Solidaires up to second

As Around Alone leaders bask in glorious reaching conditions off African coast

Thursday October 24th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
This morning saw Emma Richards' Pindar overhauled by ungentlemanly Thierry Dubois aboard Solidaires. The Frenchman has been slowly clawing his way up to and now past Richards and by midday the Breton former Mini Transat winner had increased his lead to 20 miles.

At present the boats are tracking down the coast of Africa with race leader Bernard Stamm maintaining a more westerly track which traditional thinking suggests may mean he is able to make a faster crossing of the Doldrums. After the horrors of last weekend's storm they are now enjoying fabulous reaching conditions.

In a communique from on board Stamm described his situation: “I am passing close by the Cape Verde Islands with 16–25 knots of northeasterly breeze. Either there is not enough sail up or too little so I’ve been hoisting, reefing, furling and unfurling, gennakers, small and big spinnakers, one reef, no reef, all to gain just that tenth of a knot or sometimes to lose it. After all, that’s racing.”

Some 1,500 miles back up the track from the frontrunners, the Class 2 fleet are sailed straight into steep seas in their first 24hrs back racing, and the conditions are beginning to take their toll. Derek Hatfield on Spirit of Canada has bent one of his tillers and it is threatening to break. "Fortunately I have two," he wrote, referring to the double rudders he has on his boat, each with their own tiller.

Brad van Liew, skipper of Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America, has caught a head cold and is dealing with sore joints, hot and cold flashes and a stuffy head. "I would definitely not go to work today given the choice," he said in a satellite phone call. Unfortunately for Brad and the rest of the Around Alone sailors, there is no day off. They are on a 24/7 schedule without a break. To make matters worse he too is getting pounded by strong headwinds. This afternoon Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America was sailing west with two reefs in the mainsail and a small staysail set. The sound of the yacht crashing into the steep seas could be heard during the call while Brad braced himself for each landing.

There are two different strategies developing among the Class 2 boats. Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America and Spirit of yukoh have taken a long hitch out to the west, while the rest of the fleet are hugging the coast and heading south. The problem for all the yachts is that a ridge of high pressure has formed to the south of them. There is no way around the area and by tomorrow morning the lead boats will be dealing with light, fickle winds.

For now Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America is still holding onto a slim lead, but if van Liew continues to sail west while his closest rival, Derek Hatfield, heads south, by morning the leaderboard will look quite different. Brad and Kojiro are taking a long view of the weather for Leg 2, and are positioning themselves for the trade-winds further to the south. Just as Bernard Stamm did a few days ago, these two skippers are banking on more wind to the west. They are also banking on new wind coming from the west and they are hoping to get it before the boats inshore.

As Brad penned it in an email, "sometimes giving up the lead for a bigger gain down the track makes sense." Yes it does make sense unless the boats inshore are able to find some local wind off the land to scoot them through the high pressure and into the trade winds first…the next 48 hours will be critical.

Positions at 1400hrs GMT 24th October 2002

Class 1
Postn / Boat Name / Lat/ Long/ Boatspd/ Hdg/ DTF / DTL
1 Bobst Group Armor-Lux, 15 08.960 N, 24 40.680 W, 58.65 nm, 14.66 kt, 197 °T, 4917.60 nm
2 Solidaires, 24 25.320 N, 19 13.600 W, 12.60 kt, 203 °T, 5539.07 nm, + 302.13 nm
3 Pindar, 19 19.120 N, 20 54.960 W, 52.12 nm, 13.03 kt, 181 °T, 5219.34 nm
4 Hexagon, 21 44.240 N, 21 07.440 W, 51.40 nm, 12.85 kt, 206 °T, 5352.46 nm
5 Ocean Planet, 42 09.720 N, 8 59.320 W, 6.77 nm, 1.70 kt, 290 °T, 6717.98 nm
6 Tiscali, 43 27.320 N, 8 21.000 W, 0.00 nm, 0.00 kt, 0 °T, 6799.83 nm

Class 2
Postn / Boat Name / Lat/ Long/ Boatspd/ Hdg/ DTF / DTL
1 Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America, 40 24.240 N, 11 40.280 W, 21.32 nm, 5.33 kt, 258 °T, 6570.44 nm
2 Spirit of Canada, 40 02.480 N, 9 17.800 W, 27.70 nm, 6.92 kt, 166 °T, 6598.66 nm
3 BTC Velocity, 40 04.360 N, 9 20.360 W, 16.88 nm, 4.22 kt, 234 °T, 6599.41 nm
4 Everest Horizontal, 40 15.600 N, 9 40.560 W, 31.56 nm, 7.89 kt, 177 °T, 6602.28 nm
5 Spirit of yukoh, 41 42.880 N, 9 16.400 W, 4.71 kt, 198 °T, 6688.30 nm, +7.83 nm
6 Bayer Ascensia, 41 52.360 N, 10 27.080 W, 27.45 nm, 6.86 kt, 179 °T, 6673.57 nm

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