At the front of the race, SHIRAISHI found fresh breeze yesterday and STAMM's eastward escape has now slowed, winning only single-figure miles overnight taking the deficit to 1,315 miles.
SHIRAISHI's agonising climb northeast in light airs to reach the mandatory ice gate is over and having 'come up for air', he is taking Spirit of Yukoh southeast and currently holds the fleet's most southerly position, a handful of miles above latitude 54°S. STAMM has approximately 1,800 miles of Southern Ocean remaining until reaching Cape Horn early next week and the Swiss solo sailor is holding a northeast heading, aiming to clip the corner of the Pacific's second ice gate less than 60 miles ahead, before diving back to the south.
'The wind is always very shifty with the gusts, and I make a lot a changes to keep on going,' the race leader reported this morning. STAMM's focus is assessing the weather and judging a fast descent to Cape Horn, 'I'm looking at the weather in front of me, it is quite complicated with a low pressure and secondary low pressure. I think I must hurry up to avoid a northeasterly wind when I get closer to South America.'
While constant trimming in the variable conditions means frequent visits on deck, he has managed some delicate running repairs ahead of his descent through the Southern Ocean, 'Changing sails and fixing an electrical problem a the chart table,' said STAMM, 'I could fix it, but it was not so easy to use soldering stuff when the boat is going between 15 and 20 knots,' he explained, adding, 'It is not easy to make a precise job in a shaker. But it is done and it works.'
After his break south, BASURKO reported thick fog and poor visibility earlier this morning as Pakea heads straight into the zone 500 miles southeast of New Zealand referred to as 'Iceberg Alley' by STAMM. This dive south has extended the spread between the back three yachts to 176 miles, but only 29 miles separates fourth place Graham DALTON (NZL) on A Southern Man - AGD and back marker Sir Robin KNOX-JOHNSTON (GBR) with SAGA Insurance.
Overnight, DALTON and KNOX-JOHNSTON took opposing gybes; the Kiwi skipper heading deeper south and KNOX-JOHNSTON taking SAGA Insurance northeast, crossing behind the transom of DALTON's Open 50. 'A frustrating night,' commented KNOX-JOHNSTON this morning, 'As it went light and variable for four hours and we went nowhere in persistent cold rain.' This has meant a loss of miles on the boats ahead, he explained, 'I thought the others might be similarly affected, but not so. Despite being close by, both have taken quite a chunk on us.'
With minimal weather information on SAGA Insurance, the smallest gains or losses become more noticeable in the tightly bunched back three, 'I am hoping to stay close to Pakea and AGD to keep in vaguely the same weather systems, but they know where these calms are smallest... I don't,' KNOX-JOHNSTON wrote in his daily log, before conceding that his opposition is formidable, 'Also, both are sailing much better this leg and that's not just down to them having better weather information.'
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.