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25 April 2003, 09:51 am
Tortuous Two Days Ahead
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Bernard Stamm ©Laurence Cadoret/DPPI

Around Alone - Leg Five
Salvador (BRA) - Newport (USA)

The tropical depression barring the route for the 9 Around Alone boats racing to Newport, RI is going to shake up the fleet, starting with leader Bernard Stamm on Bobst Group - Armor Lux.


Currently in 10 - 12 knots of northwesterly breeze, the Swiss skipper had to manoeuvre his blue monohull upwind straight into the storm: "Like any system, they come with confused seas and crazy winds, but it's calmer right now. I'm not out of the woods though, as the next 48 hours will be just as torturous, and only after that will things be much clearer."

After climbing 26m to the top of Tiscali's rig no less than 11 times in the last 48 hours, Italian skipper Simone Bianchetti is not giving himself a moment of rest as he now tries to make up the lost miles and keep hold of his second place. In a satellite call, Bianchetti explained all: "The screw had come right out and under pressure from the battens the carbon fibre on the track broke above the 3rd spreader. My body is shattered - I spent over 4 hours up the mast at one time - but I haven't slept for 24hrs, as I need to push the boat even harder and the weather here is so confusing. I can't sail into very strong winds with this damage so I will avoid the low pressure."

Bianchetti is being given a breathing space as light winds plague Solidaires and Pindar coming up behind him. However, some light needs to be shone on Bruce Schwab, who has cunningly kept in the pressure over to the West. At 8 knots, Ocean Planet is going twice as fast as his rivals to the East, and is now under 100 miles from Tiscali in terms of DTF. British skipper Emma Richards is trying to keep her cool as Pindar sychronises a westerly gybe with Solidaires to move away from another wind hole in the high pressure: "I stopped moving completely for about 3 hours this afternoon, quite frustrating but at least Solidaires did the same thing. I am happy doing 5 knots now compared with not moving, but its still only half the speed of the others! I am prepared for another 3 or more days of light wind now as we have not made it through this funny pattern as quick as I had hoped. C'est la vie!"

In Class 2 life is looking up for the tenacious Tim Kent as Brad Van Liew calls his fellow American skipper. Despite reoccuring autopilot problems, Everest Horizontal's skipper has gained over 30 miles on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America in the falling breeze, with the 'not so secret' Code 5 sail clearly having some effect. Under 150 miles separates these two Open 50's as they race on a course directly behind that of Schwab over to the West. Fastest boat in the whole fleet today at over 9 knots is Open 40 Spirit of yukoh, skippered by Japanese Kojiro Shiraishi, who is still enjoying the stronger winds of the trades.

And finally…Bermudian Alan Paris is finding at last the small benefits of being at the back of the pack. In steady winds for another 3 days, whilst the boats ahead negotiate tricky conditions, BTC Velocity is in perfect reaching conditions, which keep the boat level and make it easier for the injured skipper to move around the cabin and deck. "The searing temperatures have backed down some so that cabin is now reaching a high of 88 degrees, not the brutal 96 degrees that has been common since leaving Salvador. As the mileage to Newport decreases I am increasingly feeling the comfort of being in home waters. With Bermuda on the horizon I am savoring all the sensations of being at sea, alone."
Brian Hancock
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