Van Liew Enjoying His Easy Run

Billy Black

There isn't anything about singlehanded ocean racing that an ordinary sailor would say is easy, or routine. But Brad Van Liew doesn't mind if you use those very adjectives to describe his performance in the first three legs of the Around Alone. He's won Class 2 in each of those legs, by an ever widening margin. When he finished Leg 3 just after midnight on Jan. 16, he was 1,000 miles in front of the second place competitor.

"That’s what we were looking for," said Van Liew, who was in Auckland today for a press conference. "I doubt Team New Zealand got offended when they obliterated the competition in the last America’s Cup. [My wife] Meaghan and I have been playing this game for a long time. I’m the only returning competitor in the Around Alone. I have the best 50-footer, and I have the best maintenance team."

In Leg 3, which ran from Cape Town, South Africa, to Tauranga, New Zealand, Van Liew dusted the competition out of the gate in his boat Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America. As can be the case in singlehanded ocean racing, the most difficult obstacles he had to overcome had little to do with his competitors. He had to dodge a whale and a giant sunfish and then, just when he was getting near the finish, survive some horrible weather and a lot of upwind sailing, for which his Open 50 is not really designed. "It was unreal," he said. "It's like someone kept resetting the windward mark. And tacking up the coastline, that's a bear." According to Van Liew, a burly 34-year-old from Charleston, S.C., weather experts usually predict a northwesterly breeze for the east coast of New Zealand's North Island during the austral summer, but for his run down the coast of the North Island, the wind came right out of the south, gusted to 60 knots, and whipped up an ugly sea. "I arrived in Tauranga with just three hours of sleep in three days," said Van Liew.

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| Billy Black.|

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| Van Liew (right) with his wife Meaghan and baby daughter Tate.* * *|

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The Around Alone is run on a points system. With three first-place finishes Van Liew has a big lead in Class 2. Another strong finish in Leg 4, which starts from Tauranga on Feb. 9 and finishes in Bahia de Salvador, Brazil, will all but ensure him of the trophy. Of course, he added, that’s provided he finishes the race. "One of the things that’s running around in my head is how to treat the next leg of the race," he said. "We’re on a points system, so I’m pretty comfortable. I’m going to take it as easy as I need to. But in saying that, as soon as someone threatens my lead [in the leg] I’ll probably change my mind."