Petersen's feet are mending (good), Konioukhov misses a waypoint (bad), And Davie is hammered by a gale (ugly)

Whenever he completed a leg, Philippe Jeantot, a two-time winner of the Around Alone race, always took the time to raise a toast to those competitors still at sea. ‘The sailors at the back of the fleet, they are the race’s real heroes,’ Jeantot used to say. ‘The leaders get time to rest and repair their boats, but the sailors in the small boats never do. It is more difficult for them than for me.’ Jeantot had a point. Today, overall race leader Isabelle Autissier is touring the gorgeous New Zealand countryside. Leg 2 winner Giovanni Soldini is cruising in the Bay of Islands with his family. But five Around Alone skippers are still battling their way to Auckland. And they are having varying degrees of success in their endeavors.

It’s hard to tell what’s happening aboard Fedor Konioukhov’s Modern University for the Humanities. The Russian skipper relayed a message to race headquarters several days ago saying his main engine had quit and he couldn’t turn his generator over. This morning at 10:44 a.m. local time (2140 GMT on the 12th), Konioukhov was 2,499 miles from Auckland. But inexplicably, Konioukhov has sailed past a required waypoint south of Western Australia without honoring it. Today, via Konioukhov’s son and shore manager Oscar, race director Mark Schrader sent a note to Konioukhov regarding his non-compliance. ‘Race operations in Charleston has confirmed that Modern University did not sail the required course by observing the waypoint described in…the Sailing Instructions… The waypoints listed are mandatory for each [skipper]. The Race Committee will determine whether missing the waypoint (not sailing the course) means that Modern University receives a DNF (did not finish) for Leg 2; or whether it is a disqualification from the race. The Racing Rules…are clear on this issue, [Fedor] may correct [this error] as long as he does so before he finishes the leg.’

At the same update today, Neal Petersen was 1,564 miles from Auckland and trailed fellow Class II skipper Minoru Saito by only 80 miles, a fine accomplishment considering the fact that he is sailing a boat 10-feet shorter than Saito’s 50-footer. Petersen, who sought long-distance medical advice via COMSAT email for a problem that was ultimately diagnosed as trench foot, had good news regarding his health. In a recent message to race supporters he said, ‘The sun came out today, with a few puffy clouds. It was a good reason to be on deck, and as I was [up there], basking in the warmth, I decided to helm and take off my shoes to let my socks dry. My feet are healing. The pins and needles have gone away. Pushing the boat hard today, I am racing Minoru to the finish line. He leads me by less than 100 miles, and the gap is closing slowly.’

At the back of the fleet, Robin Davie still had 3,152 miles to go at the latest position report. He is in a race to arrive in Auckland before the January 30th cutoff to be eligible for Leg 3, and his cause is not being furthered by problems with his rudder and his self-steering equipment. In a message to race ops today he wrote, ‘The last 24 hours have probably been amongst the most difficult of any 24-hour period during any of the three Around Alone races I’ve been part of. Gale force winds, with storm-force squalls, and no proper autopilot or steering mechanism functioning properly… Of as much concern is the slow down in boat speed. There’s not a lot of leeway time left, and each slow down makes it tighter – the next job has to be to get the autopilot up and running again. A job for tonight…’