Velux 5 Oceans racers

Solo skippers face Christmas away from families and friends, with freeze dried curry instead of turkey. As you tuck into your turkey and trimmings surrounded by friends and family this Christmas, spare a thought for the intrepid skippers currently racing round the world solo in the VELUX 5 OCEANS yacht race.

Each ocean racer will spend Christmas Day alone at sea in the Southern Ocean, one of the most desolate places on Earth, notorious for its mountainous seas, howling winds and freezing temperatures.

No Christmas carols, no mince pies, no chestnuts roasting on an open fire, just another day’s racing through one of the world’s most hostile oceans. A week after setting sail from Cape Town on the second of five sprints that make up the round the world race, the fleet of Eco 60 yachts not only have to contend with challenging weather conditions – they must also face Christmas alone.

It’s especially tough on the skippers who have young children, including Derek Hatfield, Brad Van Liew and Zbigniew Gutkowski. Thanks to the state-of-the-art onboard communications system each skipper has on their yachts they will be able to make calls to loved ones – but it is no substitute for being there in person to watch your children excitedly opening presents from Santa or sitting round a table with family to enjoy a Christmas dinner.

For the skippers, Christmas Day is just one more day at sea. The race is always on and, as the fleet punch south towards the prevailing westerly winds that will shoot them towards the finish line in New Zealand, some 6,000 nautical miles away, they must remain more vigilant and focused than ever.

“I’m OK with spending Christmas at sea but obviously the big thing for me is missing the kids a lot,” said American skipper Brad Van Liew, missing Christmas with his family as a result of competing in the VELUX 5 OCEANS. “Having young children who are big Santa fans takes the fun out of being out on a boat alone in the Southern Ocean. It’s hard missing Christmas with them but other than that I’m cool. I’ve got the boat dolled up a little bit. I’ve got a little African Christmas tree sat next to me with little ornaments on, some battery-powered Christmas lights, it looks like a Mexican restaurant!”

Instead of the traditional Christmas roast turkey, British skipper Chris Stanmore-Major will be celebrating the big day with a freeze-dried curry. “I will just be trying not to think about turkey and all the trimmings!” he said. “I’m actually really looking forward to Christmas, it’s a time of year I really enjoy.”

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