The first 24 hours of Around Alone's fifth and final leg has been more of a regatta than a long distance offshore race, as the Class 1 leaderboard has been changing and all 5 boats are racing within 11 miles and in sight of each other.
As the fleet squeeze round the 'bulge of Brazil' in moderate upwind conditions on a smooth sea, each skipper is starting to carve out their own routes.
At the latest positions (14:00GMT), Tiscali was the boat furthest west and inshore, and Italian skipper Simone Bianchetti was calculated in first place early this morning. This is the first leg where Bianchetti has not had to race with either a totally new or spare rig after two dismastings, and so this Lombard designed Open 60 is definitely one boat to watch on this last leg - something which British skipper Emma Richards on Pindar will be doing constantly, as her goal is to keep Simone 2 points behind her to retain her 3rd place overall. Richards got off the starting blocks a little slower, but has swiftly picked up the pace since: "I had opportunity to overtake both Tiscali and Ocean Planet overnight when they tacked late after the sand bank - phew! Tiscali has sailed a lower faster course and gone ahead of me but closer to the shore, and Ocean Planet is currently sitting about 200m from me to windward."
However, eight hours later and it was the familiar sight of Bobst Group - Armor Lux at the top of the chart, as Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm covers both Tiscali to the west and Solidaires to the east by taking the middle route up the South Atlantic. American skipper Bruce Schwab admits to having his work cut out if he wants to achieve a top 3 finish on this leg, although he has been driving his boat well in these optimum close reaching conditions for his slim Tom Wylie designed boat: "Ocean Planet is an innovative boat and most of our ideas have worked brilliantly, but the bottom line is that we came to the Around Alone unfinished and untested. So it has been a struggle all the way to fix, repair, refine, and learn as we go."
In Class 2, current leader Brad Van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America is being doggedly pursued by Tim Kent on Everest Horizontal with just 15 miles separating them. After his longest stop-over in the race so far, Kent started Leg 5 the most well prepared he has been, which could make for a closer and more exciting race between these two American Open 50 skippers. Also, the two Open 40's Spirit of yukoh and BTC Velocity are having an excellent duel just 2 miles apart still.
Derek Hatfield and Spirit of Canada are currently making good progress up the coast of Argentina and his position is being charted on the homepage every day thanks to RayTech 4.1 navigational software from Raymarine. It has been a frustrating week for Hatfield with his departure stalled from the Beagle Channel by a week due to extreme weather and a badly charted coastline to complicate his navigation. His second attempt was successful, although it took him 2 days to get out of Beagle Channel with prevailing headwinds. "I have rejoined the race, albeit a long way back. The race for me is one to get to Salvador as fast as possible and finish Leg 4 and then sail to Newport before the 17th of May, the day of the prize giving. It's an almost impossible time frame, but I will give it my best. Thank you for all your support."