DALTON was met by his family and friends on the dock to congratulate the experienced Kiwi skipper for his skill, endurance and tenacity.
Having celebrated Christmas and New Year alone at sea, as well as the first anniversary of the death of his son Tony, DALTON looked relieved and happy to step onto land in Western Australia. After the savage storm that blasted A Southern Man AGD on Christmas Eve, one of the most torrid storms in DALTON's sailing career in which he questioned whether he would wake up on Christmas Day, the top of the mainsail was in tatters as he pulled into the docks in Fremantle.
Speaking after his arrival, DALTON described the horrendous storm that struck him on Christmas Eve, concluding, 'I saw a small depression forming ahead of me. I started to get 40-45 knots from the south, we were fine but I had to drop the main at that stage. But then we got hit. The mainsail was tied onto the boom on the third reef and it rode up the mast and you couldn't get it down. The wind I saw before my instruments finally gave up was 80 knots and it was still rising! The sea got up very quickly, around 55-60 feet, and was breaking on the boat. There was nothing you could do, to go on deck was really suicide.
'I knew it was going to last around eight hours; I called home and said you might not see me again. I started wondering what it would feel like to have the cold salt water go into my lungs. It needed one thing to break and it was basically all over. I got rolled on the side and got knocked unconscious; I doubt if I was out for that long, might have been ten minutes. Bad enough to have double vision and seeing six waves instead of one made it even worse. But like all things, the boat was built for those conditions. And as always the storm passed and we were able to get here. But I've never seen a mainsail like that before, ever. It can be best described as a skeleton. If you went through those conditions three times, you are going to die at least once. Just unbelievable! I got rolled upside down last time at the Horn in 70 knots, and it was nothing like that. Afterwards you had to marvel at the force of nature.'
DALTON is the true Corinthian of the race and built a brand new boat to take on the oceans. This race is not necessarily about winning for DALTON, but it is a personal challenge and commitment to finish. And the first leg of the VELUX 5 OCEANS certainly challenged DALTON and the other skippers to the depths of their resolve and determination. Although the boat has suffered considerable damage to the mainsail and the rudders, the skipper believes he will be ready to take on the second leg that starts on January 14.
DALTON was dealt a first blow of bad luck even before the race had started, although it ultimately proved a blessing. Only two days before the start of the race in Bilbao, Spain, DALTON's rigging was damaged by a storm when the mast was out of the boat for repairs. The damage meant that he missed the start with the rest of the fleet. In doing so, he also missed the violent storm that ripped through the fleet off Cape Finisterre and the Bay of Biscay, leaving half the fleet limping for port to make repairs. DALTON finally set off for Fremantle five days later with Unai BASURKO (ESP), who had returned to Bilbao to attend to his storm-damaged sails.
Once on the track, DALTON's boat, ten feet shorter than the other competitors, kept pace with the fleet and the larger yachts. However, he was forced to pull into Porto Santo (near Madeira) to make essential repairs to a damaged rudder as he approached the Equator. The pit stop meant that he was subject to the compulsory 48 hour time penalty, leaving DALTON trailing behind the leaders. He headed south into the Southern Ocean and was locked in a battle with Sir Robin KNOX-JOHNSTON (GBR), constantly battered by freezing conditions and powerful storms. DALTON was forced to make a second pit stop at the remote Kerguelen Islands deep in the Southern Ocean to make repairs to a headsail and refuel, leaving KNOX-JOHNSTON free to finish third in Fremantle unchallenged. Having been battered by a Christmas storm, DALTON held off the Basque skipper BASURKO to finish the leg in fourth, although he is nearly 30 days behind leg leader Bernard STAMM (SUI) and second placed Kojiro SHIRAISHI (JPN).
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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