Kiwi Graham Dalton has a close call with a ship, and Bernard Stamm reaches Kerguelen Isles 28/11/06

The Velux 5 Oceans has seen plenty of drama on the water in the past week, and it doesn’t appear to be over yet.

Latest reports from Kiwi skipper, Graham Dalton, reveal he had a very close call with a ship. Onboard his Open 60 A Southern Man AGD, as the ship closed in from astern Dalton tried calling on VHF, but received no reply. Dalton said: “At one mile I let off a white hand held flare. Still he kept coming.”

Despite continuously calling on the radio, Graham Dalton received no response. With a mere six to seven hundred metres between them, and fast closing in on a collision course, Dalton let off another flare but to no avail.

This was serious

Again, Dalton called the ship on the VHF and told the officer on watch what he thought of him, and other profanities. Finally he received an immediate response and the ship altered course within 400 metres, just in the nick of time. Dalton’s response: “I hope the floggers ears are still ringing.”

In other news, Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm, the defending champion on Cheminees Poujoulat, is now 2,300 miles from the finish in Western Australia, currently in cold and harsh conditions, and about to round the Kerguelen Islands, a mandatory waypoint en route to Australia.

Stamm is in an upbeat mood despite reporting damage sustained in a ‘crash’, as he leads the Velux 5 Oceans by a comfortable 960 miles. Stamm reported that he has broken the same halyard once again that he’d broken in the leg from Spain to Fremantle. Stamm will be looking to make the necessary repairs to avoid being caught by strong winds with no flexibility to his mainsail setting. However, the damage hasn’t stopped Cheminees Poujoulat from recording the highest speeds within the fleet.

Stamm has also broken three battens in the mainsail, and one of the mainsail battens is also caught in the leeward backstay, meaning Stamm is currently not able to lower his mainsail beyond one reef.

Following Alex Thomson’s decision to abandon Hugo Boss, Stamm is in the running to be the only skipper to complete three around the world races in three years.

Meanwhile Mike Golding, who was at the centre of last week’s drama, continues to make best speed towards South Africa onboard Ecover with the mainsail now set.

Ecover does have a spare mast in Southampton, but the team must decide on the merits of continuing based on costs and his overall position in the race.

Mike Golding said:
“During the past 48 hours I have enjoyed the greatest feelings of success and joy at the successful rescue of a fellow competitor and then, just hours later, the crashing despair brought on by a mast failure which effectively puts me out of contention in the Velux 5 Oceans. Ecover is making progress north towards South Africa, probably Cape Town, where we can make a measured assessment of what comes next.

“One thing I am sure of right now, we may have lost an expensive mast, we may also have lost our place in this race, but I would not trade any of it for what we have gained in getting Alex off Hugo Boss – right now we might all be looking at a far more tragic outcome than a lump of broken carbon mast. As for our future in this race, well Gringo and the team are exploring all the possibilities, we have a mast in Southampton, it is possible to ship it but this would take time, we could fly it but this is prohibitively expensive. For now I think we need to concentrate our thoughts and efforts on getting safely to shore, only then can we make a proper valued judgment on what sensibly comes next.

“However, when we do get to wherever we choose to go in South Africa – they had better watch out – cause two Angry Bulls are coming to town and its going to get very messy!”

Further west, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston (Saga Insurance) leads the three back markers as they head south in search of the Roaring Forties. The final three boats are desperate to make up the lost ground on the front markers and start to eat up the miles into the Southern Ocean. Sir Robin continues to be plagued by problems with his auto pilot system, but will continue through to Fremantle rather than stop to make repairs along the way. Basurko (Pakea), the newest Open 60 in the fleet, will be looking to move out of last place and pass Dalton (A Southern Man AGD) as the wind picks up.

Positions, Long, Lat, Distance To Finish

1. Cheminees Poujoulat 71.5756E 48.3304S 2199
2. Spirit of Yukoh 48.5345E 48.5228S 911
3. Ecover 25.2491E 42.2500S 1964
4. Saga Insurance 14.3756W 36.5115S 3681
5. A Southern Man-AGD 19.4347W 35.1424S 3929
6. Pakea 14.3523W 29.3304S 3976