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23 November 2006, 10:38 am
One Month At Sea
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VELUX 5 OCEANS 2006-2007

Alex THOMSON (GBR) on Hugo Boss has been overtaken by fellow Brit Mike GOLDING aboard Ecover. The two skippers are currently neck and neck in the Southern Ocean pushing each other hard. The fleet has now been at sea for exactly one month, as the leaders head into the Roaring Forties on their way to Fremantle, Australia.
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With 4,000 nautical miles to go for the leading pack, the front runners are currently likely to arrive in Western Australia in the first week of December. GOLDING and THOMSON consider themselves to be relatively evenly matched at present, so their tussle to Fremantle is one to watch.

Mid-fleet in fourth place, Kojiro SHIRAISHI (JPN) on Spirit Of Yukoh, the 39 year old sailor affectionately known as the 'Silent ASSASSIN' has sent back another thought provoking log. Having had a slow night whilst stuck in a wind hole with the sails flogging in the Southern Atlantic swell, SHIRAISHI summarized that, 'The gods of the sea are clearly having the last word and not letting their trainee get too far ahead of himself'. Enjoying some Japanese Miso soup he declared his new motto to be, 'When we do well be modest and when we do badly don't beat ourselves up'.

Meanwhile, Graham DALTON (NZL), the sole 50 foot entry in the race reports problems with his communications equipment onboard. Although describing himself as 'flying blind' without any position reports or weather data, DALTON is happy with his present progress and enjoying similar speeds to Unai BASURKO (ESP) aboard his 60 foot boat Pakea.

At The Front

At the front of the fleet, Bernard STAMM (SUI) has handed over the role of southerly boat to GOLDING as the Swiss skipper continues a shallow climb northeast up through the Roaring Forties. On Tuesday night, Ecover and Hugo Boss maintained parallel headings, southeast with 65 miles of Southern Ocean separating the pair, but GOLDING is now gently pulling out of his dive south, although THOMSON is continuing towards Ecover on a converging course. Commented GOLDING, 'He [Alex THOMSON] is trying to come down now, but I think that he is getting his timing wrong and, in fact, he is going to be coming south when we are going to be wanting to get back north. So I think he is getting a little out of sequence.'

The pressure on both skippers over the last week has been unimaginable, with demanding technical issues on both Ecover and Hugo Boss, but GOLDING's decision to turn hard right and search for stronger winds after passing through the race safety gate off the southern tip of Africa was a fundamental judgement call, 'Alex lost most of his miles in the soft spot and to be fair, I did not see that as a calm, I just saw there to be slightly more breeze to the south. Most of the miles I have gained on him, I have gained out of that.'

Quotes From The Boats

Alex THOMSON (GBR), Hugo Boss:

'Mike GOLDING is to starboard of Hugo Boss and should be in front of me now or will be soon, which means he will be the hunted and I will be the hunter. It will be good if we stay together as we will push each other more than Bernard will push himself. I intend to sail my own course and take advantage of any opportunities that arise, but Mike and I have very similar routing equipment and so we will probably end up sailing a very similar course. The weather ahead shows that we should have a very fast passage at least to the Kerguelen Islands and from there it is not far to Fremantle. It is possible that we may only have two weeks left on the water so I will be making the most of it!'

'Yesterday, as you may have noticed, was not a good day for me, losing considerable miles to Mike GOLDING and allowing him to get south of me. After we passed through the front, GOLDING sailed a more southerly course, whereas I went more southeasterly. Unfortunately I ended up sailing into a ridge of high pressure which Mike managed to sail around. The ridge did not look too bad on the grib (weather) files, but I should have realised there was bugger all wind in it. The stupid thing was that my strategy was to stay to the south of GOLDING, as the winds would be stronger, and generally the south has the advantage. But I let him just sail past me, choosing the east instead. Mike would have always closed on me to some extent anyway, but I could have retained the advantage. Note to self number one: watch out for ridges of high pressure between the systems. Number two: When you make a game plan stick to it.'

Mike GOLDING (GBR), Ecover:

'Ecover had high speed and a good course over night, but the gains and losses will probably not be reflected in the position reports. Alex is hugely quick and doing a great job to temper himself and find the balance. Alex and I are very evenly matched and he's doing a great job.'

Kojiro SHIRAISHI (JPN), Spirit Of Yukoh:

'Last night we sailed straight into the middle of a wind hole and completely stopped! I never thought that I would ever see such little wind in this area of the world. For a while the wind speed was down to zero. We could not keep direction, we rotated around and even once went backwards. The speed meter was at one point showing a minus number! Ahhhh I had to admit defeat. Here there is always a swell going through so without some wind the sails will not hold any shape and so cannot build even their own apparent wind. Instead the movement of the hull in the swell is enough to flick the sails through and have them flopping back and forth. With all this we cannot make any headway. After all the effort to stick with the following group we have I think fallen off the back of them now. We cannot do anything now. This will just have to go down as navigation miss. One for reflection later. Only yesterday I was happy to talk about our record day and now today we sail like this? The gods of the sea are clearly having the last word and not letting their trainee get too far ahead of himself.'

''When we do well be modest and when we do badly don't beat ourselves up' will be our motto from here on. On the positive side we have good things to report too. In the big winds up to yesterday we took on a lot of water and so the bilge pumps were called into action today. After a good clean up the boat is looking good again now and feeling refreshed. I have a plan too to counteract the leak from the port winch and with the next storm due in sometime tomorrow we will have the opportunity to try it in earnest. With the calm too I was able to prepare some good Miso soup and enjoy it very slowly.'

Graham DALTON (NZL), A Southern Man - AGD:

'I haven't had any position reports recently as my satellite communications have been down and to download the information from the internet on the laptop takes too long. I have absolutely ziltch. I do get some emails through but I am handicapped in terms of getting any weather files, so sometimes I am flying blind, but we're doing well.'

'Unai is just getting to grips with sailing 60s. It might look easy from the shore but it takes some time to get used to them. I have an advantage over Unai here as I have been down in this bit of the ocean before. We have very testing conditions out here, I have not had a reef in since Spain until recently - exceptional for this part of the world.'

Sir Robin KNOX-JOHNSTON (GBR), Saga Insurance:

'I opened Laurel Alan-Williams' fruit cake yesterday evening. Absolutely delicious. It must be 1,000 calories a slice and it is difficult not to take ones entire daily input at a sitting. No, it must get me to Fremantle so rationing applies.'

About The Race

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.

Kate Fairclough (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Mike GOLDING is having a good 48 hours:© onEdition
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