The weather in the North Atlantic over the 2000 miles between the Around Alone fleet and the finish in Newport RI is becoming clearer.
In the next two days the Bermuda High is generating steady 15 knot Northeasterly to easterly winds on the course, with a low pressure system moving in from the West to bring South-southwesterly winds later on. The route is cut out for Class 1 leaders Bernard Stamm on Bobst Group-Armor Lux and Simone Bianchetti on Tiscali - head directly west now around the bottom of the High, and then turn sharp right and head north and downwind with the incoming depression.
Swiss skipper Stamm is forever serene and cautious about his 280 mile lead: "For now, the weather is back to normal; having said that, I've been looking back to see what is going on behind me. Our boats are very fast. You get stuck for 24 hours in a calm zone and your lead just melts away, like snow in the sun." Bianchetti is following the leader and cutting across the high pressure, but doing so earlier in order to avoid the stronger winds but maintain boatspeed, as he monitors his mast track damage and the three rivals flanked behind him.
For the chasing pack a steady easterly is kicking in to compensate for the calms which have been the curse of Thierry Dubois on Solidaires and Emma Richards on Pindar over to the East. Boatspeeds for all of Class 1 are levelling out at around 10 knots, and American Bruce Schwab on Ocean Planet is still being dealt the good cards to keep him in 3rd place just 80 miles ahead of formidable French circumnavigator Dubois: "A long line of black clouds jumped on us just after sunrise. They brought torrential rain and a dramatic wind change. Right now we are going upwind with a reef and a full ballast tank! I'm sure it will drop off once this squall passes, but we should at least be in steadier winds for a while now."
As if the American contingent in the fleet know something the Europeans don't, Class 2 leaders Brad Van Liew and Tim Kent are on Schwab's side of the course, and racing amongst the Class 1 fleet. Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America is just 15 miles from his 60ft friend in Class 1 but currently in calmer winds than the rest of his own class. Van Liew is squeezing every drop of boatspeed out of his racing machine as he needs to keep Everest Horizontal from eating into his lead: "The transition area between the trade winds and the weather patterns of the north has begun and this is key in the very tactical push to the finish. One wrong decision could allow Tim to sneak by. I am definitely looking over my shoulder and trying to focus Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America on a strategy to negotiate the upcoming mine field."
Both Kojiro Shiraishi on Spirit of yukoh and and Alan Paris on BTC Velocity will no doubt be enjoying their race from behind as these 2 Open 40's clock up the best 24hr runs compared even to the Class 1 leaders, covering just shy of 200 miles a day.