Graham Dalton is helplessly waiting for salvation, while two intense battles for position go on at the front of Around Alone

Things have gone from bad to worse for Graham Dalton, the New Zealand skipper dismasted last week in Around Alone: he is drifting completely disabled in the South Atlantic. He had been motoring at snail’s pace towards Argentina and on Tuesday took on more fuel from a fishing boat. But in the process of getting the fuel, a towline from the fishing boat to Dalton’s Open 60 Hexagon broke and wrapped itself round the propeller, so he now has a tank full of fuel but no means of propulsion.

His shore team is hastily trying to arrange a vessel to take him in tow.

This is Dalton’s report:

‘I was running low on fuel for motoring Hexagon to the coast of Argentina. My shore crew working with the Argentine authorities had organised for a fishing vessel to come out and rendezvous with me at set co-ordinates to refuel Hexagon.

‘I proceeded to the arranged place and at around the right time I spotted a fishing vessel on the horizon. It was enormous, more of a ship than a boat, but I motored over to meet it. Once I had established contact I quickly discovered this was not the boat that had come to meet me but a vessel from Uruguay out fishing the rich waters of this part of the Atlantic.

‘The captain of the new vessel agreed he would help me refuel and dropped a line on a buoy off his stern to float down to me. I attached the line to Hexagon and they started to haul me toward the ship. The rope was very long and so, to assist, I engaged Hexagon’s motor in astern. While I was approaching the vessel the towline broke, and before I could react, it drifted underneath Hexagon and wound around the propeller rendering the motor useless for propulsion.

‘The Uruguayan ship hauled me alongside and I refuelled. They sent a diver over to remove the rope from the prop, but he was unable to get down below the boat. Eventually, night came and with that the Captain informed me that it was time for him and his crew to go fishing and they were gone.

‘I was grateful of the help this friendly ship had given me, but was now left in a difficult situation. I have full fuel tanks but am not able to use the engine. Overnight, I drifted with the wind and current, finding myself in the midst of a whole host of squid fishing vessels. These boats have bright spotlights they use to attract the squid, which constantly shined on Hexagon when she came close to the boats.

‘During the night the wind changed direction and I floated out of the fishing grounds and into clearer waters. The morning promises a beautiful day, there are light winds and sunshine. I am glad of the fine weather.’

At the front of Around Alone, Thierry Dubois is still holding off overall race leader Bernard Stamm, although by only 70 miles, with 800 still to go. Since the overall positions in this race are decided on points and there is only one leg left to go to the finish, the maths is easy: Dubois’s hopes of stealing 1st place overall will almost certainly rest on keeping Stamm at bay in the next few days.

A similarly close race is being fought 300 miles behind between Simone Bianchetti and Emma Richards. However, they have just reached the slow-moving area of high pressure that stalled the leaders.

Emma Richards, in particular, had a disappointing day yesterday. After almost a week of what she terms ‘turbo catch-up’, during which she closed Simone Bianchetti down to a handful of miles, she has just had 24 hours at an average of 2.5 knots. Meanwhile, the Italian skipper has taken a different route and found more wind.

How these two negotiate the light winds of the next day or two will affect the top three places not just on this leg, but possibly in the race as a whole. Thierry Dubois doesn’t just need that 1st place, he needs both Simone and Emma to finish before Bernard Stamm’s 48-hour penalty for assistance in the Falklands expires.