Velux 5 Ocean leader Bernard Stamm passes halfway mark

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Race leader Bernard Stamm is over halfway to Fremantle, Western Australia, the finish of Leg One of the VELUX 5 OCEANS. With 5944 nautical miles to go, Stamm is pushing his way towards the Southern Ocean. In terms of time to the finish line, rather than distance however, the fleet taking part in the world’s toughest sporting event is over halfway to Australia.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston aboard SAGA INSURANCE is having a thought-provoking time out in the South Atlantic, comparing his present speed to that of SUHAILI, the 32 foot ketch aboard which he became the first man to sail solo round-the-world in the epic Sunday Times Golden Globe race. His average speed since the start of the VELUX 5 OCEANS has been similar to that of SUHAILI’S, as Sir Robin has been sailing upwind for most of this leg so far and was on a faster point of sail aboard the ketch. In comparing his instruments aboard the state-of-the-art Open 60 to that of SUHAILI, he believes that sailors today have become incredibly dependent on the use of electronic aids. Advances in technology in the last 38 years also enable sailors to communicate much more easily with home. In 1969, Sir Robin defined the Golden Globe race as “ten months solitary confinement with hard labour”. This time round, there is plenty of opportunity to speak to friends, family, and the media as Sir Robin makes history once more in the Ultimate Solo Challenge.

Basque sailor Unai Basurko is looking forward to crossing the Equator tomorrow and taking his boat PAKEA, which was built in Australia, closer to the place where it was ‘born’. He has also been enjoying the company of visitors, a bird of prey, presumably from the African coast, dropping unwanted locust legs on his deck. Meanwhile third-placed Kojiro Shiraishi is heading south into an area of higher pressure between Alex Thomson and Mike Golding, which is likely to slow him down. 

David Adams, VELUX 5 OCEANS Race Director today commented upon the official race polling process and explained why there has been confusion regarding the boats’ positions: “There has been some recent discussion regarding the technical position data coming from the VELUX 5 OCEANS fleet. The boats positions depicted in latitude and longitude are accurate. 

The position data calculations are determined from two separate sources: FleetView Online (Inmarsat C) and OC Tracker (Iridium). Combining these two satellite systems gives us very accurate and frequent position reports 24/7.  It has, however, created some technical anomalies with the DTL (Distance to Leader) calculation which we worked around the clock to resolve as soon as they became apparent. The previous method calculated the progress made on a theoretical course taking into account the South African safety waypoint. The new DTL now reflects the exact distance between the leader and the following boats. 

Fleet safety is of paramount concern to the VELUX 5 OCEANS race office and we have the technology and plans in place to ensure that we are appropriately equipped to respond immediately to the demands and rigours of solo ocean racing.” 

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, SAGA INSURANCE:

“I have some 8,500 miles to go to Fremantle. My average speed since the start is pretty close to Suhaili's, (Suhaili had a reach from Portugal to the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergance Zone), while poor Saga has had a beat all the way and still has) but let’s be positive and assume it will improve. At 200 miles a day sailing at eight knots, I'll arrive in Freo on the 23rd December. If we can improve on that, and it should be possible once in the Southern Ocean, then say an average of ten knots will get me to Freo on the 17th December. Either way I miss the test match which is an utter tragedy. 

“I am not a natural revolutionary, but I am beginning to find myself supportive of the Luddite movement. I was thinking about some of the differences between this trip and Suhaili 38 years ago, and, apart from the obvious developments in the boats, the big difference is the time we are now having to devote to communications but also the way we have become dependant upon electronic aids. That’s fine so long as they work! 

In Suhaili my self steering was a very simple wind directional system, which packed up off Australia anyway, after which I had to balance her, or steer, which for a while I was doing for about 16 hours a day until I learned how to get her to balance [the sails]. These Open 60's are nothing like that at all and I doubt that a balance downwind is possible. Today the starboard pilot suddenly became infected and switched itself off. It was waiting for me to give it instructions, which I duly did.  What worries me is that this might happen at any time, and if it happened when running fast before a storm in the Southern Ocean that could be thoroughly dangerous.

“I am beginning to wonder whether the ITCZ has not done a sudden shift.  It does this from time to time, moving 3 or 4 degrees north or south so you think you have passed the calms but they jump you again, or, if you are very lucky, they move ahead of you and allow you to run down. Then they suddenly jump back leaving you with the instant fresh wind from the other hemisphere. I am in the jumped category, not the instant fresh wind one. We are now beginning the third day of this being a no smoking vessel.  Not too much trouble with the crew, they seem to have accepted the change, but how long it will last when they get ashore and are faced by temptation again is anyone's guess.”

Unai Basurko, PAKEA:

“My expectation is to cross the Equator around this time tomorrow. I think the boat is happy as it was built in Australia, she feels she’s getting closer to the Southern Hemisphere and hurries up. I built the boat in Australia because I had been doing a lot of sailing and races with Kanga Birtles who happens to be also a constructor, so I really trust him and who better than him to build it? Also I wanted to sail the boat back to Europe, to test it this way.

“Something really strange happened to me the other day. I was at the wheel and suddenly a locust’s leg fell in my face. I looked up and saw this bird of pray, like a hawk, on the top of the mast and another one flying around. This bird was eating a locust and didn’t like the legs, so was throwing them away. Later I realised that when you can find locust on the ocean it means that there are strong easterly winds near the African coast, so I hope my decision of taking the east route will be right.” 

Kojiro Shiraishi, SPIRIT OF YOKOH:

“Since yesterday things have been very hard. The boat has been shaken violently as the waves have grown in size. Last night there the headwinds hit a max of 30 knots. Thankfully since the afternoon the wind has settled down, however choosing the right course for my boat is becoming more difficult. It looks like both us and Ecover are about to head directly into the centre of the high pressure to the south. How I’m going to negotiate this high pressure will be the challenge. Behind us, or more accurately to the west of us, Boss looks like he’s foreseen this and is taking the long route around the pressure system to slingshot him through. Equally Bernard is racing ahead. I’m somewhat stuck in the middle and finding a solution will be difficult. I may have to face a pocket of no wind and the boat may even come to a stop. Judging the speed at which the pressure system is going to move on is the challenge. Since the boat has been punching through the waves and I’m starting to get a headache. It doesn’t help the thinking process. I really hope there’s going to be some tailwinds soon! The temperature at least has been coming down and I am wearing an inner winter liner. It is quite comfortable even with the heat from the engine when charging.”

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 November 2006 )