KNOX-JOHNSTON and DALTON are separated by just 63 miles of latitude with KNOX-JOHNSTON and SAGA Insurance furthest south holding fifth place, 22 miles behind the Kiwi Open 50, A Southern Man - ADG. Overnight, the British Open 60 lost 17 miles to DALTON, but this is a minor concern for both skippers who were expecting to be lashed by 50 knot winds and huge seas.
Both yachts are currently racing over the 390 metre deep Campbell Plateau, a relatively shallow shelf extending south from mainland New Zealand. The forecast Force 10 gale will roll the sea over the plateau into monstrous waves, unimpeded by any landmass and last night KNOX-JOHNSTON was already feeling the effects. In a hurried email to his team in Great Britain, he reported that communications systems on SAGA Insurance were unreliable, but he was unwilling to attempt repairs, 'Don't want to fiddle with anything at the moment,' he wrote, adding briefly 'too bumpy.'
Further south at 50°, Basque solo sailor, Unai BASURKO (ESP), crossed the International Date Line late yesterday adding 15 miles to his lead over DALTON, keeping Pakea a slender 69 miles ahead of A Southern Man - ADG. This morning, BASURKO reported northwesterly winds of 30-35 knots and has averaged 10 knots boat speed during the past 24 hours; the best speed in the tightly-packed back three.
Frustrating conditions continue for Japanese skipper, SHIRAISHI in second place, a mighty 968 miles east of Pakea. SHIRAISHI's performance has been dominated by light winds and he continues to struggle through the Pacific Ocean averaging just 6.4 knots, squeezing every extra mile from Open 60 Spirit of Yukoh. While SHIRAISHI has sailed 153 miles in the past 24 hours, race leader, STAMM, has almost doubled this distance and leads the race by 1,245 miles, adding 74 miles to the gap between his yacht, Cheminées Poujoulat, and SHIRAISHI.
STAMM has now passed the halfway point between New Zealand and South America with 2,100 miles of Southern Ocean remaining before rounding Cape Horn and 'turning left' to climb through the South Atlantic. The Swiss skipper is currently in the most remote sea area on the planet, 1,500 miles from Pitcairn Island, the nearest landmass, and around four days sail from his nearest rival, SHIRAISHI. This isolation requires constant vigilance on board and conditions for STAMM are far from ideal, 'It's difficult to find the right sail combination,' he said this morning, reporting winds fluctuating from 8-35 knots from varying angles, 'but I'm sticking with the reacher and one reef in the mainsail.' The Swiss skipper described heavy cloud cover at 52° South with towering banks of cumulus and is taking strict precautions to ensure he can shorten sail quickly, 'In these conditions, I now have the gennaker furling line permanently wrapped on a cockpit winch, ready to go.'
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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