The weather might have been revolting, but the welcome was anything but as Bernard Stamm sailed his spaceship Bobst Group Armor lux across the finish line off Tauranga this morning to win Class 1 of Leg 3 of the Around Alone.
This amazing sailor proved once again that he is the master of this event. The last 36 hours had been, as he put it, "HELL,"
but once across the line Stamm breathed a sigh of relief and dropped his sails. His finish was not a moment too soon; seconds after crossing the line the tiller on the boat came off in his hands.
Bernard Stamm sailed a masterful leg from Cape Town. He took the lead shortly after the start and held it all the way across the Southern Ocean. It was a wild ride with speeds in excess of 30 knots and days runs consistently approaching 400 miles. When Bernard docked the boat at the Bridge Marine in Tauranga he looked almost fresh while his boat looked distinctly battle weary. Huge pieces of the hull were delaminating, the sails were torn and the useless tiller lay on the deck. The hundreds of people who turned out to welcome him to New Zealand braved the lashing rain and gale force winds that have recently marred this otherwise perfect holiday town. They were treated to a rare experience; one of the world's fastest monohull sailboats, and a skipper who is as charming as he is talented. These days when world class sailors are becoming elusive and hard to approach, it's refreshing to meet a man who will share a laugh and a beer with you and tell you how much he enjoys your company.
Stamm described his ride across the Southern Ocean to be just as he expected it would be; fast, furious, and cold. It was only when he got to the Tasman Sea that the relentless sailing let up and he was able to enjoy the warm conditions and moderate winds. "I was a little lucky getting around the high pressure,"
he conceded. "Thierry was not so lucky."
The area of high pressure that was situated in the Tasman moved over the top of Dubois who found himself captured by light winds while Stamm rocketed to Cape Reinga on the north coast of New Zealand. It was then that his real troubles started. "The wind picked up to 45 knots from the southeast and I had to beat all the way to the finish,"
said Stamm. "The waves were very steep and dangerous. I had to stop the boat (heave to) and fix my steering which had come loose. I also had to deal with my mainsail that ripped."
The steering mechanism on Bobst Group Armor lux was a web of lashing when the boat was docked, the result of Bernard's frantic effort to regain his steering while his boat drifted towards a lee shore. Stamm had not slept in the past 36 hours and was grateful to have the leg behind him. When asked how he is able to keep his motivation up day after day, Bernard replied simply, "Thierry, Graham and the rest, their speed keep me motivated."
The official elapsed time for Bobst Group Armor lux was 25 days, 12 hours, 24 minutes and 43 seconds knocking a shade under two days off the old record set four years ago by Giovanni Soldini on Fila. (that was to Auckland, not Tauranga).
Positions at 0600 GMT, 9/1/03
||Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America
||Spirit of Canada
||Spirit of yukoh