Robin Knox-Johnston heads back to Fremantle just 24 hours after start of Leg 2 5-Oceans Race 15/1/07

Less than 24 hours into the second leg of the Velux 5 Oceans Race, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston (GBR) has turned his Open 60 Saga Insurance back to Fremantle.

After tussling yesterday with defending champion and race leader Bernard Stamm (SUI) to be first across the start line at 1500 local time in Western Australia (0600 GMT), Sir Robin headed west with the fleet to line up a passage past Cape Leewin to the south. However, during the night both the autopilot systems on SAGA INSURANCE failed and refused to re-start.

After many hours assessing the problem onboard throughout the night, the sailing legend took the difficult decision to head back to Fremantle and meet his shore team back on land. Sir Robin will therefore have to comply with the minimum 48 hour time penalty for receiving outside assistance, putting him well behind the fleet from the off. The experienced yachtsman was forced to helm Saga Insurance throughout the night and is therefore tired and stressed.

On arriving back at Fremantle Sailing Club, Sir Robin commented: “At around a quarter to three in the morning when both my pilots failed for the fourth or fifth time and I thought this is crazy, I can’t go on like that. I had tried to carry on but they started going every hour. The first time it went I was down below getting the storm jib out and she just tacked. So I had to head back. When my team met me the expert said straight away, ‘it’s a power problem’. I asked if he could fix it and he said ‘yup’. It’s a tiny wire that’s causing all the problems and it needs to be changed. It’s a terrible shame particularly as we worked so hard on the boat.”

Knox-Johnston was met by his shore team and technical staff after rounding Rottnest Island, ten miles off Fremantle. He officially suspended racing at 0800 local time on Monday January 15 (2300 GMT Sunday) as he motored around the Island, and will therefore be able to re-start from the same point at 0800 local time on Wednesday January 17, assuming he has been able to make all the repairs necessary onboard Saga Insurance.

Back on the race track, Bernard Stamm has charged ahead and holds a 30-mile lead over Japanese hero Kojiro Shiraishi (JPN) on Spirit of Yukoh. Graham Dalton (NZL) on the Open 50 A Southern Man agd, is only one mile further behind in third place, with the Basque skipper Unai Basurko (ESP) on Pakeain fourth, 76 miles behind the leader, having chosen to head further west than the other competitors. The fleet are heading west off Western Australia in order to make a pass south of Cape Leewin.