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5 March 2003, 03:33 pm
Intensity Increases
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Emma Richards© Billy Black Photo

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

Things are getting hot out on the racecourse and it's not because of the warmer latitudes. The racing as intense as it's ever been as the three races within the race get closer and more intense.
The most exciting contest is the battle for third place between Simone Bianchetti on Tiscali and Emma Richards on Pindar. It seems that the wind gods have not smiled on the Italian skipper despite his beautiful poetry and rocketship boat. Since rounding Cape horn the feisty Scot on Pindar has taken more than 200 miles out of Bianchetti and at this mornings poll was a mere 7 miles astern. While life must be hell on board Tiscali, it is pure pleasure on Pindar as Emma's log reveals.

"Simone is literally over the horizon somewhere. I can't see him but I wonder if he can see my strobe light which you can see from a great distance. I'm tired and happy." Earlier in the day Emma had to hang over the back of her boat to cut free a fishing net that was caught around her rudder. In the process she got soaked and took the occasion to take a bucket shower and changed her thermals. "I feel good now, although the rudder still has that twitch reminding me of the problem."

At the front of Class 1 Bernard Stamm on Bobst Group Armor lux is still giving Thierry Dubois on Solidaires a headache. Twenty four hours ago Dubois was steadily expanding his lead over the Swiss skipper which led Thierry to write, "I'm breathing out a bit, but clenching my buttocks at the same time!" His lead was a solid 102 miles. This morning it has been whittled down to just 45 miles, but Stamm's rapid gain may be coming to an end as he described in his log. "Tomorrow, this will be over, I am going to headbutt a high pressure system. I will try to overtake Thierry but.. He is going to cut through this and I'll be left standing."

The weather situation is making it difficult for any of the skippers to find a clear path towards Salvador, and it's that pesky South Atlantic High that's throwing curve balls their way. The high, which is usually situated in the middle of the South Atlantic, has extended a ridge towards the coast of Brazil. On the west side of the ridge are light northerly winds. Closer to the center (towards the east) the winds diminish to almost nothing. Add to that a small localized high pressure cell to the east of Solidaires and Bobst Group Armor lux and you can see why the conditions are giving the skippers heartburn. Thierry Dubois on Solidaires has been pushing through the windless belt while Stamm storms up from behind. As Bernard indicated in his log, his time for getting through the windless zone has just started and he fears that Dubois will again open up the gap. Ahead of both of them is the ridge of high pressure which, despite giving the boats headwinds, should at least give them steady wind which will be a relief after the last few days of fickle conditions.

The third battle taking place is no less dramatic. Alan Paris on BTC Velocity and Derek Hatfield on Spirit of Canada are the only two boats remaining in the Southern Ocean. At the last poll BTC was less than 300 miles from Cape Horn. They are separated by a little over a hundred miles, which in that part of the world is not much. The racecourse, however, is set to turn into another "survival of the fittest" as both skippers prepare for a lot more wind. "All is well on board," Alan Paris wrote. "I am just getting ready for the big blow that is coming."

We are all looking forward to the day (in the very near future) when all the yachts are out of the Southern Ocean and enjoying the more moderate, albeit fickle, conditions of the South Atlantic. Lest we forget, Brad Van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America is still leading Class 2 by a healthy margin of 862 miles from Tim Kent on Everest Horizontal. This may not be a close race, but it should not take anything away from the superb performance by Van Liew as he makes his way up the coast of Argentina.
Brian Hancock/ISAF News Editor
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