Around Alone skippers Alan Paris and Brad Van Liew head for the refuge of La Coruña as the big storm approaches

Two more skippers in Around Alone are running for cover from the storm expected off the coast of Portugal tomorrow. Bermudian sailor Alan Paris (pictured left) in his 40ft BTC Velocity announced yesterday afternoon that he was altering course for La Coruña in Spain, where he would wait out the gale. Late yesterday evening, American Brad Van Liew did the same in his Open 50 Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America. He said that during checks to his boat he had spotted damage to his third reef and felt the safest thing to do was to seek refuge.

“My decision has been very difficult because of my competitive fire, but it would be dangerous to risk sailing through this weather with a 3rd reef system that sustained damage during the last storm. I have rigged a temporary replacement that I am not entirely comfortable with given the very serious nature of the weather. It would be a foolhardy display of bad seamanship if I were to continue without the quick stop necessary to meet with my shore support team to help me replace the 3rd reef.”

His PR team issued this comment: ‘At the core of Van Liew’s decision are the principles he established for the race, which include: 1) return home safely; 2) bring the boat home safely; 3) win the race. He feels that continuing without repairs would jeopardize all three of these important goals. Van Liew also recognizes the responsibility of every seaman to avoid putting others at risk with the burden of rescue when it can be avoided.’

The forecast storm is a large system and will bring headwinds which the fleet cannot avoid. The boats will probably see worse in the Southern Ocean, but they won’t have wind on the nose, a point of sail these boats don’t like. Even in quite moderate headwinds and headseas they are excruciatingly uncomfortable.

Brad Van Liew will have to take a 48-hour penalty for outside assistance. Alan Paris will have to accept the same. The engines of the boats were sealed in Brixham, so to get into La Coruña, if nothing else, they will either have to motor or take a tow. Before leaving, the engines will have to be sealed again by an official scrutineer.

Simone Bianchetti said he was hoping for a quick turnaround in Brest, where he arrived yesterday to make repairs to his autopilots and broken battens. He may also choose to sit out the storm. Although the other nine skippers appear to be continuing, it would not be surprising if more opted to follow into port today.