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19 February 2003, 03:17 pm
Dalton Closes Up
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Hexagon © Brian Hancock

Around Alone - Leg Four
Tauranga (NZL) - Salvador (BRA)

There are two races within the race going on in Class 1. Graham Dalton, the tough New Zealand skipper has sailed Hexagon to within .8 of a mile of Simone Bianchetti on Tiscali.
The Italian skipper has moved north to avoid running into ice and in doing so has lost out to Dalton.

At last poll Hexagon was sailing marginally faster than Tiscali at 12.76 knots compared to Tiscali's 12.1 knots. Further back in the class Emma Richards has moved up on Bruce Schwab on Ocean Planet and at last poll was 8 miles astern of the slim Tom Wylie design. All of Class 1 are sailing in moderate conditions with 20 - 30 knots from behind. Bernard Stamm is maintaining his lead over Thierry Dubois on Solidaires at a steady 80 miles.

Earlier in the day Graham Dalton checked in with a report on how life was aboard Hexagon. Dalton is a man of few words (while he is at sea) preferring to race his boat and concentrate on tactics rather than send long, newsy emails. Ice was foremost on his mind as Hexagon hurtled through the Southern Ocean. "The wind has been blowing at 40-45 knots for a day and a half now," he wrote. "These are conditions that produce fantastic speeds from Hexagon; however, sailing at such velocities is wearing on the nerves when the chance of hitting an iceberg is prevalent. In this part of the ocean, ice is common. We are less than 700 miles from latitudes in which the ocean is full of icebergs. It is very conceivable that some of the smaller lumps of ice known as 'growlers' could have broken away and been blown as far north as I am sailing. To add to the tension I am not able to spend much time on deck at the moment. In very windy conditions, there are continual large waves breaking over the boat that make it dangerous to spend more time on deck than is absolutely necessary, therefore I am spending most of my time in the navigation station below, watching my instruments and sailing Hexagon using them."

Dalton, like all the skippers in the race, rely heavily on their instruments and they spend much of their time below decks monitoring them. Wind speed and wind direction are key, as is the barometer. These three instruments are the indicators that foretell approaching conditions. A drop in barometer indicates an approaching front. If the barometer drops and the wind starts to increase the front is rapidly approaching. If there is a sudden change in wind direction it's likely that the front is passing overhead. There are obviously many more indicators than this, but it's a good gauge of what to expect and the skippers can plan accordingly. The skippers also rely heavily on their radar's especially when sailing in iceberg territory. The radar's are alarmed to indicate if anything comes within a certain range. When the skippers are not looking at the screen, the mechanical eye is keeping an eye out for solid objects that might get in the way. Dalton's log described the limitations with the alarm system. "I have set a guard alarm on the radar so if any object is detected within a set radius of the boat I will be alerted to its presence and will be able to steer around it. This is a great way to detect most things, however the smaller, or submerged pieces of ice would be able to slip through unnoticed. If this happens, the end result would be as much down to luck as skill."

The leading yachts are under 2,000 miles from Cape Horn and at their current speed they should round the legendary landmark in about a week. After they make the corner they will not have to worry about ice in this race again. It will certainly be a relief after day after day of relentless tension.

Brian Hancock/ISAF News Editor
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