The two ABN AMRO boats are currently just a few miles apart while the Pirates are back in the pits with more keel ram problems 17/1/06

Having passed the Eclipse Island waypoint and collected 3.5 points Mike Sanderson and team aboard ABN AMRO ONE are still leading the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race but the ever-threatening teammates aboard ABN AMRO TWO are just two miles astern.

Seb Josse and team passed the scoring point just 63 minutes later. Interestingly, Bouwe Bekking and team aboard movistar have taken a pitstop at Albany, the closest port, and are now very much back in the game just 14 miles off the leaders. Bouwe Bekking explains what happened during a swift pitstop: “We were in continuous contact with race headquarters, so they could verify the spot we had taken to suspend racing. As soon confirmation came in, the fight against the clock started. You make a pit stop, you know that this is for a minimum of two hours, before you can start again. The other boats keep racing, so the clock is counted in lost miles.

“From there on everything went quick, the boat with spares was at the rendezvous point, and quickly all the equipment was transferred, using the local rescue rubber boat. From that point on movistar was like a bee’s nest filled with shore crew, film crews, photographers and plenty of activity.

“Two and a half hours later the ram was fixed and we were up running again? the whole operation went flawlessly.”

Good news for movistar but it’s back in the pits for Pirates of the Caribbean who have reported further keel ram problems. At 1448GMT Pirates of the Caribbean passed the Eclipse Island scoring gate to take fourth and the two points on offer, then promptly issued a press release announcing further damage and that they would be heading to Albany for assessment and repair.

The release stated: “At 1200 GMT today, while sailing in 18 knots of wind, the port hydraulic keel ram failed. The boat is not in danger and the crew are all well.

“At the time, the Black Pearl was just 40 miles from the scoring gate at Eclipse Island on the south western corner of Australia. The Black Pearl will suspend racing in Albany to fully inspect the situation before continuing onto Melbourne. The team will give further information as it becomes available.”

Further down the fleet NG Real Estate Brunel (Grant Wharington) is 891 miles off the leader but looks like carrying a decent breeze all the way to Eclipse Island, closing the distance between them and the others ahead. Yesterday Brasil 1 passed the second Ice Gate, as well as the first scoring waypoint at 70 degrees east, but now trailing the leader by 2005 miles.

The conditions across the Great Australian Bight are bumpy with the chance of a quiet ride to the finish at Melbourne looking fairly slim. The leaders are currently heading south, clocking up further miles but benefiting from a downwind blast on the southern edge of a high-pressure centre which usually sits in the Great Australian Bight. This high, usually positioned much further south, is moving slowly south-east, which means that the fleet will be forced to sail almost directly upwind for much of the rest of this leg.