The big question being asked by the Bobst Group-Armor Lux skipper, Bernard Stamm, amongst many others following Around Alone, is where on earth is Thierry Dubois going this time?
Solidaires has parted to the East again, this time sailing over the top of the Prince Edward and Crozet Islands just above the 45 degree parallel, whereas Bobst Group-Armor Lux is tracking further South at 15-20 knots boatspeed in 20 knots of breeze from the SW between these islands.
Perhaps Dubois is giving the rest of the fleet another lesson in tactics after the first bold move to the East that he made in Leg 3 of Around Alone? After the start from Cape Town, South Africa, Solidaires immediately headed East and Bobst Group-Armor Lux dove South, and two days later they found themselves together again on par with each other, and 150 miles or so ahead of the chasing pack, who had followed one or other of these two extremes a little more conservatively.
After this initial tactical exercise, veteran circumnavigator Dubois put on his teacher's hat to render a lesson to the others: "Choose your camp, comrades, or you will miss the boat! Tactical decisions had to be made from the very first hours of racing, to go right (Bernard) or left (Solidaires) - but certainly not to stay in the middle, where the winds were light and variable. So why did everyone else sail through the middle? Some are perhaps not fully into the swing of it yet, or saw the situation too late, but then perhaps there was also indecision on their part, caused by the enormous difference of our respective headings… Too much reflection can lead to hesitation and bad (or lack of) decisions. Is the conclusion of this story that two extreme parties will always end up comi ng together? Well, I know little about politics, we are more akin to the free albatross faction…one thing is sure, we hopefully cured the indecision in others!"
In the other camp, leader Bernard Stamm is clear in his strategy too but perplexed at Dubois' move: "I am plunging South, but by no means making an extreme move, there is no danger. I am making decisions according to the weather so I can optimise my navigation and keep my sights on the fixed objective at the end. Looking at the current positions & weather information, though, I have no clue what Thierry is up to!"
Cast your votes…
In Class 2, Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America takes the commanding position of the fleet, but is not shooting deep South like the Class 1 leader. Brad Van Liew has a different strategy. "I am not that interested in shaving miles off my course by going south," Brad said in a satellite interview. "There is a range of wind condit ions that my boats really likes, and I can average quite a few knots faster if I can find those conditions. I would rather seek out optimum wind than strive to sail a shorter distance, just for the sake of it." Brad has been this way before and knows what he is talking about. Tactically it could be better to protect his current Southerly position on the rest of his class, but remain around the 40th parallel where there is still plenty of wind.
Van Liew's comrades are fanned out behind him, the nearest being Canadian Derek Hatfield on Spirit of Canada 162.6m behind his track. Hatfield is uncovering the immense pleasure of sailing in the Southern Ocean and successfully putting his boat through her paces, reaching points of up to 20 knots "with triple-reefed main and storm jib, and me just sitting below decks at the computer!"
Another storm rider in fourth place, Tim Kent on Open 50 Everest Horizontal , has had his "longest repairs day"
after a wild ride surfing up to 23.5 knots in big breezes, which ended in his two top battens getting crushed. "The reason for all of this is that I was pushing too hard too early and it cost me. We are in a marathon here, not a sprint, and I have to remember that. I did not lose too much to Derek but I lost 140 miles to Brad over that time, and that will be hard to make up - he's now 250 miles ahead. I won't be making that up quickly as I need to sleep right now."
John Dennis on Bayer Ascensia yesterday rejoined the race at 1130 UTC and was reported to be in good spirits and raring to go. His pulpit, which suffered some damage during his time at anchor, and Iridium phone are now fully repaired thanks to help from the NSRI in South Africa.
It was a wise person who wrote on Tim Kent's cabin: "There is one difference between an adventure and an ordeal - Attitude."
Finding the right pace and course amongst the fleet, determining their own and the boat's limits over time in uncharted oceans deep south is proving to be the adventure of a lifetime for the Around Alone skippers.
Positions at 0600, 20/12/02
||Bobst Group-Armor Lux
||Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America
||Spirit of Canada
||Spirit of yukoh