It has been five long weeks exactly since the Around Alone 2002-03 fleet set sail from Torbay, England, and all the Class 2 boats are still in close competition on their long slog south to Cape Town, South Africa.
Leader Brad Van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America has 2281 miles to go to the finish and is on the fringes of the Southern Ocean waiting to hitch a ride on the front with strong North Westerlies that will bring him charging into port within the next 9 days.
Van Liew will have some relief when the front comes along since his rivals to the north, Tim Kent on Open 50 Everest Horizontal and Canadian Derek Hatfield on Open 40 Spirit of Canada have taken an advantage of a kink in the South Atlantic High and are cutting the corner to Cape Town. It will be interesting to see if they can continue to steer that course for the next few days, but the chasing two boats are now around 250 miles behind, and have slashed 300 miles off Van Liew's lead in the last 3 days.
Tim Kent reported in that he had temporarily lost the wind yesterday afternoon, which set his nerves twitching as to whether the wind will stay and his neck twisting to see if Derek was in the rear mirrors: "After more than a week where the knotmeter never read below 8 knots and frequently more than 12, we were going THREE KNOTS! EGAD! Surely Derek was steaming up behind us as we were lollygagging around. Out went the ballast - still no more speed. In went the genoa, out came the Code Zero...okay...better. A few minutes later we got a bit more breeze, then a bit more...ahh, 8 knots again. Then more breeze, dash down below and fire up the engine to pump ballast. Presently we were singing along at 11 knots again, making me very happy. Down to 5.2 knots now. Out goes the ballast! EGAD! - I'm sure that Derek is right behind me!"
As if re-enacting the final days of Class 1 leader Bernard Stamm on Bobst Group-Armor Lux, Van Liew had to bite the bullet and climb the mast yesterday, and here he describes one of the toughest duties for a solo sailor: "I could no longer stomach the thought of the gennaker halyard chaffing. The risk I was running the last few days with the spinnaker and gennaker flying from a compromised halyard was wearing on my nerves. Finally, the swell subsided and I was given a good weather window and prepared for my ascent to the top of the rig to fix the chaffed piece of line…after a thorough prep of my tool bag I climbed into my harness and top climber and started for the top. When I reached the summit onboard Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America I noticed the main halyard was chaffed as well and spent the necessary time to protect the spot of chafe to the best of my ability with a special chafe resistant Teflon tape I carry onboard. Then up to the other halyard. It takes much longer than would be expected to work up there and after another hour or so I had the new end of the line prepared and fastened to its location on the mast. It is now as strong as new. Of course I had to spend a few seconds to take a picture or two (Ed: see website www.aroundalone.com for spectacular view of from the masthead).
Italian skipper Simone Bianchetti on Open 60 Tiscali has been quietly getting into his stride, and despite the psychological hardship of racing on his own against the clock to Cape Town, he is keeping in good spirits and approaching the Cape Verde islands. We will bring you more detailed report on his progress from now on.
Positions at 1400 GMT, 18/11/02
||Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America
||Spirit of Canada
||Spirit of yukoh