Van Liew faces Cape Horn, Southern Ocean

Brad Van Liew sails into Wellington, New Zealand, in January during the Velux 5 Oceans race.

He is sailing into the most desolate water on the planet and has to face the Southern Ocean and Cape Horn in the next two weeks, but Brad Van Liew feels like he is headed home.

The third leg of the Velux 5 Oceans race began at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Wellington, New Zealand (8:30 p.m Saturday, Charleston time), as the fleet set out on an 6,800-mile course en route to Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Van Liew crossed the starting line first in his Le Pingouin, followed closely by Polish skipper Zbigniew Gutkowski -- just as it has been the entire race.

This leg of the around-the-world, solo sailboat race takes the fleet into the South Pacific and then the Southern Ocean as they travel as far from land as is possible on the planet. As they approach South America, they will have to negotiate the turbulent waters off Cape Horn, the landmark most feared by sailors.

Van Liew, who has sailed around it alone twice before, said the Horn -- like much of Leg 3 -- is a turning point for the Velux 5 Oceans.

"I suspect it will feel good to be headed home and it will really feel that way when I round the Horn, and I am sailing towards home rather than away from home," Van Liew told The Post and Courier prior to the race re-start. "It is a turning point in the race and in my mind."

Early forecasts suggest the fleet will be sailing, for at least the first few days, in winds of nearly 40 miles per hour. It will be, Van Liew said, a more traditional Southern Ocean experience than the fleet encountered on the trip from South Africa to New Zealand, which took at least a week longer than anticipated because of freak storms, head winds and periods of maddening calms.

So far, the Mount Pleasant resident is perfect in the Velux 5 Oceans, formerly known as the Around Alone. He has won both of the previous legs and picked up the maximum number of bonus points for his time through speed gates set by race officials.

This leg, Van Liew said his goal is to keep Le Pingouin in one piece.

"I need to pace myself," Van Liew said. "Even after rounding Cape Horn, I still have two important legs of the race to complete. I want to do well in this leg of the race, but I also want to get to Charleston and then finally to France for the finish. I want to retain some of my energy and the boat's ability to push in the end for a good position."

From Punta del Este, the fleet races to Charleston. From here, the sailboats cross the Atlantic to the race finish line in La Rochelle, France. The race began there in October.

After three weeks in port, which included a couple of days touring New Zealand in a camper van with his family, Van Liew said he is rested and ready, the boat is in good shape and he's ready for this leg.

Half-way around the world, he finally feels like he is sailing home.