local time. Solo-skipper Brad Van Liew’s arrival means not only that he is the first American to win the prestigious event since the late Mike Plant in 1986-1987, but also that he is the first American ever to sweep all five legs.

Though Van Liew’s triumph was probable based on his domination in the first four legs, this final leg certainly had its share of white-knuckle moments. The 4,015-mile trip from Brazil to Rhode Island is infamous for its multiple weather systems, and Van Liew learned first hand in the last Around Alone in 1998-99 that this infamy is well deserved : it was during this leg that the solo-skipper was dismasted off the coast of Uruguay. At sea, this traumatic memory no doubt haunted Van Liew throughout his sprint to the finish. On land, Van Liew’s family, with whom he was touchingly reunited at the finish, held their breath as the skipper’s last four days at sea reflected the race’s vast extremes. The solo skipper was mired in dead calm, fighting for an ounce of breeze at 400 miles out ; then, all of a sudden, he was battered by a vicious storm that left him crashing into massive headwinds and unruly waves 200 miles out.

Felicitations have come from outside the sailing world, from Van Liew’s proud sponsor. "As America’s premier solo sailor, Brad has been extremely courageous and exemplary by winning the Around Alone race. We are honored to have had the opportunity to support him through this demanding and prestigious event," said Tommy Hilfiger. "Brad’s hard work, independence, resourcefulness and perseverance personify the American spirit."

A look backward at Van Liew’s perilous journey reveals a real life epic, as if the novels of Herman Melville and Patrick O’Brian were lived out in real, present time. He climbed an 80-foot mast to pull down his mainsail. He conquered relentless headwinds, violent seas, and unexpected thunderstorms in the doldrums. He was socked by squalls. He was surprised by the dorsal fin of a killer whale that emerged right next to his boat. He even repaired a chafed gennaker halyard as he hung from it. In the Around Alone, truth is truly stranger than fiction. Van Liew himself says it best.

"I feel gutted. This race has sucked the life out of me and what is so weird is that I feel more alive than ever before. I guess that is why this sport is so addicting. How will I ever match the adrenaline of the last eight months solo around the globe ? The Around Alone takes everything your body can give and everything your mind will endure."

Media are invited to join the victor at a news conference at 10:00 AM EST at the Media Center at the Newport Shipyard, One Washington Street, Newport, RI.


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