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ZBIGNIEW "GUTEK” GUTKOWSKI - SAILOR OF THE YEAR 2011 IN POLAND

The 37-year-old skipper heard the news when he came back from a New Year’s Eve celebration. „I was very surprised, but that’s awesome to have this title for the first time in my life” – said Gutek. „I wasn’t sure if my achievement would be awarded by the jury, because I was just one of several nominees.”

Gutkowski, known in the sailing world as “Gutek”, performed incredible seamanship during the VELUX 5 OCEANS 30.000-mile solo yacht race starting from La Rochelle, France on October 17th, 2010. After 5 legs, on May 25th 2011, he came classified 2nd overall, after overcoming a list of disasters, including keel damage and two serious injuries.

Apart from the Sailor of the Year 2011 title, Silver Sextant (the award of the Minister or Transport, Construction and Maritime Economy) and the  honorary award of Voyage of the Year 2011, Zbigniew Gutkowski also received an award of the president of Gdańsk city – Amber Rose of the Winds for his excellent sailing achievement, and entering the world elite of ocean sailors, as well as popularizing modern sailing.

“Once again we are extremely happy to congratulate Gutek on his extraordinary achievement, this time on the occasion of receiving such important and prestigious awards” – said Lidia Mikołajczyk-Gmur, General Manager of VELUX Poland. “As a title sponsor of the race we are glad we could share all these exciting and intense sports emotions. For us Gutek is the Champion”- she added.

Despite being the oldest boat in the fleet, his Eco 60 Operon Racing, sailed very fast and was a real threat to Brad Van Liew, an overall winner. “I knew my boat would not be the fastest one in the fleet but I was surprised at how well she could do” – said Gutek about his boat.

In leg 1 Gutek performed surgery on his own head after being deeply cut by the wind generator. He had to deal with serious autopilot problems during leg 2 from Cape Town, South Africa, to Wellington, New Zealand in the middle of Southern Ocean. In leg 3, just before rounding Cape Horn, he discovered a keel issue that could end his race. But he managed to win the finish sprint from CSM with just 40 seconds after sailing 7000 Nm. During leg 4 his bowsprit snapped twice and a forestay broke, forcing him to stop in Fortaleza, Brazil, where he discovered having 2 broken ribs after falling down to the cockpit few days before. In leg 5 keel problems came back when one of the rams operating the canting mechanism broke into pieces. Gutek made it to the finish line on the temporary repair, being 183rd person to circumnavigate solo according a statistics run by sailing legend, sir Robin Knox-Johnston, a president of Clipper Ventures, organiser of VELUX 5 OCEANS.

“I am tired, but if I had to make my decision again, I would go for it again” – said Gutkowski after crossing the finish line.

The Polish “Sailor of the Year” award was founded 42 years ago. The trophy will be handed to Zbigniew Gutkowski during a special ceremony on March 2nd 2012 in Gdansk, Poland.