It has been a night from hell for the four Class 1 boats racing to Cape Town on the second leg of the Around Alone 2002-03 yacht race.
Huge seas and gale force winds have made the conditions treacherous in the North Atlantic, but the good news is that the sailors survived the night. When the conditions are brutal, it's always a relief to see the light of day even if that light brings a clear view of the giant waves and flying spindrift. News from the boats is quiet because both writing and talking on the phone is a chore in such conditions. British skipper Emma Richards on Pindar did report in that she had clocked gusts of 71 knots on her wind anemometer.
Bernard Stamm, who has momentarily relinquished his lead to Thierry Dubois on Solidaires, reported in at 10:00hrs this morning that he was in 72 knots of wind, and admitted that he had not got far enough to the West to catch the favourable wind angle. "The sea is wild, the wind is right on the axis of the route, which means it is hard for me to make progress. I'm totally reefed in, I just have the storm jib up. I hope I haven't got this far so that the others end up catching me now. I can't see to the end of this mother of a depression, it will be 2 days before I'm through it. It's beginning to ease - to 40 knots! - but I can sense it coming back again, I don't dare put up any more sail." Tiredness and solitude can take their toll on any solo sailor battling through these storm force conditions, especially when your adversary is untouchable and you can't sleep for the noise of the boat crashing on each wave.
Solidaires was this morning a fraction of a mile ahead of Bobst Group - Armor Lux, but this change in lead was short lived as the Swiss skipper is 400m further over to the West, which is tactically the best position to be in for crossing the next hurdle, the calms of the Doldrums. Boatspeed is now 4 knots faster than Solidaires at the 1400 UTC poll as Bobst Group -Armor Lux is on a marginally better sailing angle.Yesterday, at 23.45 UTC, Simone Bianchetti, skipper of the Italian Open 60 Tiscali, restarted his race after a forced stop in the French port of Brest on the morning of Wednesday 16th October, caused by the breakdown of on-board auto-piloting systems. A team of French and English specailist technicians worked non-stop to replace the broken systems and to install a new extra one while the shore team fixed the broken main sail battens and replaced a stanchion ripped off the boat during the first storm. After leaving the port at 21.30 UTC on Friday 18th October, Simone had to reach the exact position where he had started his engine (44 21 00 N - 004 32 44 W), before he could set sail to start chasing the other competitors in this second leg of the Around Alone. Meanwhile Bruce Schwab on Ocean Planet Derek Hatfield on Spirit of Canada, Kojiro Shiraishi on Spirit of yukoh and Alan Paris on BTC Velocity made landfall at Bayona, Spain to join Brad van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America. Tim Kent on Open 50 Everest Horizontal was 15 miles away at 1400UTC sailing into 25 knots headwinds.