Around Alone Class 1 leader Bernard Stamm on Bobst Group-Armor Lux is looking over his shoulder as the fleet enters the tricky part of Leg 3, the Tasman Sea, where winds predictably go light and can fold anyone's lead in half.
Stamm, the consummate professional, has already anticipated this but feels confident nonetheless of his position: "This time, if I keep up the pace, I should get through without too many problems. For two or three days now, I've had this in mind, so I haven't really slept for two days. I've been at the helm and doing as much work as possible to be in the right place when the wind gets up."
If the 11 skippers racing the 7,190nm leg from Cape Town to Tauranga, NZL, have been describing their days as blending into each other, like a seamless stretch of time marked by the bleak but beautiful Southern Ocean scenery of big winds and waves, with the occasional gliding albatross, today will have been a day to remember for British skipper Emma Richards. In a 40 knot squall late last night, the mainsail of her 60-foot yacht, Pindar, ripped into two pieces and threatened to end her hopes of finishing Leg 3 on the podium.
Emma had spent the past few days over the New Year positioning herself to the South of her opponents to have the best run into Tauranga, New Zealand. However, she has had to sacrifice the competition for crucial repair work that is complex and difficult - especially in the freezing, exacting conditions of the Southern Ocean on a constantly rolling and pitching yacht. After 19 days of racing hard and close on the heels of her main rivals Hexagon and Tiscali for a podium finish in Tauranga, precious miles are now being lost as her boatspeed has dropped by 3 - 4 knots whilst she effects the repairs. Hexagon, Tiscali and Solidaires clocked runs of just over 300 miles in the last 24hrs, whereas Pindar has covered only 230nm, which translates to 7 - 8 hours of time lost so far.
Emma has shown her true grit and determination in getting straight to work on her 165 square foot mainsail with a needle and thread; and hopes to be racing again within 36 hours. Speaking from on board at 09:30 am GMT this morning, Emma Richards commented: "It could be worse, I think! There was a huge tearing sound and my mainsail is now in two bits. I was safe and sound, however my initial reaction was that my round the world dream was over. But then my resourceful side kicked in and I am now into about my 8th hour of repair - lining up, sticking, sewing, undoing, redoing. I know that I won't be able to push the boat very hard after I have made the repair, and there is no guarantee that it won't just break again, but I have to try something. I'm afraid it's going to be a long job sitting on the boom resembling a bucking bronco with an attitude. I just hope I can do a good enough job to start getting involved in the race again. I am now wishing that I had been a sailmaker in a previous life, but I have to admit that this is doubtful, as needlework never was my forte!"
Both Thierry Dubois on Solidaires and New Zealander Graham Dalton on Hexagon are staying North as they round the Southern tip of Tasmania - Dubois just 30 miles from land - maintaining top average boatspeeds of around 14 - 16 knots in the 25 - 30 knot Westerlies. Their closest rival in 4th place is Italian Simone Bianchetti on Tiscali, still carrying the spare mast, which Class 1 leader Bernard Stamm lent him when his dismasted in Leg 2. He is sailing a conservative race, as he knows he must arrive in New Zealand with the boat and borrowed mast in good condition. "In view of the relentless conditions out here and the short 3 day stop in Cape Town, I'm satisfied with my actual position in the leg. I'm dealing with some minor maintenance but overall the boat is okay. I'm very concentrated on the race even though I'm getting tired and cannot push the boat to her maximum potential, but I am going South again now to stay in better wind for longer."
Bruce Schwab on Ocean Planet is 1,000nm behind the class leader, still handicapped after his vang broke a couple of days ago, forcing him to sail using headsails only. His fear is that going into the Tasman Sea he will need all the sial area he can throw up in the light winds.
Fastest boat today at 13 knots average in Class 2 is Open 50 Everest Horizontal, skippered by American Tim Kent. He puts this all down to "The Secret Weapon - called a Code 5. Basically it is a heavy air spinnaker set off the bowsprit, but it rolls up like a jib which makes it vastly easier to put up and take down - so instead of setting the temporarily out-of-service genoa, out came The Weapon. However, when I went to unfurl it, the loose furling job done at dockside presented a big problem - the middle of the sail would not unfurl, while the bottom rolled out and the top flogged about. After dropping it about 25% of the way, it came unfurled. I ground the halyard back up and we were in business. It is perfect for the moderate air reaching conditions that I am in now."
The two Open 40's Spirit of Canada and Spirit of yukoh are just hours behind the top two Open 50's, reaching just over 250 mile days in the fast flowing Westerlies. Third placed Canadian Derek Hatfield spent the New Year pumping thousands of gallons of water which stemmed from a leak in the dagger board, however has managed to stop the flow and is able to focus now on catching Kent: "It's taken me the last day to recoup from the incident and for some reason haven a number of bruised ribs, I guess from laying across the keel box to fix the bilge pump hose. Luckily, I've been able to hold my third position through all this. I can now go back on the offensive and see if I can make up some time. Hopefully the conditions in the Tasman Sea will suit us as well."
POSITIONS AT 14:00GMT, 03/01/03
||Bobst Group-Armor Lux
||Spirit of Canada
||Spirit of Yukoh