After a clement restart from Brixham the 12 solo skippers are already swept up in more big winds

The weather improved just long enough to give the solo sailors of Around Alone a clement start from Torbay yesterday, but the gales are back. After being almost becalmed during the night in the gap between two areas of low pressure, the fleet has come up against big winds as the second passes over today.

Bernard Stamm is already shaping up as the leader in Class 1, followed by Thierry Dubois on Solidaires. Both have positioned themselves to the north-west of the rhumb line – and the other Open 60s – to enable them able to sail a faster angle round Ushant later today. Stamm reports that the wind is back up to Force 9 from the south and south-west.

Likewise, Brad Van Liew is again marking out a lead against his rivals in Class 2 in Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America. However, with the wind backing and increasing so much during the night, a contant watch needed in the shipping lanes and now between 40 and 50 knots of wind to contend with, communication from the fleet has understandably been scant so far. This is a sleepless time for the skippers. Their main concern will be to get to Finisterre without breaking their boats or gear. Once out of Biscay in a few days’ time and in more favourable conditions, they can take up the tactical challenge in earnest.

At the back is American Bruce Schwab (pictured above) in his Open 60 Ocean Planet. Schwab missed the midday start and set off late yesterday afternoon after finishing work on his boat. His broom broke while running hard downwind during the last leg and a heavier replacement arrived with days to spare, leaving him the task of sanding it and fixing the fittings and hydraulic vangs for the freestanding rig. He has also been sorting out electrical problems.

The fleet, incidentally, now only has 12 boats, following the decision by Garnier to pull out. They say they prefer their skipper, Belgian sailor Patrick de Radigues, to take part in the Route du Rhum instead. With the largest fleet of top monohulls and multihulls in recent times, ‘the Rhum’ is the mainstream event to Around Alone’s fringe gig.