Around Alone New Year's update

News from the Southern Ocean

Wednesday January 1st 2003, Author: Mary Ambler and Brian Hancock, Location: Transoceanic
As the 11 skippers in Around Alone are racing in the Southern Ocean below Australia, they have already passed into the New Year as they sail eastwards through the different time zones and into time itself. Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm on Bobst Group-Armor
was the first skipper to celebrate the New Year and a winning start to 2003 not only in the lead of Leg 3 from Cape Town to Tauranga but also at the top of the overall rankings.

So Bernard Stamm opens the chapter of Around Alone in 2003 with the kind of energy, determination and spirit which embodies the solo round-the-world racer: "Here, everyday seems the same, ruled by the rhythm of the waves, the winds, night and day, but I am thinking of all of you who are celebrating New Year on land, so don't misbehave too much and keep in good health, that's essential! I am going to rummage in my food boxes as there must be some nuts or some fruit salad - freeze-dried of course - left to
eat. Also I have a little bottle of champagne - not bad! My resolutions are simple - for nothing on the boat to break or to suffer any kind of breakdown, and to look after myself, to keep within my limits, so I can go all the way and finish first."

The wind is back to 20 knots from the West for Class 1, bringing back average boat speeds to the high teens and generating top surfing conditions, which these ocean going carbon greyhounds are built for. Stamm is ahead of the low pressure system passing below, which will catch up with him - and bring closer to him his French rival Thierry Dubois on Solidaires, who is positioned a few degrees further North currently 280 miles behind. Stamm knows he must extend his lead as much as possible coming towards the tricky Tasman Sea, as one day's advantage is not a huge margin in the conditions these skippers are racing in.

The margins are negligible behind these two as Hexagon, Tiscali & Pindar are within 200 miles of each other all at 45S Latitude - which is only a dozen or so hours in racing time as they average 15 plus knots boatspeed.

Italian Simone Bianchetti and British skipper Emma Richards matched each other with 320 nm covered in the last 24 hours, and they both reported to be experiencing the effects of the magnetic anomolies in the area.

These boats race near the magnetic South Pole and so if they carry a magnetic compass it will follow the lines of magnetic variation, which can be in excess of 40 degrees. If this is not adjusted, then the autopilots often go awry and not steer the right course. However, these boats will also be equipped with a gyrocompass, which maintains a steady course and is unaffected by such variations. The worse outcome is that a skipper has to hand-steer, which is near impossible to maintain over a long duration if you are in the freezing conditions of the Southern Ocean.

In a satellite call, Bianchetti recounted his night: "This morning I lost the steering from my autopilots because of electrical problems with the compass as we sail through a magnetic zone but it's okay now. I have managed to sleep well over night but I have to hang up because I am just making some spaghetti now."

Richards experienced another crash gybe when broad-reaching in 30 knots with the Solent, staysail and 2 reefs, fully ballasted to average those high speeds.

Consequently, she fell off the back of the weather system and missed the shift to take her North to the waypoint. However, Emma is thinking positive: "I'm nearly at the gate now and in 9hrs or so, the wind will go round to come from directly West, when I will be able to gybe slightly South again for the great circle route this time for Cape Reinga, North Island, NZ, leaving Tasmania to Port in about 1500 miles time! So just a transatlantic race to go now in terms of miles. I have a bottle of Mumm Champagne for celebrating Hogmanay, but just a sip of this deliciously chilled bubbly would be too tempting and I must keep my wits about me with the next 35kt winds coming in around midnight your time, so I doubt I'll taste it today! HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!"

On to Class 2 - American Brad van Liew matches Bernard Stamm as he leads Leg 3 into the New Year and is top in the overall rankings on board now the fastest Open 50 in the world - Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America. As the one skipper in the fleet who has literally been there before, his mind is focused on making sure he keeps as much distance between him and the chasing pack as they head towards the Tasman Sea. Racing Balance Bar in the Around Alone 1998-9, he finished a couple of minutes behind Mike Garside on the then Magellan Alpha (Brad's current boat now) coming into New Zealand, even though he had been more than 500 miles behind before heading into the Tasman Sea.

The rest of the skippers in Class 2 are doing all of this for the first time, and some have been reflecting over the milestones of 2002, how much progress they have made with their goals and dreams, and where they are physically right now compared to this time last year.

The last shall be first, and so Alan Paris has this to say about where he has got to in 2002: "So it's 12 noon local time, 12 hours before a new year begins, and I am deep in the southern Indian Ocean. How did I get here??!!! As with all dreams, first one has to put the building blocks in place to achieve those dreams, then continually be aware and flexible to the changes that occur along the way. My wife, family, friends and those who have just 'adopted' the Bermuda Solo Campaign have been a fountain of strength during some tough times, when even the ever cheerful Alan needs some help!! Since the 15th September 2002, I have been on land for a total of 14 days and in 2002, I have been at sea for 138 days, basically more than one of every three days of this year, BTC Velocity and I were headed somewhere. The lack of time on land has been the hardest. Hardest on family and myself and hardest to keep BTC Velocity together. I will continue to focus on the positive, even though I am a consistent ' back marker ' in the race standings and have had the least time in port, with little chance of this changing in any dramatic way, I am following my dream with determination and humor, I suggest that you, if you truly want to, go ahead and plan to follow yours. Alan"

Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi wishes for pleasant winds for the New Year. His Finot designed Open 40 Spirit of yukoh has been in her element: "Low pressure just passed and wind was blowing at 40-45 knots. Waves were about 5-6 meters in height, which were much higher than my eye. When yukoh got big waves, she pleasantly glided on the waves at more than 20 knots. She seemed to be so balanced and played with the waves. I had to take my hat off to her capability of surfing! It was fabulous!!!"

Canadian skipper Derek Hatfield has had no time for reflection when faced with a watery dilemma on Spirit of Canada. He found the whole middle compartment flooded with about 1 1/2 feet of water, probably 100 gallons or more - there was a hole in his main bilge line. "I pumped for about three hours to get the water under control but it was coming in almost as fast as I could pump. I went looking for the leak and discovered that one of the daggerboard trunks had split it's covering from all the high speed surfing
we have been doing. More pumping and then to attempt a fix. It's amazing what you can do with a tube of 5200 adhesive and a roll of duct tape. I have lost some ground to the other boats but now will endeavor to make it back up. Now for some food and much needed sleep, it's been 18 hours or more since the last cat-nap. And oh yes, this is New Years Eve. Happy New Year to everyone, and may 2003 bring you happiness and peace. Take care.

American Tim Kent on Open 50 Everest Horizontal must be proud to be in 2nd place of Leg 2 at the end of what has been a tumultuous year for him, which started with him flogging T-shirts at the Chicago Strictly Sail Show to raise funds for his Around Alone entry. He is still without a corporate sponsor at the end of the year, but he is still achieving what he set out to do - sail solo around the world.

"Geographically, we have come to the middle of the Southern Ocean, on the opposite side of the planet from my home in Milwaukee. But adventures like this do not take place only in three dimensions, they began in the mind, took root and ultimately live there for all of us. One does not have to participate in an adventure to feel it, to understand it. All of the books I have read and video I have watched prepared me for what I have seen so far in this race - in my mind I have been here many times. We are all adventurers, whether we cast off the lines, or open the book, or read the email, or watch the video. Whether it is just for the thrill of reading about the extreme conditions, trying to imagine it, or actually throwing on the foul weather gear to go out and deal with them, when all is said and done, it is a journey of the mind that has been taken. I get the bruises and the cold toes, but we all get to live this adventure together.

"Try to wrap your mind around this; as I mentioned earlier, I am almost exactly on the opposite side of the planet from Milwaukee right now. Milwaukee is roughly at 42.58n, 87.52w; I am, as you can see above, at 46.12s, 87.00e. I am about 40 miles away from 87.52e, at which time I will be on the longitude exactly opposite Milwaukee. Every mile I have sailed up to that point is a mile I was sailing away from home. Every mile I sail
after that is a mile closer to home. I'm not half way home in my mind - as far as the race is concerned, I won't really be half way done until I cross the finish line for this leg in New Zealand. But I am getting closer to home, closer to my daughters, to my friends. Tim"

Tim's log is a fitting tribute to conclude Around Alone 2002 and start off 2003 for all of us, both the skippers racing out there and the rest of us on land following the race. So on that note we wish you fair winds for 2003!

Positions at 0600hrs 1st January 03

Pos / Boat / Lat / Long / Av Btsp / DTF
1 Bobst Group-Armor Lux -47 137.2 NaN 2058.7
2 Solidaires -43.7 129.2 NaN 2371.8
3 Hexagon -45.2 123 NaN 2629.1
4 Tiscali -45.2 119.6 NaN 2774.5
5 Pindar -47.3 118.8 NaN 2798.1
6 Ocean Planet -46.8 113.6 NaN 3011.7

1 Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America -45 106.7 NaN 3313.5
2 Everest Horizontal -48.2 94.4 NaN 3769.1
3 Spirit of Canada -45.5 92.5 NaN 3886.7
4 Spirit of yukoh -46 89.4 NaN 3998.1
5 BTC Velocity -44 80.4 NaN 4400.6

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