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12 March 2003, 02:06 pm
Atlantic Slog
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Around Alone - Leg Four
Tauranga (NZL) - San Salvador (BRA)

While Bernard Stamm and Thierry Dubois start the long process of readying their boats for the final leg to Newport, the rest of the Around Alone fleet are bashing their way up the Atlantic.
It's proving to be a hard, tedious slog, and with the temperature rising with each degree of latitude, the days are long, sweaty and difficult.

To make it more challenging some of the competitors are having to deal with the numerous oil rigs off the coast of Brazil. Oil rigs are everywhere and there always seems to be one directly on the path to Salvador. The leading Class 2 competitor, Brad Van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America, has found his fair share of these mid-ocean monstrosities and sent the following log. "As I bang to windward and slowly chew up the miles between Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America and Salvador, I have been traversing the largest congregation of oil platforms I have ever seen. Just around the corner from Rio de Janeiro is a huge area of oil platforms, support vessels, tankers, and tenders. At one point today I had over 30 oilrigs on my radar at one time." To prove it Brad sent a photo of his radar screen littered with blimps with each blimp representing an oilrig.

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South Atlantic Sunset© Kojiro Shiraishi

Those competitors that have already transited the area can sympathize with Brad none more so than Emma Richards who has just exited the area. Her log of yesterday describes the chaos and frustration of sailing in that area. "During the night I tried to skirt the oilfields," she wrote, "but on a bad shift I was sailing away from Salvador so I decided to go through the edge of it. Good one Emma. At one point I had 42 objects on the radar screen (in a 12mile radius). Some were rigs, others tankers, tugs and platforms and whatever else they could think of putting out here. Some had flames coming out of them, flashlights off others wondering what this crazy yacht was doing in the area! Some vessels were stationary, some moving at pace, some barely moving, some you don't know if they're moving, so you guess and are often wrong." This maze of enormous flame throwing structures still lie ahead of the rest of Class 2 as well as Bruce Schwab on Ocean Planet.

While the sailing is tedious, the evenings offer some relief in the form of spectacular sunsets. Both Kojiro Shiraishi and Bruce Schwab sent stunning images of the western sky. Bruce Schwab went a step further and sent a photo of himself with a boat in the background, and lo and behold if it wasn't old Tim Kent on Everest Horizontal. Tim's log describes the mid-ocean encounter. "I had an unusual and delightful rendezvous at sea with Bruce Schwab on Ocean Planet," he wrote. "We each looked at our positions at the 1400 GMT report then dashed into the cockpit to see if we saw a sail on the horizon. We did not, but I called Bruce on the Iridium satellite phone, and we determined that we were less than nine miles apart. One of my tasks yesterday was to heave to and do a quick repair on my autopilot, so I rolled up the jib and tended to my duties below decks. When I came up on deck, there was Bruce's sail! I slowed a bit so that we could see each other before dark. I wanted to get a photo of this meeting at sea. It was great to see Bruce and chat with him for a few minutes. Ocean Planet looks none the worse for wear and pulled away as we both went slowly into the gathering darkness."

With all the action at the front of the fleet prior to the arrival of Bobst Group Armor lux and Solidaires, we missed an important anniversary. It's a day that those of us who have followed this race for a long time remember well, none more so than Kojiro Shiraishi. While it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of the race and inspired by these amazing sailors, we often forget what a terrible toll the event has taken on previous skippers. One of them was Yuko Tada, a much loved and well respected Japanese skipper after whom Koji's boat, Spirit of yukoh was named. Kojiro's log describes what happened. "Today is also the anniversary of the passing away of Yukoh Tada, the man after whom this boat is named. Twelve years ago in this race Tada san overturned three times in the Southern Ocean in some very tough conditions. At the end of the then leg 2 he retired from the race in Sydney and soon after took his own life. Knowing what I now know about it there are many things I could have been able to say to him. In this race all experiences and emotions are heightened and made extreme. It is very difficult to maintain constant high levels of motivation and concentration even though we all know how important this is. It is important to keep throughout the race the same strong spirit that raised the money, built the boat, got us to the start and keeps us racing. It is also important to find and keep involved all the people who support and follow you. It took me 17 years to get to the start line of this race. During this I was forced to twice abandon and turn back on my attempt at a solo non-stop circumnavigation before finally I could achieve it. Now Spirit of yukoh is sailing well. I have received some Haiku (Japanese short form poems) from the school children at my old school and they are helping to heal my heart. Salvador is still nearly 2000 miles away. I am sailing hard but safely."
Brian Hancock/ISAF NEws Editor
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