Strong conditions take toll

One boat heads back to Cape Town in Around Alone

Sunday December 22nd 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
The Southern Ocean is dishing up its usual dose of difficult conditions and they are taking their toll on the 12 strong Around Alone fleet after eight days of racing from Cape Town, South Africa on their way to Tauranga, NZL. Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm on Bobst Group-Armor Lux and Brad Van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America lead their respective classes as they track East towards the Kerguelen Islands in 25-30 knots of southwesterlies.

Christmas may be round the corner but the strong winds and cross seas continue to lash the yachts and have now taken their first casualty. John Dennis, Canadian skipper of Open 50 Bayer Ascensia, announced this morning that he was turning back for Cape Town. "I have diverted and I am now heading to Cape Town as the bearings on the shaft for the alternator and ballast pump have ceased," he wrote in a brief email to Race HQ. "I feel that it is unsafe to proceed if I am not able to charge batteries or pump water ballast. Once I get to port I will decide then what the best course of action might be." Race rules require the yachts to be sailed between each port for the competitor to remain an official entrant.

Early this morning Tim Kent on Everest Horizontal reported in to have lost power from all his batteries and to be unable to start the engine: "That means I will have no electrical power. I will see if solar panels can provide enough power to start engine once daylight arrives." Without any means of charging his batteries Kent would be forced to stop to make repairs. A few long hours passed until a second email came through. “The motor is running and I have electricity again. If I had not installed those solar panels in Brixham it would be another story altogether."

The rest of the fleet are undergoing a formidable baptism by the Southern Ocean rollers as a frontal passage rolls over the fleet and they are hit by a residual wave train from the southwest. "It’s rather scary right now," wrote Bruce Schwab on Ocean Planet. "Wind gusts to 45 knots. Speed sometimes steady at 20 knots. Howl of keel is deafening. Consequences of wipeout nerve-wracking." Fortunately the wind is from behind and Bruce feels that these conditions are where Ocean Planet shines. “With the unstayed rig, I have up the main alone, 3rd reefed with the mast rotated and the sheet way out...no shrouds in the way! I can sail a very low course at high speed and in great control.”

Schwab is currently ahead of Italian Simone Bianchetti on Tiscali and 50 miles from 4 th placed British skipper Emma Richards on Pindar, averaging a fraction of a knot faster in the last 8 hours. Interestingly he is the furthest North in Class 1 at 42 degrees latitude, happy to stay where the wind blows and his boat is on the best sailing angle, whereas leader Stamm is heading up to the Kerguelens from the bottom forties sailing towards North Westerlies as he goes over the top of the low pressure to the South.

Alan Paris’s report from BTC Velocity was even more to the point. "Two knockdowns to 90 degrees in the past 3 hours as wind dies to 30 knots from 40 yet sea state is way up !! All OK just a little messy." At the same time, this is adrenalin junkie stuff, and Paris managed to surf at a top speed of 22.1 knots on his little 40 footer: “front third of the boat out of the water and two large spumes of water rising 5 feet off either side of the mast. Awesome stuff!”

Several skippers are also learning what happens if you don’t tie down absolutely everything in the cabin: Schwab reported that: “on one spin out about half of my food containers flipped over dumping their contents all over. It took a while to repack all that (this time the lids are locked!).” Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi on Spirit of yukoh described one knockdown: “At three in the morning, suddenly I experienced the terrible blow of a gigantic wave and we turned over. Completely pushed over sideways!!! Causing unfixed kitchen things to fall down on me. The chart table also got wet because of gully water. The Southern Ocean baptized me already!!”

The strong winds are forecast to moderate in the next 24 hours, and the next front is quite far to the west. This should allow the yachts time to regroup and to sort out the mess on board. We will keep you posted on John Dennis’s situation and bring you any important news as it happens.

POSITIONS AT 14:00GMT 22 nd DECEMBER 2002

Class 1
Boat Time Lat Lon AvgBsp AvgHeading DTF
1. Bobst Group-Armor Lux, 47 31.220 S, 67 59.190 E, 124.78 nm, 15.63 kt, 72 °T, 4869.85 nm
2. Solidaires, 47 09.170 S, 64 25.050 E, 92.88 nm, 11.60 kt, 120 °T, 5015.73 nm
3. Hexagon, 46 23.090 S, 59 18.070 E, 97.81 nm, 12.22 kt, 90 °T, 5230.01 nm
4. Pindar, 45 51.480 S, 57 22.260 E, 97.45 nm, 12.19 kt, 102 °T, 5316.25 nm
5. Ocean Planet, 42 32.050 S, 58 05.240 E, 99.52 nm, 12.44 kt, 108 °T, 5364.47 nm
6. Tiscali, 46 43.340 S, 55 16.380 E, 93.92 nm, 11.75 kt, 90 °T, 5379.34 nm

Class 2
Boat Time Lat Lon AvgBsp AvgHeading DTF
1. Tommy Hilfiger, 43 34.410 S, 55 00.020 E, 99.12 nm, 12.38 kt, 100 °T, 5462.10 nm
2. Spirit of Canada, 44 07.580 S, 47 15.480 E, 74.83 nm, 9.36 kt, 77 °T, 5750.75 nm
3. Everest Horizontal, 46 47.038 S, 44 00.240 E, 80.04 nm, 9.99 kt, 97 °T, 5804.26 nm
4. Spirit of yukoh, 43 56.360 S, 45 19.019 E, 68.32 nm, 8.53 kt, 94 °T, 5830.49 nm
5. BTC Velocity, 42 07.000 S, 43 11.100 E, 68.25 nm, 8.54 kt, 85 °T, 5964.82 nm
6. Bayer Ascensia, 37 44.700 S, 23 31.120 E, 57.51 nm, 7.20 kt, 332 °T, 6858.12 nm

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