Around Alone skippers make their final preparations in Newport

With six days to go before the start of Around Alone, the single-handed round the world race, the 14 skippers have assembled at Newport and are making final preparations to their boats. They are shown left: Back row, left to right: Brad Van Liew; John Dennis; race chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston; Kojiro Shiraishi; Patrick de Radrigues; Bernard Stamm; Simone Bianchetti; Thierry Dubois; Graham Dalton. Front row, left to right: Alan Paris; Tim Kent; Bruce Schwab; Emma Richards; Derek Hatfield.

The last to arrive on Friday was Graham Dalton who, before the race has even begun, has been adding some spice in the form of controversy over his qualifier.

Dalton arrived outside the deadline for qualification, but after consideration by the race committee, he is eligible to race with a cumulative penalty of 60 hours and 59 minutes. Fortunately, this applies only to the first leg and since the race is scored on points, Dalton will not find himself out of contention by the first stopver in Torbay.

No sooner had he arrived on Friday evening than work began to step his new mast. Southern Spars built the new mast and boom in just 13 days and by the end of this weekend Dalton’s boat Hexagon was sporting her new rig.

At a press conference today, the skippers appeared relaxed. Some are here principally for the adventure, but there are a some hard driving skippers in Class 1 who are in this to win. Bernard Stamm and Thierry Dubois, both intimately familiar with their boats, are among the favourites, and Italian sailor Simone Bianchetti has what some Open 60 sailors maintain is the fastest boat in the class at the moment. His Tiscali is Catherine Chabaud’s former Whirlpool.

Some of the skippers in Class 2, for the 50s and 40s, whose struggle to get to the start has in some cases taken five years of work, hit a final snag in finding an underwriter for third party insurance. For the European sailors the established circuit means there are specialists in insuring grand prix boats for round the world races. The Americans and one Canadian in the race have found it more difficult. They have finally done a combined deal to insure each boat, though the sum is not far short of 17 per cent of the stated value of each.

The prologue race to New York, a fully crewed taster for the event, begins on Thursday, the first day of the Newport Boat Show. It is also the same day that the effects of a tropical storm are due to be felt along the eastern seaboard of the US. Most of the course south to New York is in the protection of Long Island Sound and for these skippers the forecast 40-plus knots of wind should not be too great a worry.