However, Saturday saw some frustrating sailing for SHIRAISHI, who had to repair a faulty autopilot system that required a full day's work and a broken block on his mainsail, hampering his efforts to rein in the leader who continues to sail fast and hard on Cheminees Poujoulat. The Japanese solo sailor is now 293 miles behind the front runner and now back up to full pace.
STAMM has kept up his blistering pace and is fast approaching the first waypoint in leg 2. The skippers must stay north of Campbell Island, leaving the remote land to starboard, a safety precaution introduced by race organizers to ensure the fleet stays north of any ocean areas rich with icebergs, a constant and important danger to solo sailors. The Swiss skipper should pass Campbell Island today but STAMM remains concerned about the dangers of icebergs and growlers and is relying on his radar and a lot of time on deck on lookout.
Both STAMM and SHIRAISHI have reported unusually gentle conditions for the Southern Ocean, with calm seas despite good winds. However, the defending champion and race leader is expecting a low pressure system to deliver 40-50 knots of wind by tonight.
Back in third position, Graham DALTON (NZL), sailing the only Open 50 A Southern Man AGD, reported a close shave with two whales. Spotting the huge animals in his path, DALTON had no time to change course so braced for impact. Luckily for DALTON, the mammoths of the oceans got out of his way.
At the back of the fleet, Unai BASURKO (ESP) on Pakea has now turned south and will have a fight to hold off Sir Robin KNOX-JOHNSTON (GBR) on SAGA Insurance, who is sailing fast despite continued technological problems onboard his Open 60. The knight of the high seas is sailing without weather information, but will surely be able to rely on his seamanship and vast wealth of experience to help him navigate to Campbell Island.
Bernard STAMM (SUI), Cheminees Poujoulat:
'I am between Tasmania and New Zealand, 53 degrees of latitude south. At the moment the weather is nice but I am expecting a low pressure system to come in tonight and to bring some wind that I should have for a couple of days. It could blow up to 40 or 50 knots.
'What does worry me is more the ice. They have seen some everywhere and it seems to be a tricky situation. The problem is that inside my boat, I can't really see what is ahead so I either have to trust the radar, or to stay on deck. I had to steer a lot in the difficult areas and it is definitely not the aim. I am really enjoying myself, surfing on waves. I have 20 knots of wind coming in now. The weather has been really nice which is not what we are used to in the Southern Ocean.'
Kojiro SHIRAISHI (JPN), Spirit Of Yukoh:
'Saturday was a very tough day. In the morning I spent 4 hours replacing the broken block on the main sheet. But that was not the end of our troubles. In the evening while doing a check of the boat I noticed some strange noises from the starboard autopilot. It was not a problem with the actual autopilot but with the carbon base it was mounted with. So I decided to change over to the port pilot. But when activated the port pilot started acting strange. And almost immediately we had one big wild gybe.
'Fortunately we had no great damage; the safety vang on the boom was in place and prevented any big damage. So I reduced sail, stabilised the boat and then set about fixing the pilot. The autopilot controller was giving out many different error messages so I had to I stop the boat and start working through the process. After about 30 minutes I sensed that there was something wrong with the output of the starboard windex. We have three Windex at the top of the mast so I switched over to the vertical Windex and the autopilot controller sprung into life and started working properly. I completed the switch over to the port autopilot we set off sailing again.
'I spent almost all day with repairs and was not able to sail well. In the meantime Bernard as ever was storming away. All credit to Bernard! Here in this part of the southern ocean the waves are still strangely very calm. Normally even with little wind if we see 6m high waves it is not strange and yet now with the wind blowing as it is now we are seeing only 4-5m. The surface of the sea is very clam.'
Graham DALTON (NZL), A Southern Man AGD:
'I was on deck charging along at 16 knots when I spied two whales directly in my path about 70 metres ahead. No time to get to the wheels and turn off the auto-pilots so I banged on the cabin top and yelled to try and alert them. Braced myself for the crash but either the warning I gave them or the fact that they saw us averted something that could have been ugly. Am going to have a word with Koji to see if he can have a word with his Japanese mates to clear a path though the Southern Ocean whales for me. Only for scientific purposes you understand.'
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.
For a complete list of all the news about the VELUX 5 OCEANS 2006-2007 CLICK HERE.