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21 November 2006, 12:56 pm
Leaders Experience A Bone-Shaker Ride
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VELUX 5 OCEANS 2006-2007

VELUX 5 OCEANS race leader Bernard STAMM (SUI) on Cheminees Poujoulat is now halfway to Fremantle, Australia, with a 565 nautical miles lead over second placed Mike GOLDING (GBR) on Ecover. The Swiss skipper has had a bumper 24 hours and is thrashing along at 17.1 knots and has extended his lead by over 100 miles since yesterday afternoon.
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He is turning away from his southerly course and heading northeast overnight on the fringes the 6,000 metre deep Agulhas Basin, 900 miles southeast from the cape.

On second place Hugo Boss, Alex THOMSON (GBR) has complained that his decision to back off the pace was hurting and the black boat has lost just under 60 miles to the race leader since sunset yesterday. After clipping the western limit of the race organization's safety gate, Mike GOLDING (GBR) pushed Ecover into a sharp dive south, crossing behind the stern of Hugo Boss and now hangs off THOMSON's starboard quarter, stalking the second placed boat from 58 miles distance.

SHIRAISHI Further North

Kojiro SHIRAISHI's (JPN) decision to stay further north, above the safety gate at Latitude 42S, has caused the Japanese skipper to lose miles on GOLDING overnight in terms of Distance To Leader as the British boat swooped south, but conditions are still truly Southern Ocean on board Spirit of Yukoh.

'Outside the skies are now always dark and leaden,' wrote SHIRAISHI in a message to the race organization overnight. 'Today, for the first time returning into the cabin after some hard work on deck, I could see my breath in the cold air. We have the Antarctic air with us now.'

The recent race pace on Spirit of Yukoh ensures that the boat remains part of the pack chasing STAMM. 'Yesterday we had a day run of 423.9 nm at an average of 17.66 ks!' SHIRAISHI continued, 'It is the best I have ever achieved in single handed sailing. A new record for us! Maybe even a new Japanese record.' However, SHIRAISHI is aware that his boat is still capable of more and later added, 'But it is not yet near the world record held by our fellow competitor in this race - Alex. In the last Around Alone race in my Open 40, the best I achieved in a day, if I remember correctly, was 270 nm. These Open 60s are just something else!.'

Loss On Board

SHIRAISHI also reported a sad loss on board during his high speed pursuit when the cover of his staysail was ripped from its lashings and disappeared over the side as the Open 60 crashed through the Roaring Forties. 'The power in these waves is unbelievable,' he admits, 'If I pay too much attention to Alex and Mike's position on the race course, I run the danger of damaging us, so I have to be good to 'Madam Yukoh' and show some restraint. Spirit of Yukoh is not the youngest of boats and we have to make allowances for this in finding our best speed.'

Off the coast of Brazil, fifth placed Sir Robin KNOX-JOHNSTON (GBR) is keeping the race backmarkers at bay, although this morning's position poll shows that Open 50, A Southern Man - AGD and skipper Graham DALTON (NZL) are sailing within a matter of miles of KNOX-JOHNSTON's position 24 hours ago and the bright yellow 50 footer is now within a day's sail of Saga Insurance. Trailing DALTON by just under 100 miles, Basque skipper, Unai BASUKO (ESP), reported the conditions that have been hammering his Open 60, Pakea, since clearing the Doldrums and entering the South Atlantic, 'The torrential rain and changing winds have made this trip more difficult than even crossing the Equator and has been quite eventful. Basically, over the past few days I have been beating continuously and having to put up with the boat heaving around in the unpredictable swell coming at me from all angles'.

KNOX-JOHNSTON Confronts 'Worst Nightmare'

After a month at sea and with the two backmarkers coming up behind him, KNOX-JOHNSTON is tackling temperamental autopilots, water in the forepeak, a blocked bilge pump, conflicting weather models and a disintegrating stove. Nothing, however, can unsettle the 67 year old, master mariner who has rolled his sleeves up and is getting stuck in.

'Worst nightmare, the autopilots have failed again!' he revealed today. 'I am genuinely puzzled. I have used these units for about 30 years and never had a problem before and cannot believe I should suddenly get two bad units. It's got to be a connecting problem and that is not my strength. My view is to isolate the autopilots from anything extraneous, no clever attachments, just simple control of the steering rams only, and then sort out the problem when I reach Fremantle.

'Then, whilst doing a check through SAGA Insurance, I found the sails floating in the sail locker! Too much water to pump so opened the hatch and started to bucket it clear. Of course a bit of ocean took advantage of the open hatch and I should have stripped, as my clothes got soaked. I need some rain now as when clothes are soaked in salt water they never dry properly....'

Looking ahead he said, 'I've checked the latest weather forecasts, but I am losing faith in them as for two days they have said the wind here will be easterly and it hasn't been. But the wind is showing signs of backing at last. This is where I made a mistake 38 years ago, and turned for the Cape of Good Hope too early. The result was that I got the wrong side of the South Atlantic High pressure system and had headwinds for a couple of weeks and lost a lot of time.

'What a difference time has made. Now, subject to accuracy of course, I have regular Met information and a pretty good idea of where the high is centred and can plot a course to its west. It is this availability of weather that has so speeded up round the world races and voyages in recent years.'

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.

VELUX 5 OCEANS (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Kojiro SHIRAISHI in the 40s on leg 1:© Kojiro Shiraishi
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