The Around Alone yachts have found some wind and are rocketing south at breakneck speed. The front runners, Solidaires and Bobst Group/Armor lux are leading the way and are locked in a tight battle for first place.
Thierry's move to the east originally paid dividends, but he is finding Stamm nothing if not tenacious. The Swiss sailor has consolidated with Solidaires and at last poll was leading by a mere 7 miles. Given the randomness of the waypoints, its fair to say that both boats are dead even. Overnight Stamm kept the pressure on and managed to maintain a much higher average speed. This morning he was sailing at almost 19 knots while Dubois was barely making 11. They have been sailing faster than the rest of their class and this might be because they have more wind, or possibly they are just willing to push harder in the early stages of the leg while the rest of the fleet get used to the idea of being down south. One such skipper is Emma Richards on Pindar. "There is a loss of confidence on this boat and I am trying to pull myself back together,"
she wrote. "I had the masthead reacher up yesterday and took it down when I was expecting 30 knots and saw the clouds. In fact the 30 knots didn't come in for 6 hours after I got the sail down - at 5 knots slower, there went my 30 mile lead on Hexagon!"
Emma is a very experienced Southern Ocean sailor, but this is the first time solo and Pindar is a very powerful yacht, so the caution is warranted. "I think a nap will increase my confidence again in both bigger sails and the autopilots."
The strong winds from behind have also suited Brad van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America. After a slow start out of Cape Town and a frustrating day yesterday, Brad has finally found his groove and has shot out into the lead in Class 2. Its typical of van Liew to ease into the leg. As the only Around Alone veteran Brad knows all about the Southern Ocean and is willing to pace himself and his yacht. Short term conservation for long term gain is the name of his game. During the night he overtook the tenacious Derek Hatfield on Spirit of Canada and now has a firm grip on Class 2. Before the big winds started he sent a short dispatch. "Well the frustration and ramifications of my late start are still on my mind, but getting easier to deal with as the wind is finally filling in,"
he wrote. "Tomorrow I should have some strong winds in the 30 to 40 knot area which will hopefully help to catapult the fleet in the direction of the Southern Ocean. Going slowly while the leaders moved on was the source of some frustration. Basically with Tim Kent getting a late start and John Dennis stopping for a quick repair the pain has been somewhat alleviated, although Derek Hatfield is definitely maximizing this opportunity. It is a long leg so I am going to set a comfortable pace and see how the first week plays out before worrying too much."
All the yachts with the exception of Bayer Ascensia were making good speed. Tim Kent on Everest Horizontal was clocking the highest speeds of the fleet at 21.34 knots with only Spirit of yukoh and BTC Velocity failing to make it into double digits. While the sailors enjoy the raucous conditions, John Dennis had left Struisbaai on Bayer Ascensia and is heading for Mossel Bay, a larger fishing port on the South African coast where he hopes to make final repairs to his communications gear.
Positions at 0600 GMT, 17/12/02
||Bobst Group-Armor Lux
||Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America
||Spirit of Canada
||Spirit of yukoh