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American ocean racer nears finish line

The end might be in sight, but the final sprint of the Velux 5 Oceans is far from over yet for overall leader South Carolina sailor Brad Van Liew, who has spent the last 24 hours battling a fierce North Atlantic storm.

Choosing to seek out stronger winds to up his speeds towards La Rochelle, France, Van Liew sailed his Eco 60 Le Pingouin close to the eye of a depression. He was rewarded with boat speeds hitting more than 25 knots — but also paid the price for the move encountering howling 47-knot winds and crashing seas.

“This low pressure area I’m in is quite a barn burner,” Brad reported. “I’ve had up to 47 knots this morning with lots of squalls. The seas have got really gnarly too — not huge but really short and steep. Right now I’m just trying to take care of the boat. I’ve got three reefs in the main and no jib at all. I wanted to stay north to get the stronger breeze but it has got pretty serious.”

Click here for the race website, where the competing boats can be tracked.