Stamm sets a speed record, broken battens destroy Dalton's hope of a podium place, and spare a thought for the guys at the back, who have it even harder

This morning Bernard Stamm, the leader of Around Alone, went for a new single-handed transatlantic record. An official was waiting at The Lizard to time him and the word is that a new record of 10 days, 11 hours and 57 minutes will be entering the books. Stamm has had some amazing runs this week and, to cap this achievement, he is due later today to cross the line off Berry Head to take 1st place on leg one.

Bad news, meanwhile, for Graham Dalton on Hexagon. He was briefly lying 3rd two days ago, but his chances of a podium result have vanished. Dalton’s mainsail is out of action after all but one of his full length battens broke. He does not explain why, but reports:

‘After an exhausting few days pushing Hexagon and myself back up into third place, we’ve hit a major setback in the home stretch for Brixham. Just when it was going so well!

‘Last night, I lost the full-length battens from the outboard end of my mainsail; essentially relieving me of one of my most potent weapons – the mainsail itself. I am splitting my attentions twofold to combat this setback: repairs and gaining maximum power from my remaining sail inventory.

‘To effect repairs, it was necessary to alter my heading to due North, as this meant the gale force winds and resultant seas were no longer coming straight at me. This was not the optimum route to the finish, but allowed me to work, with the wind and waves approaching from the side, replacing the battens in a small amount of shelter.

‘I have one spare batten on board, and I am trying to cut this up to replace the battens I’ve lost. I’m not too hopeful this will work as the sail is huge and the new battens are unlikely to stretch the full width of the sail. But you don’t know until you try, and so I will persist.

‘To continue sailing, I have only my headsail set, which is not ideal but the best we can do for now.’

So far, media attention has largely been focussed on the faster boats and well-known names in Class 1. As ever, though, it’s the guys at the back who often have it tougher: strapped for funds, they have the older boats, no shore teams to help them, less money for getting weather information – and they’re out longer, which means they get more weather and less time in port to prepare for the next leg.

So spare a thought for Tim Kent (pictured above), an educational publisher more used to Great Lakes sailing. He is racing an Open 50, Everest Horizontal, and has been beset with problems from the start. First it was his autopilots and lately it’s been troubles with leaking ballast tanks that he has had to empty and re-glass. Things aren’t getting any better, as his report today illustrates:

‘Since early yesterday afternoon, I’ve been living life on the tilt. The wind has been 20 -25 knots all yesterday and last night. I have the two forward ballast tanks full, close-reaching on port tack at 10 -12 knots, pounding along, soaking the boat on every third wave, keeping the boat heeled over hard – life on the tilt. It’s very loud, very jerky and very wet.

‘Down below, I’m hunkered down. Things are damp – still a lot of leaky windows – and battened down. I’m living at the nav station and in the starboard bunk. We are heeled over too hard for me to sleep at the nav station. It was very overcast yesterday, but today it looks like the sun is going to peek through. I can only hope the wind holds – speed is good!

‘When I go on deck, I wear my new Musto smock – a gift from my solo sailing friends and others – and get a nice hosing. I wish I could bear off 20 degrees – we’d really be smoking then – but I’m trying to go England, not Cape Town. Yet.

‘Before things got windy yesterday morning, I had some autopilot experimentation to do. At the recommendation of some tech folks, I wired in a new compass senor to the autopilot. The change meant rolling the headsail, killing the pilot, doing some wiring, re-booting everything, getting the boat out of irons, and getting rolling again.

‘The first time I did it, the boat steered about the same, but the compass readout was all wrong – over 60 degrees off. So I went through the whole deal again -sails, wiring, irons – to get the old sensor back on line, and reported this via e-mail to autopilot tech.

‘He really wanted me to go back to the new unit, so again – sails, wiring, irons – I did so. Now that I am on line with the new unit, the boat steers….just the same. I do have technical help lined up in England. It is some comfort to know that the tech guys are as puzzled as I am. But not much.’