Four Around Alone skippers are carrying on, hurrying now to position themselves for the ever-worsening storm
The forecast for sailors still racing in Around Alone has worsened. The synoptic chart forecast for Sunday, issued by the UK Met Office, indicates that pressure at the centre of the depression will drop to 974mb. Winds of up to 70 knots are forecast. As we reported yesterday, all the smaller boats of Class 2 have diverted to Spain, either to La Coruña or Vigo, and will wait it out there rather than pressing on down the coast of Portugal with precious little room to run before the storm.
This is how Tim Kent, sailing Everest Horizontal, described the decision:
‘Everest Horizontal was built to deal with conditions like those we are about to encounter, but in the open ocean. In a situation like this in the middle of the Atlantic, you turn and run with it. But here, there is no turning and no running.
‘My first priority is to finish this race safely – it’s the promise that I made to Whitney and Alison, and I intend to keep it. I love to race, and I’ll race hard once we leave port. But it will be far easier to race hard with my boat intact. It was a tough call, but when I got back on line last night and saw that the forecast was deteriorating, I altered course for Spain. The fact that virtully my entire class has made the same call makes it even easier.’
As he points out, the individual decisions of these skippers makes even more sense now all have run for shelter, as their racing penalties will cancel each other out, allowing them to make any repairs needed after the first storm in the Channel and effectively restart in better shape in a few days’ time.
At the back of Class 1 following a late restart from Brixham, Bruce Schwab reported last night that he was undecided about whether to head for refuge. This morning his track suggests that he might have taken the conservative option.
That would leave only four skippers still racing: Bernard Stamm, Thierry Dubois, Emma Richards and Graham Dalton. Reports yesterday from Stamm, Dubois and Dalton clearly show that they are under no illusions about what lies ahead.
“We will have to fight to get south,” says Thierry Dubois. The key thing, he says, is to place yourself as fast as possible in the best position in relation to the course the storm is going to take. He says he is also trying to consider the sea state after the depression has passed: as the wind veers it will leave seas ‘like battlefields’.
Although race leader Bernard Stamm yesterday outlined a similar strategy, he is taking a different route, keeping further west. Dubois’s route to the east is an interesting decision: he keeps in lighter winds and less seas than Stamm for now, but has had to give away weather gage.
Finally, the report from Brad Van Liew about why he’s heading for Vigo is worth reading. Here’s what he had to say yesterday:
‘In the long run I have re diverted to small town on the west coast of Spain called Vigo. Vigo has a very safe harbor and is a few miles up an inlet. The best thing in my mind about Vigo is that it is precisely as far as I can get south before the big SW winds hit. It will also prove to be a very important tactical decision once the SW winds begin to clock to the west and stay very strong. Obviously with 40-50 knots of westerlies, getting out of La Coruña would have proven impossible, as I would need to beat around the notorious Cape Finisterre. From Vigo on the west coast I will be able to leave sooner and get back under way.
‘This is an eight-month race and the upcoming gale is a bruiser. I think most if not all Class II boats have decided to sit it out. The winds that would be encountered by the smaller class II boats will be worse and more prolonged than the bigger boats because we are not as far south to intercept the low. The first mission is for us all to get around safely so if this is what it takes then so be it.’