A tough finish

As the wind goes soft and on the nose for the last miles to the Around Alone finish in Brazil

Friday March 7th 2003, Author: Mary Ambler, Location: Transoceanic
Salvador de Bahia is ready to welcome the Around Alone boats to warm and relaxing Brazilian shores, and yet the last 600 miles of this 7,880m leg from Tauranga is proving to be the most nail-biting part.

The top four boats are averaging 6 knots boatspeed, and the piece of elastic between Class 1 leader Thierry Dubois on Solidaires and current overall leader Bernard Stamm on Bobst Group-Armor Lux is stretched to just 52 miles. Only 313 m behind the leader, Simone Bianchetti has opened up another 80 miles between Tiscali and Emma Richards on Pindar from the 7 mile distance that was separating them just a couple of days ago. To add insult to injury, the leading boats are now facing what wind there is head on as they level with Rio de Janeiro.

So the feeling out on the ocean today is one of utter frustration as light airs racing can be far more exacting than surviving a fifty knot storm. Dubois has opted to head inshore to the left of the direct route in the headwinds, whereas Stamm remains 2 degrees further offshore. Dubois struck a rather dramatic cord when he declared on email: “I had to make a sacrifice to satisfy the wind gods today…” and then promptly sent a photo of a cuddly Kiwi toy sitting on the stern of his boat – in flames! “It was either him or me!” he protested.

Emma has been practicing “self-counselling” to get through the agony by writing long emails about every frustration she has been experiencing on board, from calculating how long it would take to reach Salvador at 2 knots, to spending 2 hours trying to tack through the boat when a light wind shift arrives only to watch it dissipate and shift again, leaving Pindar in irons.

Class 2 leader Brad Van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America has temporarily stopped flying as he too enters the transition zone between Southern Ocean and South Atlantic weather systems. This is where his 900 mile lead may start to evaporate as in a reverse situation the skippers behind him are bearing the brunt of the too much breeze. Tim Kent on Everest Horizontal and Kojiro Shiraishi on Spirit of yukoh reported to be in a heavy upwind gale NE of the Falklands. Kent was on the deck standing with one arm around the storm jib furler when he got lifted off his feet by the impact of a huge wave. “Had I not been holding onto the furler, I would have been swept to the end of the tether on my safety harness. As it was, it just knocked the wind out of me.” Kojiro’s repair list is getting longer: “The wind instruments, the port helm and the auto pilots are all in need of repair. I am punching into a heavy storm and with safety in mind.”

Another skipper was added to the distinguished list of Cape Horners this morning as Alan Paris sailed his Open 40 BTC Velocity around the rock at 00:30 GMT in pretty fearful conditions, 26 days after leaving Tauranga and just over 12 days after Bobst Group-Armor Lux: “Around 2 pm it was blowing a solid 45 kts with gusts to 50 kts. This coincided with the depth change that goes from 4000 m to 65 m as you approach the Horn and the waves built up very quickly and were coming from 3 directions. Wave height was approximately 25 feet. BTC Velocity was knocked down 2 times; however, one of those times I was at the mast taking down the main sail as it was blowing a good 50 kts. I heard a roar and all of sudden my world was looking at the water only a few feet from my face and we were horizontal to the surface. Wow. That's a first and quite an experience. This has been a great goal to achieve on the way to the ultimate goal of a solo circumnavigation. To be the first Bermudian to solo the southern oceans and pass the great capes of Good Hope, Leuwin and now Cape Horn is quite an honor.”

News of the injured boats; 200 miles from Cape Horn Derek Hatfield reported in that the canting keel mechanism had failed. “The outer seal of the ram has failed and allowed all fluid to escape from the system. I have locked the keel off on the centerline and am sailing normally under reduced sail area.” Losing hydraulic pressure on the keel means a drastic reduction of manoeuvrability for Spirit of Canada. Hatfield is currently rounding Cape Horn in fairly strong winds and is being closely monitored. He intends to rendez-vous with his shore manager at Port Stanley in the Falklands in about 5 days to replace the ram.

Bruce Schwab is heading North again on Ocean Planet after spending 5 days in Port Stanley, and is recording the best speeds of all the Class 1 boats, hoping to catch up the miles quickly as the leaders slow up ahead. Graham Dalton has got the Argentinian Coast Guard to tow Hexagon at 6 knots towards Puerto Madryn in Argentina. Only on reaching land and assessing his options, will Dalton make a decision as to the solution for the mast problem. His ETA is this evening. However, he has also discovered since the dismasting that the device holding the pin, which attaches the ram to the keel, had detached and loosened the pin itself. “I was just in time. Had the pin fallen out; the keel would have been left swinging freely beneath the boat. The result could have been catastrophic.”

POSITIONS AT 1400GMT 7th MARCH 2003

Class 1
Boat Lat Lon AvgBsp AvgHeading DTF
1 Solidaires 22 58.100 S 38 45.530 W 6.22 kt 335 °T 599.96 nm
2 Bobst Group-Armor Lux 23 40.170 S 36 30.340 W 4.42 kt 16 °T 651.96 nm
3 Tiscali 27 43.380 S 41 39.500 W 5.89 kt 57 °T 913.17 nm
4 Pindar 28 46.310 S 43 02.500 W 8.52 kt 25 °T 1002.53 nm
5 Ocean Planet 47 37.220 S 53 54.170 W 9.81 kt 60 °T 2237.24 nm
6 Hexagon 43 40.890 S 62 23.110 W 4.81 kt 284 °T 2285.73 nm

Class 2
Boat Lat Lon AvgBsp AvgHeading DTF
1 Tommy Hilfiger 32 47.340 S 42 17.430 W 5.57 kt 38 °T 1211.28 nm
2 Everest Horizontal 46 09.260 S 51 02.380 W 12.05 kt 64 °T 2104.25 nm
3 Spirit of yukoh 48 35.030 S 51 49.410 W 9.06 kt 36 °T 2249.36 nm
4 BTC Velocity 54 57.470 S 64 12.580 W 8.84 kt 57 °T 2818.65 nm
5 Spirit of Canada 56 05.290 S 66 55.480 W 8.70 kt 80 °T 2935.80 nm

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