As Bernard Stamm dives south towards the iceberg zone, Dalton has a mid-ocean collision 26/1/07

Velux 5 Oceans race leader Bernard Stamm made a dramatic gybe overnight and early this morning held a position of 54° South, averaging 14.5 knots with a heading towards Antarctica of 120°.

The Swiss skipper must soon stop his dive south as the western limit of the mandatory safety gate is just 240 miles north-east of Cheminées Poujoulat and he must pass to the north of this point. It is located at 52°South and stretching west-east between 160°West and 145°West.

This is the first of two gates in the Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean, implemented to prevent the Velux 5 Oceans yachts diving too far south into iceberg territory.

This morning, Stamm reported 20 knots of wind, and explained his strategy: “For the moment, the presence of a building high-pressure system makes me head south. I’ll be obliged to go around this system, far south at first and back north again to go over the gate.”

“The weather is fair, so it is OK to go south. It is not like in a low pressure system in which the boat goes very fast without any visibility!!”??

The safety gate rule is enforced to protect competitors when racing through the world’s most isolated seas, but still allows competitors enough room to manouvre. It is 240 miles further south than a similar gate applied to the fully-crewed yacht’s in the recent Volvo Ocean Race.

Kojiro Shiraishi’s in his Open 60 Spirit of Yukoh is trailing Stamm by 541 miles, his gybe north-east overnight meant he lost a few miles to the race leader.

In third place, 858 miles behind Shiraishi, Kiwi solo sailor, Graham Dalton gybed north-east last night and is curently 210 miles south-east of South Island, New Zealand.

Averaging speeds of 10.5 knots on his Open 50, A Southern Man – AGD, Dalton has just reported a mid-ocean collision with a seal, he explained: “Don’t know what it is about AGD, but we seem to attract the mammals of the sea. We were flying along with the stereo blaring and a strange piece of seaweed appeared ahead.” Dalton had no time to alter course to avoid the weed wrapping around his keel. He said: “As we ploughed over the top of it there was a bump on the hull. I only had a moment to think, ‘seaweed is hard,’ when CRASH…it hit the starboard rudder. Glancing astern my piece of seaweed turned out to be a seal, or should I say, ex-seal.”

Basque sailor, Unai Basurko, finally heads south-east on Pakea, dropping south of New Zealand. Basurko is moving up behind Dalton with 343 miles between them.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in Saga Insurance is also south-west of New Zealand, still hot on the tail of the Spanish yacht, trailing only 51 miles behind.