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21 March 2003, 03:50 pm
Schwab Brings Leg Four to a Close
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Bruce Schwab Finishing©Mary Ambler

Around Alone - Leg Four
Salvador

Heavy squalls bringing light, fickle wind interspersed with strong gusts greeted Bruce Schwab as he sailed the final few miles to the finish in Salvador yesterday.
Moments before he arrived at the finish line, a huge double rainbow appeared with a tantalizing pot of gold just out of reach, but it was not the gold Schwab was looking forward to, it was a cold drink and a hot meal. It had been a long and trying passage from New Zealand and Bruce was glad to get the leg behind him. "The last few days were really nice," he said. "I was far enough east to have a good wind angle and we made great speed. The rest of the leg wasn't bad. Cape Horn was really nice." His official finish time was 10:12:50 local time (13:13:50 GMT).

With the arrival of Ocean Planet all of the Class 1 boats are now in Salvador. Schwab may have been the last boat in, but he should not be disappointed with his position. His tactics were sound; push just hard enough through the Southern Ocean to stay with the pack, and then take advantage of the boats narrow beam, which allows it to sail to windward much better than the rest of the class, and once around Cape Horn and into the long beat to Brazil give it all the boat could take. Unfortunately it all came apart on February 22 when a large breaking wave forced the boat into a crash gybe. It was Bruce's worst nightmare and his log of that day reflects his disappointment. "I'm sad to say that we were laid out by a BIG breaking wave while I was napping," he wrote. "It knocked stuff everywhere and woke me up, but I was groggy and realized too late that my autopilot had lost its marbles and was headed for a crash jibe in 40 knots of wind. I scrambled for the tiller when I became aware of what was happening, but only made it to the vestibule when the 35 foot boom came over and crashed into the runner. A lot of stuff broke all at once. The boom broke right where it hit the runner, the runner deck block exploded and then the runner jammer ripped out of the deck leaving a good sized hole." Ocean Planet's mad dash through the Southern Ocean came to an abrupt halt.

This was the second boom that has broken on Ocean Planet, the first on Leg 1. It didn't help to hear that fellow competitor Graham Dalton on Hexagon had just the night before also broken his boom. The two skippers communicated trying to figure out a good place to stop to effect a repair, but in the end Dalton stopped in Tierra del Fuego while Schwab headed for the Falkland Islands. "The wind was on the beam after Cape Horn so I could reach to Port Stanley," he said. "I knew that there were some really good people in the Falklands that could help me, and I was right. They were wonderful. We did a good job fixing the boat and the boom knowing that it was a long trip from there to Brazil, and also knowing that it would be hard to do the work here in Salvador." It looks like it was a wise decision. "The boom is in good shape now. I have reasonable work list, but nothing major."

Bruce Schwab is nothing if not a dogged pursuer of his dreams. From the outset his campaign to sail a more innovative Open 60 around the world was plagued by money problems (as in he had none). Schwab believed in the concept of a light, narrow boat for a solo circumnavigation and he continued to move slowly towards his goal. The money started to come in and while you would never call his a flush campaign, enough hard cash came in to finish building the boat and to sail it three-quarters of the way around the world. One more leg stands between him and his dream. Two nights ago while flipping through some images of the boat being built Bruce realized how far he had come. The boat he was sailing on was once an empty wood shell. Now it was alive and romping north towards the finish of the fourth leg of the Around Alone. "I hung out on deck leaning on the runner for a long while, watching the boat slide along effortlessly under a well lit full moon," he wrote in his last email for the leg. "I could look down at the deck under my feet and see her when she was in the shop at Schooner Creek Boat Works taking shape in many stages. What a time that was! And now here we are sailing on a beautiful night, anticipating landfall and another exciting new country. Yep, good times indeed."
Good times indeed Bruce. You are an inspiration to all of us who have dreams. What sets you apart is that you had the courage to move on yours. Enjoy that first caipirinha.
Brian Hancock/ISAF News Editor
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