Today at 11.30 (local time), skipper Simone Bianchetti informed his shore-team that he was having problems in setting auto-pilot systems on board. 24 hours after the start Simone was crossing a south-westerly force 8 sea area with winds of 50 knots.
The skipper is in constant telephone contact with auto-pilot system technicians in order to solve malfunctions. In case auto-pilot systems should not work properly, a stop could be scheduled in Brest by 23.00 hours local time.
It was a tough first night for the Around Alone fleet. After a perfect early evening things took a turn for the worse around midnight. The first hint the yachts got that the weather was about to change was a light rain, but it soon gave way drenching downpours and strong winds. Fortunately the wind was from the north, but it soon swung into the south making for a tough sail. Graham Dalton, the skipper of Hexagon, called in to the race office to report that he was seeing a steady 50 knots of wind on his anemometer. The wind was on his beam, but 50 knots from any direction in an Open boat is a handful, and Dalton was having a rough ride. Despite the conditions he was pleased with the way things were going for him. After a respectable start yesterday, Hexagon was the early leader by this morning although the position charts can be deceiving. On a distance-to-go basis Hexagon, with the Italian yacht Tiscali sailed by Simone Bianchetti in close pursuit, are looking well placed, but the real story might be that Bobst Group-Armor lux and Solidaires are positioning themselves for the weather ahead, sacrificing miles to the finish in order to do so.
The forecast is still for an intense low pressure system to collide with the yachts as soon as they enter the Bay of Biscay. The British Met Office is reporting the centre of the low at 992 millibars, by any measures a severe storm. As the yachts encounter the system they will get south westerly winds forcing them to sail into the wind, and probably not allowing them to make course. This might be the reason why Bernard Stamm and Thierry Dubois are attempting to position themselves to the west of the fleet. Once the front hits they will have a slightly better wind angle, and certainly more sea room to deal with the conditions should they get really bad. Both Dubois and Stamm are very experienced sailors that have much experience in this body of water, and so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out on the next few days.
In Class 2 Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America continues to lead with a tight bunch behind him. The position charts are putting Brad van Liew behind his rivals, but the poll data for Tommy is earlier, thereby skewing the results. We will continue to monitor the weather and bring you updates from the yachts as they send them. For now though everyone is sitting tight to see what the next 24-hours will bring.