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Alone At The Bottom of the World


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Brad Van Liew, an adrenaline junkie who grew up sailing San Diego Bay, is aboard his 60-foot sailboat Le Pingouin, climbing 32-foot waves of gray-green salt water, passing icebergs and watching a horizon that stretches thousands of miles to the next port off Antarctica.

Alone.

Van Liew, 42, is one of five entrants in the Velux 5 Oceans, a 30,000-mile round-the-world, singlehanded yacht race held every four years. The tough, dangerous solo venture across the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Indian, South Pacific and Southern oceans has in past years brought dismastings and death. The race started last October in La Rochelle, France; it stops in four ports — Cape Town, South Africa; Wellington, New Zealand; Salvador, Brazil; and Charleston, South Carolina — and finishes in France this spring.

Van Liew calls his refitted Open 60 monohull painted NASCAR yellow a “weapon.” A professional sailor since 1997, he has done this race twice before and won it in 2003, aboard Tommy Hilfiger’s Freedom America.

Born in Los Angeles, Van Liew moved to Rancho Santa Fe with his family when he was 2. He played football at Francis Parker High School and spent his free time racing motocross, scuba diving and sailing the 26-foot race­boat he kept at Coronado Cays Yacht Club.

He lives in Charleston with wife Meaghan and two small children, Tate Magellan and Wyatt. Still, he says, “San Diego will always be my home. It is the city I gauge all others against. I miss Taco Auctioneer in Solana Beach if it is still there!”

Follow Brad Van Liew around the world at ­velux5oceans.com and oceanracing.org.

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