Bernard Stamm increases lead while second-placed Kojiro Shiraishi suffers gear problem 25/1/07

Bernard Stamm – leader of the Velux 5-Oceans race – aboard Cheminees Poujoulat continues to produce the highest average speeds at a little under 17 knots and has extended his lead by 30 miles over the last 24 hours. He is now 544 miles ahead of second-placed Kojiro Shiraishi on Spirit of Yukoh.

Sailing deeper into the hostile Southern Ocean Stamm says he is currently finished with the big surf and high winds but the following front is gradually rolling in from beind. In his latest report Stamm said: “The front is catching me and for the moment, I still don’t know for sure what to do next.”

One of the most likely causes of Shiraishi’s drop in pace yesterday was gear failure. Apparently when the race office was on the phone to Shiraishi he suddenly terminated the call, dropped the satellite phone handset and rushed on deck to rescue the remains of his shredded Code 6 headsail. He managed to climb north of Campbell Island – the mandatory ice waypoint – and this morning reported 30 knot westerly blasts at 52° South.

At the rear of the fleet Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on Saga Insurance and Unai Basurko on Pakea continue their duel as they head further through the Roaring Forties. Although the two yachts are split by 270 miles of ocean with the British yacht holding a favourable southern position, in terms of Distance To Finish, Knox-Johnston trails the Spanish yacht by 42 miles.

More problems in the last 48 hours including an oil leak, flooded ballast tanks, computer problems and a broken furler has not helped Knox-Johnston’s endeavour to break through into fourth place. The good news is however, he’s managed to get his computer working again. In his last log he said: “?Bingo. We have the Fleet 77 system back at work. Simon [Clay] has been brilliant because he knows these boats and has an exhaustive list of contacts for problems. Plus he happens to be a good sailor himself so fully understands why things are required. He is ready for his own project now really, and would be very good as he understands what sponsors want so I am lucky to have him at the moment.

“?I still cannot get the main weather, it is a software problem which we hope to sort, but at least I picked up a large scale Australian chart which gives a good general indication of what is happening. It is cruising information though, not what is needed for racing. One of the aspects of this has been knowing roughly where the front might be, not knowing the extent of the winds but knowing they can rise 10 knots beneath a dark cloud, so when I have seen a dark cloud I have suspected it might be the front and gybed or reduced sail in readiness. Then, for four occasions, I have found it is not the front and had to reverse the process. That is tiring, and distance wasting, but not to do it is risking getting caught with too much sail set which could cause damage, and I am already restricted by the loss of the Reachers and daren’t lose anything else.”