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GUTEK HITS SUBMERGED TREE IN FIRST INCIDENT OF VELUX 5 OCEANS SPRINT THREE

POLISH ocean racer Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski suffered the first setback of ocean sprint three today after Operon Racing hit a submerged tree. Just over 24 hours after the start of the leg from Wellington to Punta del Este, the 36-year-old from Gdansk reported hearing a dull bang on the hull of his Eco 60 - and when he checked for damage he found a tree caught on the yacht’s keel.

Gutek was forced to sail backwards to untangle the keel from the tree’s branches. He lost precious miles on his fellow ocean racers but luckily Operon Racing was not damaged in the collision.

“Around three hours before sunrise I hit something,” Gutek told the VELUX 5 OCEANS race team today. “I was sailing with two reefs in my mainsail and the Solent jib. All of a sudden my boat slowed down and I heard a dull bang. I thought it might have been a container that I had hit. I looked all round, checked inside for leaks, but it was all clear.

“I set up a gennaker but Operon Racing was still going very slow. Then the sun rose, so I looked round once more and decided to go upwind and stop the boat. When I stopped I just saw this thing as it came on surface – a big tree or branch, with one part long enough to stick out the stern, so it could have been about 10 metres long. It took me half an hour to sail backwards and get rid of this stuff. It was really so heavy. That’s why I was going so slowly overnight.”

After a day at sea American skipper Brad Van Liew has stolen back the lead from race rival Derek Hatfield according to the 0000 UTC position report. Chris Stanmore-Major was just 10 miles behind the leader, with Gutek 21 miles behind Brad.