'I still have problems with my autopilots,' said STAMM, 'I can't identify the cause. It works very irregularly.' The Swiss skipper's priority is to rectify the pilot issues before entering the Southern Ocean's belt of low pressure systems. 'It is dangerous,' he explained, 'I have to find the problem before the conditions will allow us to make a faster average speed.'
Currently the front pair, Cheminées Poujoulat and Spirit of Yukoh, are averaging 12 knots and Kojiro SHIRAISHI (JPN) has reported a 20 knot westerly breeze this morning.
While SHIRAISHI has stolen 12 miles from STAMM's lead overnight, taking Spirit of Yukoh to 160 miles behind Cheminées Poujoulat, Graham DALTON (NZL) in third place has dropped back from the Japanese yacht, losing 34 miles overnight and Open 50 A Southern Man - AGD now trails SHIRAISHI by 140 miles. 'A quiet 24 hours with wind 15-20 knots,' DALTON said early this morning, 'Still warm with the odd shower. Forecast more friendly than 24 hours ago.' As the lead group slip below the latitude of Tasmania, the Kiwi skipper is in a hurry to get south, 'Yachts not heading south will suffer badly for the next few days,' he predicts.
In fourth place, Unai BASURKO (ESP) is 243 miles north northwest of DALTON and the Basque skipper continues to put miles between his Open 60, Pakea and Australia. Averaging a little under 7 knots, BASURKO is now 270 miles from the coast, heading southeast through the South Australian Basin.
After rejoining the race on Tuesday following a stop to repair his autopilots, clearing the coast is unlikely to be easy for Sir Robin KNOX-JOHNSTON (GBR), who is currently skimming the Australian continental shelf prior to rounding Cape Leeuwin. He looks set to encounter headwinds as he takes SAGA insurance south towards the tip of Tasmania.
'I am tired at the moment,' KNOX-JOHNSTON admitted today, 'The stress of the damage to the outdrive [propeller power unit] and then having to turn back may not show much, but it takes its toll.'
Returning to Fremantle for essential repairs to his autopilots has destroyed any chance of establishing the vital offshore rhythm required by solo sailors, 'Last night was a mixed one, I did get one belt of sleep an hour long, and a few shorter ones, but my body needs more at the moment.' However, KNOX-JOHNSON knows that any sleep pattern is unlikely in the near future, 'SAGA Insurance's demands take priority,' he explained, adding, 'The weather ahead does not look that encouraging either.'
The first leg of the VELUX 5 OCEANS started on 22 October from Bilbao, Spain. Six international skippers crossed the start line in the Bay of Biscay bound for Fremantle, Western Australia. The leg is expected to take approximately six weeks with the first boat arriving in Australia around the first week in December.
The VELUX 5 OCEANS is the longest race for any individual in any sport. Over the first few days, the fleet will make their way along the northern coast of Spain to Cape Finistère where they will turn south towards the Southern Ocean. However, all of the skippers know that this race is a marathon and not a sprint. During the 30,000 miles sailed in the VELUX 5 OCEANS race, the yachts will encounter some of the most extreme sea and weather conditions on the planet.
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