Near disaster for Kent

Mary Ambler updates us on the progress of Around Alone as the leaders line up for Cape Horn

Friday February 21st 2003, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
Drama unfolded overnight as Around Alone Class 2 skipper Tim Kent on Everest Horizontal narrowly avoided dismasting. He was alerted in the night by noise at the bow to find the tack of the headstay had parted and, loaded with the big genoa, the headstay was flailing around at the bow. The pin holding the headstay to the toggle had come undone and also the rod had parted at the top of the headstay after all the flogging of a fully loaded furler.

The halyard was holding up the headstay alone. Kent had to jettison the entire unit and lose the genoa too. “What was important was that the rig was tested and passed. Period. I'll deal with the hole in the sail inventory. When you consider what could have happened when the headstay let go, this is no big deal. Not every boat in this fleet would have made it through that event without a dismasting.” He is back on course now and still holding second place: “We are almost half way to the Horn and I'm ready to see that rock already.”

Around Alone Class 1 leader Bernard Stamm on Bobst Group-Armor Lux has predicted his arrival at Cape Horn to be during Sunday night and Monday morning, and he is currently at 57 degrees South, with 700 miles to go: “I am sailing an arc-like course to reach the Horn. I don’t need to go any further south now, but I can’t just keep a straight course in these conditions, and you have to anticipate these machines when they are surfing at 26/7 knots boatspeed in winds gusting 40 knots.” Stamm had to drop the mainsail yet again to replace another broken batten, not an easy task in such a cold climate. “Each time I have to go outside it takes me half an hour just to get dressed and then I only get drenched in ice cold water when I do!”

His nearest rival, Frenchman Thierry Dubois on Solidaires, has decided that running around on deck in freezing temperatures and getting soaked is not his style, and he stays in his cabin as much as possible, eating, reading and sleeping: – “that is the secret to surviving the south!” he declared. Dubois has steered a straight course on the 55th degree parallel and remains true to his goal: “I have to get to the Horn with the boat in perfect condition – for once I have no damage – so I don’t chase Bernard south. In fact we’ll probably round the Horn on Monday, which is my birthday so I’ve asked Bernard to wait for me there and we can go find a Bistro that’s open and celebrate together!”

Third placed Graham Dalton on Hexagon is finding that his boat is revelling in the strong weather of late, but that his battery-charging problem on board persists. So far Dalton has had to wire the batteries that are used for moving Hexagon's keel into the main circuit, which has provided enough power to keep all of the instruments working.

American Bruce Schwab on Ocean Planet is back on starboard gybe and after shaking off Pindar is hoping to get on the tail of Tiscali and Hexagon before the Horn. The same distance Stamm is from the Horn is the deficit that Emma Richards and Pindar has on the Class 1 leader, as the British skipper continues to single handedly control her 60ft boat surfing at top speeds in the strong winds and confused seas. Richards has gybed north as the wind shifts to the West and is “looking forward to turning left.”

At the back of the fleet – 2,100m behind the top Open 60 – the ‘Catch-up Canadian’ Derek Hatfield has been blessed by a 22 knot following wind, generated from the high pressure above him, which he has nicknamed ‘The Spirit of Canada High’. “I'm making inroads into the fleet but being cautious, sailing in a narrow band of water between the ice that was reported to the south and less wind in the high pressure to the north. I'm hoping that the wind continues until I can go drop further south after the position of the last reported ice.”

And finally, some things that happen at sea are inexplicable, at least according to Kojiro Shiraishi on Spirit of yukoh, whose port autopilot had broken down and then mysteriously started working again. “I didn't do anything to fix it although I thought about it. Thanks to all those people who prayed for this boat. I think those prayers were the key ingredients which fixed it. Without me knowing it seems to have broken and fixed itself. As I still don't know the reason it broke, I am not sure if it will stop or not so I'm going to use the starboard autopilot at night.”

POSITIONS AT 1400GMT 21st FEBRUARY 2003

Class 1
Boat Lat Lon AvgBsp AvgHeading DTF

1 Bobst Group-Armor Lux, 57 23.330 S, 87 20.040 W, 16.65 kt, 103 °T, 3609.28 nm
2 Solidaires, 55 05.280 S, 91 55.360 W, 14.77 kt, 95 °T, 3780.83 nm
3 Hexagon, 54 52.270 S, 97 23.420 W, 14.77 kt, 89 °T, 3965.79 nm
4 Tiscali, 53 30.360 S, 99 36.120 W, 9.98 kt, 88 °T, 4065.66 nm,
5 Ocean Planet, 52 45.610 S, 102 12.430 W, 12.36 kt, 91 °T, 4169.38 nm
6 Pindar, 51 42.940 S, 105 50.100 W, 12.83 kt, 41 °T, 4316.65 nm

Class 2
Boat Lat Lon AvgBsp AvgHeading DTF
1 Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America, 52 53.660 S, 109 05.280 W, 14.15 kt, 119 °T, 4394.27 nm
2 Everest Horizontal, 51 38.370 S, 124 52.630 W, 14.32 kt, 130 °T, 4958.62 nm
3 Spirit of yukoh, 50 28.510 S, 128 41.780 W, 10.04 kt, 109 °T, 5118.60 nm
4 BTC Velocity, 51 11.570 S, 138 22.020 W, 8.97 kt, 137 °T, 5432.66 nm
5 Spirit of Canada, 48 29.570 S, 143 40.240 W, 8.31 kt, 88 °T, 5712.90 nm

Friday, February 21, 2003 1340gmt
Lat 52 54.6S, Lon 102 23.6W

Bruce Schwab writes from on board Ocean Planet.

Well, we need to head more south sooner or later to get down to the Latitude of Cape Horn, so when I jibed back on to starboard gybe this morning that will probably be the last jibe for a couple days. Fine with me as I have gybed four times in the last 24 hours trying to be on the correct side of the windshifts. That may not sound like much for a crewed boat, and it's pretty easy with the unstayed rig, but there is so much gear and weight shifting to with it and that's what's tiring! About 20 minutes of lugging containers and sails from one side to the other and getting them properly stowed. Gets me warmed up, anyway....;-)

I've been going over and over the predicted winds for the rest of the way to the Horn, and I'm hoping I can work the angles to get right on the tail of Hexagon and Tiscali. I've managed to shake Emma, but she's taking it easy till the big left turn. Not a bad idea given the risks out here if anything goes wrong. Every now and then I wonder if I should have played the game of "iceberg dare" with Bernard and Thierry, but for me that's not really sailboat racing and it's not for me. Also, as Brad reminded me the other day, I'm probably the only Class One boat without hull insurance. Perhaps I'd be just a little braver with the budget to fix anything we might break once in Brazil!

But at the Brazil stopover I will be by myself this time. We have exhausted all of our credit and resources and can't afford to fly anyone there. Oh well, we did a great job on the boat in NZ so hopefully (fingers crossed everyone) there won't be much to fix for the last leg.

I've been eating like crazy. Being surrounded by a bunch of food in this tiny environment it is pretty hard to resist! In addition to all my regular food stores, many friends in NZ baked cookies and goodies that are taking a while to get through! Although someone has to do it, so I take the job seriously....;-) To be honest, I could live off my Mariner's
Vitamins Prometan Bars as they are really good and I've become almost addicted to them. But I do eat quite a variety of stuff, to keep it interesting.

Let's hope this wind keeps blowing all the way to the Horn! A few folks have asked me if I will go for the "Cape Horn earring" after the race. I think so. It will be nice to have something to show for all this and to remind me that it wasn't just a long, strange dream.

Back the chilly dream waters,
Bruce and Ocean Planet

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