As all eyes are on Bernard Stamm, Tiscali is heading for Brest to fix autopilot problems.
Looking at the positions yesterday evening, we are all waiting to see whether Bernard Stamm's longer Westerly option for better sailing angle and less of a battering will pay against Graham Dalton's less radical route over the course of the night. Solidaires taking the middle track is leading in terms of DTF, and Pindar is keeping the pace on these front runners in fourth place just 20 miles from nearest rival Hexagon.
Latest update on Tiscali's autopilot problems: Simone Bianchetti is still trying to fix his autopilot system whilst racing at sea, and anything is possible. However, Tiscali is making route towards Brest on the West coast of France as a cautionary measure. At 23:30hrs UTC Tiscali was at 48 18 60N 5 26 04 W some 45m from Brest averaging 5 knots of boatspeed.
If the solution is not found, Tiscali will arrive in Brest around 0400 - 0500hrs local time. Technicians from Raymarine are being mobilised to go to Brest in order to be on standby to assist Simone if needed. Autopilot systems enable solo skippers to manage the boat as well as sleep whilst the boat itself is steered automatically, therefore a vital working system for single-handers. Raymarine has had specialist technicians down at the Torbay stop over working on the Around Alone boats to ensure this vital system for single-handers is fully operational.
Four boats in Class 2 are sticking like glue to each other still, providing stiff competition and yet more importantly a friendly watch over each other too in these unsavoury conditions, which most are experiencing for the first time.
Messages so far from Class 2 skippers riding the Biscay seas are of contrasting length; John Dennis, who had sharply turned course to head North West in order to avoid the low pressure system, sends in a precise bulletin. "Working on deck. All ok. Lost glasses over side have second set. Wind 270true at 28kts. Have tacked south steering 225m speed 5-7 kts john n. dennis."
American Tim Kent on the other hand is having an eye-opening experience for his first voyage across this notorious stretch of sea: "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."
"All along, I have said that I did not want to sail across the Bay of Biscay in a storm. Now that I am doing it, I still don't like it. Barometer went down to 990 last night, winds to the low 40s - less than predicted, thankfully - and I have been under storm jib and triple-reefed main since sunset last night - about 20 hours. Wind is all over the place - in high 20s now, gusting into mid-30s with 12 foot seas. Not very comfortable."
"The start yesterday was glorious, nice weather, good sailing. Brad and I sailed into the English Channel literally side by side, trading the lead back and forth, talking about the weather to come. We have all had our eye on the weather, because in two days we are due to get an intense low that will cover our path. We are looking at predictions of barometer readings of 973 and 50+ knots of wind - a severe storm. All of us are trying to get west of the storm so that at least the wind directions will be favorable. In conditions like those, racing stops and boat preservation takes prority. All of the Class Two guys were talking on the VHF last night, all of us urging each other to be safe. This is a great bunch of guys - and it was good advice, well received."
"Believe it or not, I slept through much of last night's storm. We have been working so hard on the boat that I started the race emotionally and physically spent. At the moment the position reports mean nothing to me - I am in the race with the major systems functioning, and that's all that matters. My only regret is that Whitney and Alison could not be with me in England. I miss them terribly - we are going to have to come up with a plan for them to make the remaining stops or the skipper is going to lose it!"
"I have a genoa sheet jammed around the leeward rudder, and it may be light enough for me to get it loose, so I'm off to do some repairs. Hope that all is well with all of you. Tim"