Mid-fleet divided

Volatile weather splits the fleet in Around Alone

Thursday December 26th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
For competitors in Around Alone they are having to get over thoughts of Christmas and get down to the business at hand for a depression has divided the fleet.

A low pressure system centred at 1800 GMT today at 46degS 85degE has caused Brad van Liew and Bruce Schwab to head to the north to stay in the system's favourable westerly air stream, while Emma Richards and Simone Bianchetti have dived south to pick up the westeries from a far reaching depression centred several hundred miles to the south east.

Richards' decision to head south has in the short term proved a good one and at the 1400 position report (see below) she had clocked up the second best day's run and had overtaken Bruce Schwab to regain fifth place with fourth placed Tiscali 45 miles ahead of her.

How the weather will pan out for the mid-fleet will be interesting. 24 hours on and a high pressure system will be centred over 46degN 87degW right in the path of the two boats to the north whereas Richards and Bianchetti should still be in brisk westerlies. Meanwhile behind this weather another large low is tracking in a south easterly direction and it will be important for the southerly boats to pick their moment to gybe north or risk landing themselves in gale force headwinds. They must also do this in order to cross the mandatory waypoint line along the 46degS parallel between 105 and 120degE.

Ahead of these mid-placed yachts Bernard Stamm seems to be inextricably putting miles on Thierry Dubois , as Dubois is on third placed Graham Dalton. Yet today the front runners have fallen into an area of light winds to the east of the low.

“We had to opt for a progressive climb to the North as the virtual waypoint constrains us from dipping too far South and it’s not easy to take a hard left at the lights!" commented Dubois. "We’re caught in a transition zone, so the boats behind will get the Westerlies before us and the fleet will bunch up again soon.”

Emma Richards enjoyed some warm Christmas cheer but has chosen the coldest route to pull herself up the rankings. She is clocking the fastest average boat speed of 12 knots in 15 – 20 knots of consistent westerly breeze, which is only to be found right down around 52 degrees South: “Dived way south over the last day to try avoid this no wind zone that is just north of me, this was the decision made just over 24 hours ago and at the moment still looks in my favour, the next few days will tell!”

Bruce Schwab made a bold move to the north, however no sooner than he had taken the decision, the weather files changed and the lower edges of the high pressure he was heading towards simply vanished from the pattern. "Just call me a fool for believing bogus grib (weather) files," he wrote. "I expect to lose heaps of miles in the next few days." Schwab and Richards’ four rivals ahead have slowed to 4 – 9 knots for now as they retain the higher boat speeds, but which option will pay dividends in the long run?

In Class 2, leader Brad Van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America and the rest of his competitors, have all opted for the Northerly route like Schwab, and will touch Northerly winds in the next 24hrs as they pass above the Kerguelens. Back marker Alan Paris on BTC Velocity expressed the general concern in his Christmas Day report: " I was going to go South but the low pressure system which was passing to the North of us is now headed right for us. Time for evasive action! So I am headed directly north to try to get north of the low in time. This is critical, otherwise it 35 - 40 knots on the nose, bad at the best of times, really bad down here!”

And finally – thought for the day from Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi, who has had to resort to pumping priming water into his engine to make it work – an unenviable task in 30/40 knots of constant blow and when you can see your breath inside the cabin: “I see albatross and other small birds flying at ease. Why is it that when I am working so hard, the birds are happily jumping in the waves and gliding along the wind? I hope I can feel like them soon!”


POSITIONS AT 14:00GMT 26 th DECEMBER 2002

Class 1
Boat Time Lat Lon AvgBsp AvgHeading DTF
1. Bobst Group-Armor Lux 46 46.048 S 99 49.552 E 92.49 nm 11.56 kt 51 °T 3589.17 nm
2. Solidaires 47 03.600 S 93 37.200 E 56.81 nm 7.11 kt 88 °T 3843.18 nm
3. Hexagon 48 17.059 S 84 35.007 E 38.53 nm 4.81 kt 83 °T 4204.26 nm
4. Tiscali 50 04.432 S 80 46.288 E 62.11 nm 7.75 kt 121 °T 4349.15 nm
5. Pindar 52 45.036 S 79 15.408 E 87.22 nm 10.91 kt 140 °T 4409.75 nm
6. Ocean Planet 43 49.000 S 78 08.072 E 86.71 nm 10.85 kt 81 °T 4517.96 nm

Class 2
Boat Time Lat Lon AvgBsp AvgHeading DTF
1. Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America 43 07.288 S 74 32.576 E 81.46 nm 10.18 kt 81 °T 4679.52 nm
2. Everest Horizontal 45 33.460 S 64 10.010 E 45.78 nm 5.73 kt 112 °T 5054.11 nm
3. Spirit of Canada 44 18.456 S 64 08.144 E 73.25 nm 9.17 kt 58 °T 5080.32 nm
4. Spirit of yukoh 44 42.096 S 60 59.100 E 56.34 nm 7.05 kt 21 °T 5198.22 nm
5. BTC Velocity 42 51.048 S 56 04.036 E 46.53 nm 5.82 kt 28 °T 5437.60 nm

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