It's a wild ride out in the Atlantic as Joe Harris aboard Wells Fargo - American Pioneer hurtles downwind at full speed. A strong northerly wind is blowing and with the breeze from behind the boat has found its stride and is roaring toward Boston. Through the wonders of modern technology I was able to listen to the background noise as Joe and I spoke on his Iridium satellite phone. At one point Joe held the phone away from his ear and with the sound of water thundering along the hull he read aloud the boat speed. "Twelve knots," he said. "Now it's fifteen, eighteen, twenty." I could almost feel the vibration and exhilaration of open ocean racing. To add to the good news Joe has been making excellent progress and at the most recent poll this morning had closed the gap on Kip Stone on Artforms to just 18 miles.
Unfortunately the news among the other competitors is not so good and there have been two disasters in the Monohull 60 fleet. Swiss sailor Bernard Stamm sailing Chemin閑s Poujoulat-Armor Lux has capsized and Vincent Riou on PRB has been dismasted. Late last night while leading the fleet, Stamm reported a loud vibration coming from his keel. He told race officials that we was diverting to Newfoundland and would be withdrawing from the race. Not long thereafter the keel snapped off and the boat capsized. As it lay on it's side with the mast and sails keeping it from fully inverting, Stamm activated his emergency beacon and a search and rescue team was alerted. The closest competitor to Chemin閑s Poujoulat-Armor Lux, Sebastien Josse on board VMI, was diverted by race officials to go to Bernard's aid. This morning a plane was able to locate the yacht some 360 miles west of St Johns on the Newfoundland coast and they spoke with Bernard on the VHF radio. Stamm reported that he was fine, that the keel was missing and that he was in his survival suit. The latest news will certainly bring a smile to Bernard's face. He has been informed that a ship has diverted to his location to rescue him. While that's certainly good news, it's the name of the ship that will amuse Bernard. The ship has the same name as a fellow competitor in the last Around Alone. Bernard would be amused to know that he's being "rescued by Emma". (British sailor Emma Richards came fourth in the last Around Alone, the race that Bernard won - with Stamm out of this race her boyfriend, Mike Sanderson, is currently leading the monohull class aboard Emma's boat Pindar/Alphagraphics.)
While Bernard deals with his fate, Vincent Riou on PRB is also having to face the reality of a rescue. Ironically the owner of Pindar/Alphagraphics, a businessman by the name of Andrew Pindar, has already made his oceangoing tug available to rescue Jean Pierre Dick on Virbac. It may well be a double rescue and it most certainly is another example of the camaraderie and friendship that's so evident among competitors that race single-handed. We will keep you updated on both fronts.
Meanwhile there will be another report from Joe later today. The two events in the Monohull 60 fleet have overshadowed the news that Wells Fargo - American Pioneer is rapidly closing the gap on Artforms. The decoy that Joe threw out yesterday stating he was heading south seems to have made it's way to Kip Stone on Artforms. "Well I had to try something," Joe said. "There's no way I was going to pass Kip by following him. I thought that his shore team might relay my comments from the gryphonsolo website that I was heading south when in fact I wanted to head north. I am not sure if Kip saw the note, but nonetheless it has allowed me to gain some separation between the boats and for now anyway, I seem to be in more favorable conditions." Yes it is a game of cat and mouse; only time will tell which skipper is the cat and which one is the mouse. Stay tuned for an update later in the day.
- Brian Hancock (email@example.com)