Around Alone leg five preview

Weather looking good for the start...but then there's the Doldrums.

Sunday April 13th 2003, Author: Mary Ambler, Location: Transoceanic
After 24,000 miles of solo ocean racing around the globe, only two points and a matter of 10 hours and 50 minutes on elapsed time separates the leading two contenders for overall Class 1 victory in Around Alone 2002-03 before the restart of the fifth and final 4,000 mile leg from Salvador da Bahia, Brazil to Newport, RI.

Current Class 1 leader Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm on Open 60 Bobst Group-Armor Lux is psyched up for the ‘ultimate fight’, two words his closest rival Frenchman Thierry Dubois has written on the cabin wall of Solidaires.

Stamm is nothing but totally focused: “The first part of the leg will be all about speed, and after the Doldrums we will have to negotiate the northern hemisphere trade winds, which can shift from south to north east. So it will be a game of finding the right compromise between course and speed. I must cross the finish line of the last leg in order to breathe a sigh relief and say to myself that it's over. There are 4000 miles, five different weather systems, a lot of tactics, and of course 'Boisdu' always on my tail.”

The other fight in Class 1 is for overall third place, currently held by British skipper Emma Richards on Pindar, who could become the first woman to be on the podium in the 20 year history of Around Alone if she plays her cards right. However, Italian skipper Simone Bianchetti on the powerful Marc Lombard design Tiscali, can still topple Richards if he can beat her by two points in this last leg - despite his dismasting on leg 2. Neither skipper is taking the final leg lightly: “The wild card is Bruce Schwab,” Emma commented. “Simone and I both know that Ocean Planet holds an advantage over the beamier boats if we get moderate upwind conditions.”

Bruce Schwab is indeed looking forward to finishing the Around Alone on a high point with his slim Tom Wylie designed boat. “I am confident that I can finish in the top three of this last leg.”

Latest Class 2 News: Derek Hatfield on Spirit of Canada rejoined the race at 01:52 GMT Sunday 13th April at 56 02 S 066 24 W. He reports 17 knots of wind from the northeast, rain and fog and is making 7.3 knots boatspeed. Hatfield dismasted on 7 March to the east of Cape Horn and has spent 27 days rebuilding his Open 40 in order to complete Leg 4 of Around Alone.

In Class 2, current overall leader, American skipper Brad Van Liew on Open 50 Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America, heads into the last leg as the only skipper in this fleet with four straight wins and maximum 40 points under his belt. Van Liew will be aiming to consolidate his consecutive victories – a run which has only been matched by Class 2 winner Yves Dupasquier, who won all four legs in the 1991 BOC Challenge.

With an average boatspeed of 8.54 knots on the racecourse so far, Van Liew has also surpassed his boat’s previous performance in Around Alone 4 years ago, when she was skippered by Mike Garside to second place overall with an average boatspeed of 7.63 knots.

However, Van Liew does not claim that the final leg will be plain sailing: “The last 1,000 miles will be the most tactical. As I pass Bermuda my strategy must be decisive. There is Cape Hatteras to pass and the weather could easily be unpredictable and nasty.”

After suffering a dismasting on the final leg of the Around Alone four years ago the American skipper knows better than most that anything can happen. The same applies to fellow American skipper Tim Kent on Everest Horizontal, who is trailing Van Liew by 5 points overall: “Goal Number One for this campaign has always been to finish the race. 4,000 miles is a long way to go, but the goal remains the same: to bring Everest Horizontal safely back to Newport.” This has not been achieved without a considerable amount of hard work, generous supporters and some invaluable volunteer help along the way for his unsponsored campaign. Kent and his boat are both in remarkably good shape for the off: “This is the first time that I have had more than 45 minutes sleep the night before a restart!” he remarked.

Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi on Open 40 Spirit of yukoh could spring a surprise on his big brothers in Class 2 as in each leg of Around Alone he has been climbing up the rankings to finally score 3rd place in Leg 4. Without the unstoppable Canadian skipper Derek Hatfield on Spirit of Canada physically racing with the class, Koji will be biting at the heels of the 50 footers - especially now he has natural energy strips fixed on the hull and in the mainsail to dispel any opposing forces in the elements. Bermudian skipper Alan Paris on Open 40 BTC Velocity is looking forward to achieving his solo circumnavigation, which has been a smoother ride than most for the skipper who has spent so far a total of 174 days at sea. “I don’t have shore crew, but have never had anything huge to fix each time I finish a leg. I guess I owe my organisational skills on the boat to more to 18 years as a hotel manager – it’s enough training for anyone!”

Leg 5

The leg from Salvador, Brazil back up the length of the Atlantic to Newport, RI is the last of Around Alone.

First the boats must round Recife around 350 miles to the northeast. On this occasion is looks like the Around Alone fleet are going to be lucky as light easterly winds, look set to veer to the southeast and build to around 15-20 knots. For skippers it will be a toss up between going marginally offshore to pick up more breeze or hung the shore. This latter approach avoids the Brazilian current which flows southwest at up to 2 knots.
After rounding Recife it is line up for the Doldrums time. The direct course to Newport, about 3,470 miles from Recife, is 345degM, and once setting this course once around the bulge in Brazil, the only land the boats potentially will go near is Bermuda.

Whether the boats stick to the great circle is another matter. Already the skippers will be aware of how the Doldrums are behaving and may deviate if the direct course looks set to dump them in a hole.

Once through the Doldrums, the fleet should be in for a blast as they cross the northeasterly trades. Their tactics later in the leg will depend entirely upon local weather system and the location of the Azores high pressure. Again they have the option of heading west, where there is the potential to take advantage of the northeasterly flowing Gulf Stream.

Overall Results in Points / Total Elapsed Time after 4 Legs

Class 1
1 Bobst Group-Armor Lux – 39pts / 97 days 23 hrs 7 mins 13 secs
2 Solidaires – 37pts / 98 days 9 hrs 57 mins 47 secs
3 Pindar – 27pts / 110 days 16 hrs 30 mins 23 secs
4 Tiscali – 26pts / 140 days 0 hrs 51 mins 41 secs
5 Ocean Planet – 23pts / 138 days 19 hrs 5 mins 45 secs

Class 2
1 Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America – 40pts / 128 days 0 hrs 0 mins 54 secs
2 Everest Horizontal – 35 pts / 148 days 0 hrs 15 mins 41 secs
3 *Spirit of Canada – 25 pts / 174 days 6hrs 47 mins 44 secs
4 Spirit of yukoh – 28 pts / 155 days 23 hrs 24 mins 44 secs
5 BTC Velocity – 23 pts / 174 days 6 hrs 47 mins 44 secs

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