Competitors hot on leader's tail
Amongst the fleet, the battle is on to catch Velux 5 Oceans leader Bernard Stamm. Although the gap has been closing, Stamm is still 225 nautical miles ahead of Kojiro Shiraishi in second place, with Brits Mike Golding and Alex Thomson close behind. Spanish skipper Unai Basurko last night left Vigo, Spain where he was forced to make a second pit stop to fix his autopilot.
Towards the back of the pack is a frustrated Sir Robin Knox-Johnston: “Watching the distances between myself and the leaders increase yesterday afternoon was as depressing as watching the distance between me and those following decrease. We’ve [the group following] held the others overnight – in fact made some small gains. To put things into perspective though, I need to sail a good knot faster than Bernard from here to Fremantle and that isn’t going to happen. I’ll probably close with him and the others in front as they approach the Doldrums, but they will then get through to the SE Trades first and soon regain that margin. Dalton is hanging in well and his weather cannot be much different to mine.”
The eventful beginning to the race has taken its toll on 67-year-old Sir Robin, the oldest competitor in the race by quite a margin. He’s pictured left aged 30, at the start of his first circumnavigation in 1969 . Unsurprisingly, given the dramatic first days, Sir Robin reports sleep to be the order of the day: ‘I was pretty run down by the start day in Bilbao. The storm and the big hit on morale due to having to put in for repairs meant I was not at usual velocity in La Coruña, so re-charging the batteries is important. I could easily have stayed an extra day in La Coruña dealing with the to-do list, but am working through it here. I have broken a batten, midway in the second reef which I’ll need to fix when conditions permit.’
British yachtsman Mike Golding explained the fleet’s tactics this morning: ‘The general position of the South Atlantic high is what we are all studying carefully at the moment. The high oscillates to the east and to the west. When it is to the east, you can cut the corner round it and sail a shorter route. When it is to the west, you have to bite the bullet and sail all the way round the outside. At the moment I am critically concerned with watching Bernard, as I am sure Alex [Thomson] is too. There will be a good opportunity for me to close in on Bernard if he passes to the west of the high and it then shifts and I am able to pass to the east.’
Alex Thomson’s reports show him to be relatively relaxed; the young sailor planned to start his day ‘with a couple of bacon sandwiches!’ to build up his strength, before tackling the day ahead: ‘The weather ahead looks light for a time and after that we will see some much awaited trade winds, downwind champagne sailing!’