It looks like it's going to be a dead of night arrival for Bernard Stamm. Whichever way you calculate it, unless Stamm purposely slows down, something that runs against his nature in a big way, Bernard is going to arrive in Newport tonight.
At the 0600 UTC poll this morning he had 217 miles to go. At 10 knots average that's an ETA of 22:00 tonight. If he speeds up to 12 knots it could be in as early as 19:00. If he slows down to 8 knots his ETA will be pushed back to 04:00 tomorrow morning. All of these times are local. The forecast is for a steady 10 to 15 knots from the southeast, moving slowly into the south during the day. With that kind of wind it's likely that Bernard will average a little over 10 knots, so if you are in the Newport area I suggest planning a nice dinner and then coming out to watch one of the greatest solo sailors in the world cross the finish line after an amazing circumnavigation. You won't be sorry.
While the weather in Newport is still sunny and warm, the forecast is for it to turn gnarly later in the week when the bulk of the Class 1 boats and Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America will be arriving. A stationary front will place itself inconveniently right off the coast of Rhode Island and will drench the fleet with a persistent rain. The boats behind Bobst Group Armor lux will start sniffing the Newport shoreline during the day on Friday. Simone Bianchetti on Tiscali still has a reasonable hold on second for the leg and at current speeds should arrive during the day on Friday, but it's very weather dependant. Ahead of the front he will find a favorable west southwesterly wind, but once through the front the wind will switch into the northeast and start to blow. If Simone is lucky he will make it in before the switch in wind direction, but it will not be so for the rest of the gang. Bruce Schwab on Ocean Planet, Brad van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America the leading Class 2 boat, and Thierry Dubois on Solidaires will definitely face headwinds.
The headwinds will not bother Schwab. Ocean Planet is designed to sail well to windward and so long as there is wind, Bruce will be happy. His "day from hell" is over and this morning Ocean Planet was moving along at a reasonable 7.4 knots. The last minute charge by Thierry Dubois on Solidaires fizzled when he encountered light winds and for now Schwab has a reasonable hold on third for the leg. Yesterday it was not so clear. His log reflected his frustration. "Instead of increasing, the wind shut down completely,"
he wrote. "I hoped it was a temporary glitch, but after several hours I downloaded a new weather "grib" file and...surprise! Nice rotten, pesky little weak low crept up from behind and sucked the wind dry. I'm stuck! Brad is too, and we are both going insane. Or, more insane, that is."
That's precisely what happened. While Ocean Planet drifted slowly, Solidaires came romping up from behind and closed to within 30 miles. "Looks like the weather has a real sense of humor as it will likely squish us all to together then torture me with a reach to the finish where I'll get walloped by the wide boats. What to do?"
What he did was go for a swim. Ah the life of a solo sailor. This morning Ocean Planet has opened up the gap on Solidaires to 85 miles and closed the gap on Tiscali to 43 miles. There is still a whole lot of racing left in this race.
While the focus is on the boats approaching the finish, we should not forget the rest of the fleet. Kojiro Shiraishi on Spirit of yukoh has sailed a great leg but he has not had an easy time of it. After finding his main halyard stuck he had to climb to the top of the mast to find out what was wrong. The pulley at the top of the mast has broken making it impossible for him to lower his mainsail. Fortunately for Koji there was a gap in the weather that allowed him to make a repair. Had the wind come up he would have been in a dangerous situation. While Kojiro fixes his boat, Tim Kent on Everest Horizonatal is keeping a wary eye on the weather and does not like what he sees. "The weather files change radically every 12 hours,"
he wrote. "But one feature that bodes ill, and has been a constant for each report over the last two days, is a 25 to 30 northerly that is due to start blowing out of Newport on Sunday the 4th. It is almost like someone is setting a huge 30 knot fan on the finish line and pointing it right at Everest Horizontal. I guess that will be the character-building part of this leg."
At the back of the fleet sailing a steady race is Alan Paris on BTC Velocity. Never one to complain, and always upbeat Alan is just getting the job done. He is still well south of his home on Bermuda, but heading straight for the tiny island. There is some speculation that he will sail into the harbor at St. Georges, wave to his friends and family and continue on to the finish, but that's not his style. Alan may raise a glass to the people that have supported him as he sails by, but his goal is Newport and the end of the race.
While the Around Alone fleet races towards Newport, way to the south in South Atlantic Derek Hatfield on Spirit of Canada is closing in on Salvador. With less than 600 miles to go to the finish Hatfield is finding the sailing frustrating. "I have gone 60 miles in the last 24 hours,"
he wrote. "Most of that has been today as last night I sat totally becalmed for over 9 hours. It's gut wrenching stuff to say the least. When the breeze did kick in this morning it was like a tooth had stopped aching, it was such a relief."