Late arrival

Around Alone competitors have been flocking to Newport, prior to the 1 September deadline - except one...

Monday September 2nd 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: United States
The 1 September midnight local time deadline for boats to arrive in Newport, Rhode Island ready for the 12 September start of Around Alone has been met by all but one boat - Graham Dalton's HSBC-sponsored Hexagon.

This morning at 1100 Hexagon was at 41deg 15N 51deg 37W and had 880 miles left to go. Over the weekend Hexagon experienced 50 knot winds and giant seas but conditions have now moderated and Dalton said he is now making 8-10 knots towards Newport.

A question mark remains over the fate of Dalton's entry in Around Alone. Under article 3.7 of the Notice of Race it states that 'All yachts shall be at their required berthing in Rhode Island by 1 September 2002 failing which their entry may be forfeited. Exceptions to this rule shall only be granted by the race committee in exceptional circumstances.' So Dalton has to prove exceptional circumstances and one imagines that a dismasting en route to the start would suffice.

In the sailing instructions, article 2.2 states that competitors "not at their berthing in Newport by 1st September 2002 shall receive a time penalty of six hours for every 24-hour period commencing at midnight on 1st September 2002 (and reduced proportionately for any period of less than 24 hours) such penalty to be applied to their finish time in the first leg." It seems likely that Hexagon will reach Newport on Thursday or Friday this week, four to five days after Sunday's deadline and under this rule will incur a penalty of 24-30 hours. This would be added on to Hexagon's elasped time for Around Alone's first leg back across the north Atlantic.

However where Dalton will have a tougher time is over his qualification. This is already a sticky point with him - he believed that he had carried out his qualification passage for Around Alone while sailing the boat between Auckland and Sydney earlier this year. The race committee thought otherwise and turned this down on the grounds that it was not a trans-oceanic passage and this decision was backed up by an international jury when Dalton protested the race committee.

Dalton's delivery trip of Hexagon to Newport, Rhode Island is also now his qualifier but even this looks like it will fail to satisfy race requirements - under article 7.2 of the Notice of Race it states that "the qualifying voyage shall be completed by 1200 (local time) on 1st September 2002."

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds. Theoretically Hexagoncould be thrown out of Around Alone. This would be embarrassing for all concerned - Hexagon is the only new Open 60 built in living memory specifically to win this event (and not the Vendee Globe) and has the highest campaign budget, rumoured to be in the region of £3 million. Hexagon's sponsors, the Education Trust of HSBC bank, are also entwinned with Clipper Ventures in an official partnership to endorse the HSBC Education Challenge - the official schools programme of Around Alone.

Frankly the chance of Hexagon not being allowed to take part is as remote as OneWorld not being allowed to race in the America's Cup.

Meanwhile Swiss skipper and race favourite Bernard Stamm arrived on Saturday afternoon after a 12 day crossing on board his Open 60 Bobst Group-Armor Lux from France. Italian competitor Simone Bianchetti, also a strong contender aboard Tiscali - formerly Catherine Chabaud's Whirlpool - also arrived in the afternoon.

Emma Richards aboard Pindar skated in at 1900 local time, long overdue having been been becalmed when the Azores high began to straddle the entire north Atlantic. Richards completed her qualifier by putting into Bermuda where she picked up supplies and shorecrew Ollie Dewar before continuing to Newport.

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