Stamm and Dubois slug it out for 1st place in Around Alone with 500 miles to go, but behind them skippers face deteriorating conditions

A close battle is developing between the two leading boats in Around Alone. Bernard Stamm in Bobst Group Armor Lux and Thierry Dubois in Solidaires are within 60 miles of each other, and Dubois is chasing hard as the pair are borne along on the front edge of low pressure. Dubois has long forgotten his incident with a whale at the weekend and put his foot down on Sunday to try to catch Stamm, making an incredible 400-mile day in the process – a record for him in this boat.

Stamm is under 500 miles of the finish in Torbay and anticipates finishing in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Some 400 miles astern, Bruce Schwab in Ocean Planet has been falling behind after breaking his boom (the photo above shows Schwab pressing on) and has been passed today by Emma Richards, who says that she has ‘had some of the best surfing ever’.

‘I got some messages from Bruce,’ Emma writes. ‘We must have passed really close and not seen each other! I probably was going too fast, too high, while he was taking a more sensible, slower route to keep his southing!’

Graham Dalton is being battered, but appears to be in good spirits. He is in the middle of the pack in Class 1 yet manages to be one of the most communicative – and informative – of the skippers.

‘The last 24 hours have been the toughest so far in the race as I’ve had to get rid of the 1,000 litres of water that I took on board over the weekend due to waves of over six metres coming over the deck,’ he reported yesterday. ‘At least the boat is a lot drier now, allowing me to get some well-earned rest. Consequently, I feel a lot better today.

‘The breeze has dropped to a pleasant 25-30 knots, meaning that my boat speed is about 11-15 knots. If the wind eases as forecast, I will shake out the two reefs in my mainsail to keep Hexagon up to maximum power.

‘I was awoken by my [radar alarm] early this morning, warning me that a large container ship was only 600 metres away. I went up on deck to keep a lookout. Unpredictable and changeable weather can pose a threat when sailing and so can large ships, to which I will be insignificant and, in bad weather, invisible.

‘Whilst I am currently having some light rain, it looks like it will break later today. With headwinds expected later tonight, I am gearing up for a hard night’s work.’

Brad Van Liew in Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America continues to lead Class 2 by a handsome margin of nearly 500 miles, and has logged rapid speeds in the last few days. But he’s not looking forward to the anticipated bumpy ride in the next few days, either. Brad reports:

‘For two days I have been pouring over weather charts hoping for some bit of good news for what is in store for me over the next few days. Unfortunately all that I am doing at this point is wasting satellite uplink time.

‘In a nutshell, the next four days are going to suck. We will have stiff headwinds that will not only slow my arrival, but it is a system with some real punch and I will have to be careful not to break anything. This situation definitely is much the same for Emma and Bruce (who is already sailing with a broken boom and his mainsail on deck).’