Velux 5 Oceans round up; Sir Robin running low on whisky; Stamm getting cold

Saturday, 18 November 2006

Thomson’s tactical decision to break away from the leading pack has found him triumphant as he makes a dramatic leap from fourth place to second. He overtook Kojiro Shiraishi on Spirit of Yukoh (JPN) yesterday afternoon and Mike Golding’s Ecover (GBR) late last night. The race to Fremantle (AUS) is hotting up, with Thomson leading Golding by approximately 76 nautical miles as they head into the remote freezing wastes of the Southern Ocean. Bernard Stamm (SUI) continues to lead the race.

Thomson, living up to his ‘Maverick’ reputation, is not one to follow the crowd and earlier this week made an astute tactical decision to break away from the leading pack and head south-west around an area of high pressure that was blocking his path to the Southern Ocean. Taking two steps back to make one giant leap forward, covering many extra miles and heading in the opposite direction to Fremantle, HUGO BOSS benefited from more wind than Ecover and Spirit of Yukoh which both got caught up in the high pressure. Yesterday was D-day and Thomson reaped the rewards by sailing into second place late last night. 

Thomson’s freestyle tactic has certainly raised the game in a race that looked set to fall into a pursuit race into Fremantle. Third placed skipper, Mike Golding and Japanese sailor, Kojiro Shiraishi today will be feeling the pressure to regain their losses but will be frustrated that they are still trapped in a Southern Atlantic high pressure system while Bernard Stamm and Alex Thomson storm ahead in the VELUX 5 OCEANS race. 

Meanwhile mid-Fleet Sir Robin Knox Johnston is suffering from broken battens, a temperamental pilot and rapidly diminishing supply of whisky. The combination of all these problems leaves him debating whether he should incur yet another 48 hour penalty and pit-stop in Cape Town. 

Graham Dalton and Unai Basurko, the sixth and seventh placed skippers off the East coast of Brazil have both crossed the Equator, joining the rest of the fleet in the Southern Hemisphere. Graham Dalton saluted King Neptune between 1630 and 1700 UTC yesterday and Unai Bazurka, onboard Pakea crossed the Equator around 0400 UTC early this morning. All seven of the fleet of the VELUX 5 OCEANS race are now sailing in the Southern Hemisphere. Basque sailor Unai Basurko was looking forward to crossing the Equator and taking his boat PAKEA, which was built in Australia, closer to the place where it was ‘born’.

And finally spare a thought for Bernard Stamm as he forges ahead into the icy climate of the Southern Ocean without his fleece (jumper). Thermal clothing is essential to ward off the bitter chill of temperatures that can reach the icy depths of minus 30 degrees. Especially, as he can’t just pop back to his wardrobe to collect it! It is likely that Bernard will now have to compensate for his lack of jumper by increasing his calorie intake. Solo sailors need to consumer up to 5000 calories a day to combat the toll of cold weather and keep their bodies functioning. 

Alex Thomson, HUGO BOSS

“At times last night I was averaging more than 30 knots,” said Thomson this morning. “It is quite hairy and extremely noisy, but I am absolutely loving it! I am conscious of maintaining that balance between speed and safety, but occasionally the adrenalin takes over. It’s a great feeling to be in second place and I am really pleased with the navigational choices I have made.”

“I have now passed the area where I was forced to retire from the Vendée Globe and I have never sailed in this part of the Southern Ocean,” says Thomson. “It was great to sight my first albatross - I am sure they will be with me all the way as we head further south.” 

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, SAGA INSURANCE

“The decision which will come sooner rather than later is whether to divert for new battens and to have these electronics fixed, or press on knowing the mainsail may become unusable and I might lose the auto pilots.  Well, that’s a worst case scenario. The diversion would probably cost 6 days in addition in sailing time, so the total loss would be as much as 8 days, and that is 8 days onto my elapsed time which really says that the VELUX 5 OCEANS is no longer a serious competition for me. It has to be more effective to press on for Fremantle.   Even if I lose the mainsail I can still sail and don't see how I'd lose 8 days because of that in a 20 day passage. The auto pilot is more worrying, but if it works it works. Too soon to decide but don't want to divert unless it’s absolutely necessary.” 

“There is another factor to be taken into consideration which may be decisive. There is not the whisky aboard I thought there was. I thought I had 8 bottles, but, having finished 2 1/2 I find only one unopened one left.  There has been a very careful search made I can assure you. One bottle, plus a bit, to get me all the way to Australia, is nothing like enough, and the deficiency could damage my health.  I'd like to know where the other 4 bottles have gone to anyway.  I wonder whether an air drop or rendezvous with a ship could not be arranged.  As my brother Michael said, whisky is not necessary it’s essential! I am sure the Race Committee could understand that a re-supply brings no competitive advantage!” 

Kojiro Shiraishi, SPIRIT OF YUKOH

“Yes! We have good wind and it’s blowing from behind. Now we have some good waves too and we are having our first real surfs of this race. The hull is really humming with noise and it is a great roar below decks. It does not get better than this. The sky is clouded over and we are starting to feel like we are in the south now. Soon we will know we are really there. Yesterday Alex overtook both Ecover and us in one clean swoop and moved up to second. Alex made his decisive move to go directly south and gamble on his own independent route a long time back. Now we are seeing the results of this move and it is has proven to be a wonderful success. All applause to Alex. I had similar thoughts when I was running behind Ecover and trying to get around the east of the high but I felt that moving too far away from Mike or Bernards course would simply end up with me being in a completely different race and I considered it too risky. All of our boats are a different design so it was not so easy to see the best course for us but in I have ended up close here lined up with 2nd and 3rd.” 

“Now I no longer have to feel like every day we are about to be overtaken. Now we fight to keep up with these boats ahead. The difficultly will be that we can see that already they are flying and now we will see if Spirit of Yukoh can also endure these constant high speeds. We have to make sure that we complete the whole race with our limited sails and our limited budget so the long term view has to win out in every daily decision. We keep up with the pace that is good for us and fight not to fall off the back of these top boats. We are moving now to the colder climates where delicious soups and noodle dishes will be my staple meals. Looking forward to it.”

Last Updated ( Saturday, 18 November 2006 )