The great divide

More than 2,000 miles now separate the first and last boat in Around Alone

Monday December 30th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
A total of 2,130 nm separates first from last boat in the Around Alone race deep in the heart of the Southern Ocean, where currently 11 skippers and their Open class yachts are located between the Kerguelens and Southern Australia. One by one the front boats are passing the virtual waypoint at 46N and of course the second of the three ‘Great Capes’ in their solo circumnavigation – Cape Leeuwin.

With still 1,000 miles to go until they pass Tasmania to their North on their way to Tauranga, New Zealand, there is a low pressure system passing over. Current leader of Class 1 Bernard Stamm has anticipated this and has plunged Bobst Group-Armor Lux back to 47S latitude in the last day: “I am a few degrees further South than Thierry, he is closing in with the low pressure and there is a risk that the gap will get much shorter as the system catches us up.” For now Stamm is the slowest boat, currently making only 10 knots, whereas Hexagon, Pindar and Tiscali have all been averaging a blistering 17 knots boat speed in perfect reaching conditions with the 20 knot southwesterlies on the other side of the system.

This makes for a stark contrast from yesterday’s racing, where skippers were complaining of a lack of good stable following winds. In a satellite telephone call yesterday, Simone Bianchetti voiced his frustration: "It is tiring being this far south as it is really so cold trying to work on deck, when I change sails the waves washing over the deck are freezing and everything is so heavy. I haven't slept for 36 hours as last night the winds were still variable and I had to work on deck so much. Emma and I have been in a high pressure cell, waiting for the low to come.”

So everyone is happy today, as Emma expressed what it is that really makes solo sailors tick – speed: “Having had a slow 8 hours with 10 knots of wind last position report, I have made up for it with one of the fastest and best fun 8hrs sailing I've had. Often 20+ knots of boat speed with the inevitable loll in the troughs after a good surf, I think I have still managed an average boatspeed of nearly 17knots! In this very wet surfing weather, the whole time I am on deck is a bit like a firehose right on you and there is nowhere in my cockpit I can get away from this!” The British sailor admitted she was making her tea single-handed now as she holds on for dear life.

Even Stamm admitted that “the last two days were hellish – upwind sailing in very confused seas, constant sail changes, clinging on for dear life as the boat gets flattened on her side or bangs into each wave incessantly. Now I am back racing downwind I am happy.” On the other hand, his closest rival, Thierry Dubois, expressed his boredom when the wind dies down to below 20 knots and there is nothing much to do. Relief and excitement are relative terms down South.

Just behind Simone and Emma is Bruce Schwab aboard the very unique Ocean Planet with her unstayed rig. The American has been staying to the north but clocking up some good boatspeeds and is converging with the boats in front. “We will be getting faster and faster as this race goes on, just watch. We have been hauling in the last few days and have made the most of our north position for a better angle to get back in the game.”

In Class 2, the ‘surfin’ safari’ is on for leader Brad Van Liew on Open 50 Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America as he clocks 16 knots boatspeed in the fast-flowing westerlies riding the top of the low pressure system. These smaller boats are finally able to show how fast they can go in optimum sailing conditions. Open 50 Everest Horizontal, skippered by American Tim Kent is proving to be very quick. Having started the morning after the race got underway, he is now back in second place, furiously fighting for position with the speedy Open 40s Spirit of Canada and Spirit of yukoh just in his wake. The racing here is much closer and these skippers will be experiencing the Southern Ocean in widescreen as they race on smaller yachts through the big seas and breeze.

POSITIONS AT 14:00GMT 30th DECEMBER 2002

Class 1
Boat Time Lat Lon AvgBsp AvgHeading DTF
1. Bobst Group-Armor Lux 47 31.022 S 124 35.050 E 74.04 nm 9.26 kt 87 °T 2565.14 nm
2. Solidaires 44 51.066 S 118 12.012 E 94.42 nm 11.80 kt 77 °T 2833.56 nm
3. Hexagon 46 11.081 S 109 58.291 E 114.07 nm 14.28 kt 106 °T 3165.92 nm
4. Tiscali 47 44.002 S 108 03.014 E 136.44 nm 17.05 kt 80 °T 3232.37 nm
5. Pindar 47 42.002 S 106 58.036 E 141.65 nm 17.69 kt 89 °T 3276.03 nm
6. Ocean Planet 45 50.034 S 102 48.031 E 108.37 nm 13.54 kt 96 °T 3463.62 nm

Class 2
Boat Time Lat Lon AvgBsp AvgHeading DTF
1. Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America 45 47.029 S 95 24.055 E 97.77 nm 12.23 kt 81 °T 3775.97 nm
2. Everest Horizontal 45 24.000 S 85 12.029 E 98.02 nm 12.25 kt 61 °T 4202.09 nm
3. Spirit of Canada 45 37.024 S 83 43.012 E 81.05 nm 10.13 kt 122 °T 4260.60 nm
4. Spirit of yukoh 44 19.019 S 81 20.034 E 83.34 nm 10.41 kt 103 °T 4377.17 nm
5. BTC Velocity 43 23.029 S 73 25.000 E 63.75 nm 7.96 kt 99 °T 4720.77 nm

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