Around Alone in the deep south

Stamm suffers some damage but all skippers are well

Wednesday February 19th 2003, Author: Mary Ambler, Location: Transoceanic
The leading yachts in Around Alone 2002-03 are under 1,500 miles from the infamous Cape Horn, which marks the gateway out of the Southern Ocean. With the current speeds they should round the legendary landmark in just under a week. There may be only 1,500nm to go to the Horn, but Salvador is then twice that distance away, being much further North in Brazil than the previous stop-over in Rio de Janeiro. Until they turn this corner, however, the skippers will not be delivered from the harsh conditions and icy regions, which causes them day upon day of relentless cold and tension.

The aim of the game for now is to keep up a good average boat speed and get the boat around the Cape in good condition; according to veteran circumnavigator and 4th placed Simone Bianchetti speaking from his satellite phone on board Open 60 Tiscali: “It is at the Falkland Islands where the race will really be fought.” So Bianchetti is not worried that Kiwi Graham Dalton on Hexagon has crept past him in the last 24hrs to open up a small margin of 9 miles. He is happy for now that he has no problems with his new rig - and that it is his birthday tomorrow!

Dalton himself records below freezing temperatures outside now the winds are more from the South, and the waves breaking over the deck are ice-cold. “I am also having problems charging my batteries at the moment. If I were unable to maintain power in the batteries the consequences would be pretty severe. All my instruments, communications, autopilot, radar, even the lighting inside the cabin would be lost.” Dalton is working with his shore team to fix the problem.

Race leader, Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm on Bobst Group-Armor Lux, is learning at what rhythm his boat wants to be sailed at. He pushed 395 miles in the last 24hrs out of his boat, but to some detriment to the equipment on board: “I have to manage the smaller problems before they escalate into bigger ones. So yesterday the block on the gennaker car track broke off at the deck – so the sheet then suddenly lead directly onto the winch and broke the steel guard rail all along that side of the boat. After 6 hours on the freezing cold deck changing the gennaker sheet and repairing everything, then a mainsail batten broke and so I spent a further 3 hours on deck bringing down the main, changing the batten and then re-hoisting hundreds of kilos of heavy, wet sail.”

Stamm’s nearest rival, as always, is French skipper Thierry Dubois, just over 100 miles behind. Both are at 54 degrees South, Solidaires slightly lower than Bobst Group-Armor Lux though. Dubois is enjoying the upside of surfing the Southern Ocean waves and taking on the chin the constant wash of cold water into the cockpit. He knows this neck of the woods better than anyone, and is sticking to his friend up ahead closer than ever before.

British skipper Emma Richards on Pindar is in her own duel chasing Bruce Schwab on Ocean Planet but like Dubois has some previous experience: “This is the Southern Ocean I remember. The seas are mountainous…just masses of peaks that move fast, they keep breaking so everything is white. Sometimes I would be concentrating so hard in taking some speed and working it over the next waves, I'd hear a massive roar, look behind to see mass of white water about to engulf me and fill my cockpit! That’s when I wished I hadn't bothered looking around. One thing more terrifying than tonnes of water about to collapse on you, is when you are in the pitch black night, on your own of course!”

In Class 2, none of the fleet has broken the threshold of the 50th degree parallel as yet, the recent ice reports keeping them further North for the time being. Leader Brad Van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America has opted to “sacrifice the miles without sacrificing the race.” With a lead of 377 miles over Tim Kent on Everest Horizontal Van Liew can stick to his philosophy for now. Kent himself is also playing it safe until around the Horn, but is also aware that the innovative Finot 40 Spirit of yukoh skippered by Japanese Kojiro Shiraishi, is sailing well and “within striking distance” just 129 miles behind. Canadian skipper Derek Hatfield on Spirit of Canada is struggling to keep up boat speed as the spreading high pressure system to his North hampers his progress, but has made up 100 miles on Alan Paris and Open 40 BTC Velocity since leaving Napier in NZ.

The weather for the following day, according to Raymarine files, will see the front runners get into stronger Westerlies of over 30 knots as the low pressure system rides underneath, and the Class 2 boats higher up keep in West to South West winds of up to 25 knots below the expanding High. The fleet may not have driven very far South as yet, but the prospect of descending to 57th degree parallel in order to round Cape Horn will be on their minds already.

Class 1
Boat Lat Lon AvgBsp AvgHeading DTF

1 Bobst Group-Armor Lux, 54 16.170 S, 107 43.980 W, 17.75 kt, 95 °T, 4321.65 nm
2 Solidaires, 54 54.060 S, 111 34.930 W, 13.60 kt, 86 °T, 4448.37 nm
3 Hexagon, 53 52.040 S, 115 45.020 W, 14.59 kt, 102 °T, 4602.35 nm
4 Tiscali, 53 47.550 S, 116 16.520 W, 13.44 kt, 92 °T, 4621.47 nm
5 Ocean Planet, 51 45.520 S, 118 22.520 W, 13.95 kt, 95 °T, 4733.23 nm
6 Pindar, 51 38.090 S, 119 23.450 W, 10.84 kt, 92 °T, 4770.79 nm

Class 2
Boat Lat Lon AvgBsp AvgHeading DTF
1 Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America, 49 37.260 S, 124 18.500 W, 9.98 kt, 87 °T, 4992.19 nm
2 Everest Horizontal, 49 19.390 S, 135 05.500 W, 10.41 kt, 90 °T, 5370.08 nm
3 Spirit of yukoh, 49 19.610 S, 138 51.680 W, 8.02 kt, 94 °T, 5499.67 nm
4 BTC Velocity, 49 48.280 S, 147 33.280 W, 7.49 kt, 73 °T, 5783.16 nm
5 Spirit of Canada, 48 12.400 S, 155 35.140 W, 9.84 kt, 98 °T, 6103.64 nm

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