Dubois heads for first place

Leaders now around Cape Horn in Around Alone

Monday February 24th 2003, Author: Mary Ambler, Location: Transoceanic
French skipper Thierry Dubois on Solidaires, who has had more than his fair share of misfortune playing second fiddle to Bernard Stamm in every leg so far of Around Alone 2002-03, turned 36 years old as he passed Cape Horn and left the Southern Ocean unscathed over last night. "At the third attempt I have succeeded in rounding Cape Horn singlehanded, still in the race and still intact! Just one thing was missing from this passage – to be in the lead… I have not totally given up on this, another day, another race, as part of a crew perhaps…?”

The competition for the coveted points is going to get fierce up the Atlantic with the recent shake-up experienced by half of Class 1. Solidaires is just 64 miles behind and going twice the speed of the wounded Bobst Group-Armor Lux. The repair that skipper Bernard Stamm has effected on the damaged keel board above the axis inside the boat is holding well, but the boat is “at 20% of her potential,” according to Stamm, with two reefs and Solent set. Weather files show that for these two the winds have abated to 10 knots on their beam as they head towards the Falkland Islands some 200 miles away. No decision has been taken as yet for the Swiss leader to stop at these islands, despite being the natural option.

Italian skipper Simone Bianchetti on Tiscali is now neck and neck with Kiwi Graham Dalton on Hexagon as the latter heads towards the Chilean coastline still at a fair rate of knots despite the broken boom. Bianchetti is unable to take stock of his imminent move up to third place as he explained in a satellite phone call today: “I have right now 50 knots from the northeast, it’s on the nose, and I have just my storm jib up, but the boat is still going at 11-12 knots. The waves are very strong and short so I am taking care of the boat to get round Cape Horn safely and with no damage. There is worse to come in 24hrs when I will be rounding Cape Horn.”

In fact the latest weather file shows the low pressure to be sweeping eastwards and descending south below the fleet, generating North westerly winds in excess of 40 knots for the batch of boats in Class 1 rounding Cape Horn over the next two days.

This includes the injured Open 60 Ocean Planet, and American skipper Bruce Schwab, who is two days from the Horn. He has made a temporary repair from plywood and epoxy to fill the hole on deck, but there is a long crack all the way to the runner winch too. “I'm still debating whether to stop in Ushuaia or the Falklands. Graham's team will be taking a boat from Ushuaia to meet him and Hexagon’s repairs can apparently be done at anchor. I need to get the boom inside somewhere with the necessary equipment and heat. We are just too far south and it is too cold to try an onboard 'Yves Parlier' style fix, but Graham's guys are bringing some extra carbon cloth that I'll need to fix the boom that may be hard to come by in the Falklands.”

With just over 500m to go until the exit sign, British skipper Emma Richards on Pindar and American skipper leading Class 2, Brad Van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America, are both trapped in the eye of the low pressure system before it moves to the South and below the fleet ahead. The winds eerily die from 40 to 15 knots and the barometer plunges to around 960 in a matter of hours, but it is merely the calm before the storm: “I am under no disillusions of what is about to happen out here,” reports Emma. “My storm jib is staying put although I am bobbing around like a cork at the moment in this awful swell. I am prepared as I can be, and must still just try to get to the Horn as safely as possible! The other side of this storm can't be far away although the sun is shining and it looks beautiful. Holding onto my hat!”

POSITIONS AT 1400GMT 24th FEBRUARY 2003

Class 1
Boat Lat Lon AvgBsp AvgHeading DTF

1 Bobst Group-Armor Lux 53 56.240 S 61 48.020 W 4.29 kt 56 °T 2718.30 nm
2 Solidaires 54 09.410 S 64 14.360 W 10.33 kt 34 °T 2782.71 nm
3 Hexagon 55 59.710 S 77 14.700 W 12.42 kt 97 °T 3281.21 nm
4 Tiscali 56 36.050 S 77 21.410 W 11.36 kt 98 °T 3283.71 nm
5 Ocean Planet 55 24.000 S 81 53.430 W 10.30 kt 110 °T 3441.60 nm
6 Pindar 54 53.500 S 84 04.000 W 11.13 kt 108 °T 3520.93 nm

Class 2
Boat Lat Lon AvgBsp AvgHeading DTF
1 Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America 54 02.480 S 88 31.530 W 11.23 kt 73 °T 3684.39 nm
2 Everest Horizontal 52 49.890 S 103 10.040 W 11.70 kt 94 °T 4199.67 nm
3 Spirit of yukoh 50 57.340 S 110 34.250 W 8.70 kt 90 °T 4495.26 nm
4 BTC Velocity 52 18.120 S 122 20.000 W 9.32 kt 71 °T 4840.74 nm
5 Spirit of Canada 50 44.220 S 128 25.140 W 8.77 kt 98 °T 5083.61 nm

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