Throughout the day Saturday the wind has been strengthening from the west and for the first time since the start of the race the fleet has been enjoying the kind of conditions that they relish.
A good strong wind up the transom and an undulating ocean ahead. The speeds have been nothing short of remarkable. Early this morning an elated Simone Bianchetti on Tiscali called in to report that he had enjoyed strong winds all night and had recorded a top boat speed of 28 knots. He said that he maintained and average of 23 - 25 knots for four hours. It's the kind of sailing that both the boats and the sailors yearn for. It's why they are doing the Around Alone.
Bianchetti is not the only sailor having the time of his life. Class 2 leader Brad van Liew has been having a similar ride on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America. "The conditions are perfect and she smells her bigger sisters up in front,"
he wrote in an email to race HQ, and then followed with, "Yikes! Would somebody find out where the brakes are and let me know. I haven't seen the speedo below 20 knots since I started typing so now I really must go. For no reason of course than to hoot and holler like a kid on a roller coaster and to just keep asking the boat if there is anything I can do to help."
Later in the day Brad called race officials and told them that he was planning on making an attempt at the 24-hour speed record. "Not an official record attempt,"
Brad cautioned, "just for fun and to see how fast this boat can go."
The strong conditions should last for at least another 24 hours and give all the competitors time to enjoy the sailing. For some though it has not been all fun. Bruce Schwab on Ocean Planet sent a terrific video clip of Ocean Planet surfing along at 20+ knots, and then called later to report a broken boom. He has effected a jury rig and is pressing on for Torbay as best he can. Further to the south Tim Kent on Everest Horizontal was also have a day of fun and games. Having been plagued by autopilot problems since the start Tim, a sailor from the American Midwest, was starting to enjoy himself and with the wind from behind he set his biggest spinnaker. "When the wind freed up, I set the spinnaker for the first time since the day of the start,"
he wrote. "I hand steered it for a couple of hours just for the joy of it, then set the pilot so that I could grab some breakfast. Just minutes into it, the pilot abruptly allowed the boat to come up, building speed and heel angle very quickly. I jumped back to the helm, turned off the pilot, and tried to haul the boat back downwind. With resounding CRACK the spinnaker luffed and exploded, making it much easier to fall off, though at great expense."
Sir Robin Knox Johnson, the Race Director, weighed in with some expected times of arrival in Torbay. He cautioned that they were only estimates, and optimistic ones at that, however with the speeds that all boats have been sailing he might just have to revise his numbers. He gave Class 1 leader Bobst Group Armor Lux an ETA of Wednesday September 25, and Class 2 leader Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America an ETA of Saturday September 28. Stay tuned to see how well Sir Robin did his figuring.