Graham Dalton races against time to reach Norfolk to keep his place in the Velux 5 Oceans 12/4/07

After 85 days at sea, Dalton and his Open 50 A Southern Man – AGD are heading north towards the finish line of Leg 2 in Norfolk, Virginia. The latest position poll shows Dalton is 300 miles east of Barbados, the easternmost of the Caribbean’s Leeward Island chain.

After 21 days in the Brazilian port of Fortaleza, Kiwi skipper, Graham Dalton, restarted racing in the Velux 5 Oceans six days ago having overcome technical problems and poor health.

While the Kiwi skipper fought a number of setbacks in port, he had to watch Unai Basurko and Pakea cross the finish line in third place after 68 days at sea and his rival, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on Saga Insurance, overhaul A Southern Man – AGD taking fourth place and sailing north to finish Leg 2 after 75 days. Dalton however, is not disheartened.

A defiant and optimistic Dalton reported: “The prospects are good. I’m expecting to be in the next leg and I fully expect to be on the finish line.”

The Kiwi skipper is working hard to finish Leg 2 by the cut-off date of 19 April in order to qualify for racing in the final leg of the Velux 5 Oceans from America to Spain.

The race rules stipulate that a competitor must spend a minimum of 72 hours in a stop-over port between legs. In addition, A Southern Man – AGD must start the final leg by the 22 April, within a week of the official start of Leg 3 on Sunday 15 April.

Since Dalton’s entire onboard electronic equipment inventory was ransacked as he lay unconscious due to a violent stomach infection shortly after making landfall in Brazil on 14 March, A Southern Man – AGD is racing with minimal weather and navigational aids. Dalton said: “I’ve got absolutely nothing. All I have is a hand held GPS and some large scale paper charts.”

Dalton uses his experience as a deep ocean racer to work his way towards Norfolk. Two high-pressure systems currently block his route as it has spread across the north Atlantic. For now, A Southern Man – AGD is making good progress north, averaging 10.5 knots over the past 24 hours in north-easterly breeze. Tomorrow and Thursday, he should continue to benefit as both high-pressure systems are shunted eastwards by a low forming over Florida. However, as this low-pressure rolls eastwards into the Atlantic and bends north-east towards Europe, the winds spinning anti-clockwise from the system could deliver a severe body-blow of headwinds for Dalton.

If Dalton can maintain his current daily average of 252 miles, A Southern Man – AGD will reach Norfolk two days ahead of the deadline. The low-pressure system building energy over mainland America could make this margin considerably tighter or unachievable. The next few days will be critical for Dalton.