During the first night at sea both the autopilot systems on Saga Insurance failed and refused to re-start.
After many hours assessing the problem onboard throughout the night, the sailing legend took the difficult decision to head back to Fremantle and meet his shore team back on land. KNOX-JOHNSTON will therefore have to comply with the minimum 48 hour time penalty for receiving outside assistance, putting him well behind the fleet from the off.
On arriving back at Fremantle Sailing Club, KNOX-JOHNSTON commented, 'At around a quarter to three in the morning when both my pilots failed for the fourth or fifth time and I thought this is crazy, I can't go on like that. I had tried to carry on but they started going every hour. The first time it went I was down below getting the storm jib out and she just tacked. So I had to head back. When my team met me the expert said straight away, 'it's a power problem'. I asked if he could fix it and he said 'yup'. It's a tiny wire that's causing all the problems and it needs to be changed. It's a terrible shame particularly as we worked so hard on the boat.'
KNOX-JOHNSTON was met by his shore team and technical staff after rounding Rottnest Island, ten miles off Fremantle. He officially suspended racing at 08:00 local time on 15 as he motored around the Island, and will therefore be able to re-start from the same point at 08:00 local time on 17 January, assuming he has been able to make all the repairs necessary onboard Saga Insurance.
Back on the race track, Bernard STAMM (SUI) has charged ahead and holds a 30 mile lead over Japanese hero Kojiro SHIRAISHI (JPN) on Spirit Of Yukoh. Graham DALTON (NZL) on the Open 50 A Southern Man AGD, is only 1 mile further behind in third place, with the Basque skipper Unai BASURKO (ESP) on Pakea in fourth, 76 miles behind the leader, having chosen to head further west than the other competitors. The fleet are heading west off Western Australia in order to make a pass south of Cape Leewin.
As temperatures pushed a sweltering 40°C off the coast of Western Australia for Sunday's start, the famous Fremantle Doctor failed to deliver its typical sea breeze and the powerful yachts sailed north through the line with southerly winds of around 10 knots.
In a tight battle to take the honour, STAMM onboard Cheminées Poujoulat narrowly beat KNOX-JOHNSTON to cross the line first at 15:02, with less than half a boat's length separating the two Open 60s. Coming up behind the leaders, BASURKO crossed a minute behind, followed by SHIRAISHI and finally DALTON, all separated by only one minute.
A crowd of hundreds came down to the Fremantle Sailing Club to bid goodbye to the brave skippers. In an emotional ceremony, the skippers bid farewell to their loved ones, friends and shore teams before slipping off to face an epic leg of ocean racing that will take these heroes through some of the planet's most desolate and extreme expanses of ocean, round the infamous Cape Horn before finishing 14,200 miles in Norfolk, Virginia, USA.
On the start line, just off the north entrance of Fremantle harbour, hundreds of spectator craft filled the calm waters to watch the magnificent ocean racing machines of the VELUX 5 OCEANS up close. Disappointingly, the Fremantle Doctor, who so regularly provides idyllic sailing conditions and wonderful images, failed to show up and the fleet was left with a southerly wind of around 10 knots. Sailing north through the line, none of the skippers chose to fly a spinnaker, with most yachts averaging around 6 knots of speed under full mainsail and headsails.
The fleet continued north past the popular tourist beaches of Cottesloe and Swanborne, packed with spectators from Perth and the surrounding areas. Chased by the spectator fleet, STAMM was the first to reach the first turning mark at 16:03. 11 minutes behind, KNOX-JOHNSTON went round, closely followed by BASURKO. Hot on their heels was the popular Japanese skipper, who went round the mark with precision and jumped from fourth to second in one easy swoop. The Kiwi skipper DALTON rounded 25 minutes later at 16:40.
The fleet will then rounded a mark off City Beach further north and were then free to turn west and choose their route past the small island of Rottnest, before making their tactical decision for heading south to round Cape Leewin, the second important landmark in their global circumnavigation. The wind is expected to build towards 20 knots and the skippers will then be left with the dilemma of whether to head offshore or stay close to land as they seek to round the tip of Western Australia.
The yachts of the VELUX 5 OCEANS are expected to arrive in Norfolk in early March after more than 50 days alone at sea through the deepest stretches of the Southern Ocean. Billed as the Ultimate Solo Challenge, this race saw incredible action and unbelievable drama in the first leg and the second leg, even longer and tougher, should test these skippers to their limits and deliver compelling stories.
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.