Photo of the Day: Around Alone

February 10 - Tauranga, NZ

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark fired the starting gun at 12:15 on Feb. 9, after a 15 minute delay to clear the starting area, for Leg 4 of the Around Alone Race.

Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America after the start of Leg 4
Photo Billy Black/

After almost two days of sailing, the racers are enjoying mild conditions with wind from behind and close racing. In Class 1 (Open 60s), Frenchman Thierry Dubois in Solidaires is leading Swiss Bernard Stamm on Bobst Group-Armor Lux by about five miles. Class 2 (Open 50s) continues to be dominated by Californian Brad Van Liew and Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America.

Leg 4 takes the fleet from Tauranga, New Zealand, around Cape Horn to Salvador, Brazil. At 7,850 nm, this is the longest leg and should take about a month. To follow their progress, see

Before the restart, race chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston announced a new format for the next running, hoping to cut down on the time spent in port at each stopover and the wide variance between the yachts. His goal is to ensure solid sponsorship and more evenly matched funding for the competitors. This running is operating at a loss, which Sir Robin's company, Clipper Ventures, is absorbing. For a complete report on the announcement, see Michelle Slade's article on

Ocean Planet skipper Bruce Schwab reports, "What an exciting farewell from Tauranga and the start of Leg 4! There was an amazing turnout on the docks, complete with Maori warriors doing the fearsome 'Haka' dance, and a huge flotilla of boats out to view the start. We had a moderate reach for the first few miles and since then it has been all over the place and really light last night. It has been pretty much hand-to-hand combat so far with Bernard, Thierry and Graham, with Simone not far behind. In the light air drifting, we kept taking turns passing each other all night. This morning was stunning, with sunshine, dolphins, and the four of us Open 60s within a mile of each other - quite a sight."

British competitor Emma Richards on Pindar, currently bringing up the rear of Class 1, reports, "First light this morning held a good sight of all six Class 1 boats and Brad [ahead in Class 2], all within sight of one another. But I seem to have sailed from one hole in the wind to another all day and have seen no one except Brad since. I am finally moving at six knots so I may get a speeding ticket soon. It has been very frustrating for certain moments, then very sociable with chats to some of the other competitors great for keeping morale up. With such flat calm seas, which show how little wind there is, it has shown up some amazing sea life! In fact one whale was swimming straight for me, just bobbing up and down, dead straight collision course. I had time to avoid it and grab my camera - this could be the first time I actually caught some sea life on it! I missed it by only a few feet and I think it suddenly realized I was there and dove."

New Format Announced for Volvo Ocean Race

February 10 - Auckland, NZ

Changes are also in the works for the Volvo Ocean Race's 2005-2006 edition, including a brand new, state-of-the-art, 70-ft monohull race-boat. This open design will have a canting keel, a choice of one or two centerboards, and a choice of one or two rudders. The prescribed rule will remain relatively open, presenting a challenge and test for designers.

The new Volvo Ocean 70 will be an easier boat to sail, with fewer sails to handle and better living conditions for the crew. The intent is for race rules which favor imagination, creativity and sailing skills, and not an environment where the biggest purse necessarily gives a bigger edge.

Each boat will have certain common features:  the canting keel and bulb, standardized carbon fiber mast and a reduction in the number of sails from 38 to 20, with approximately nine sails measured in per leg. They will be required to have a dedicated on-board media center separate from the navigational equipment, featuring the latest mini-cams for better news coverage.

Crew limits will encourage the participation of women. An all-male crew will be limited to nine, a mixed crew, provided it includes at least five women, will be increased to 10 and an all-female team may have up to 11 crew members. This is a reduction from 13 in the last running.

This edition of the event will also use a new system of scoring. On the long ocean legs, scoring gates will be included, where half points can be collected, with the same system for six in-port races, accounting for 20% of the total points available. This event will continue to use a high scoring system i.e. in a 12-boat competition, 12 points will be awarded to the winner of each leg, the overall winner being the team with the most points at the end of the race. All legs will count with no discards allowed. There will be point-scoring gates at: Fernando de Noronha (leg 1), Kerguelen Island, Eclipse Island, Cape Horn, Fernando de Noronha (leg 4) and The Lizard. 

With fewer stopover ports and faster boats, the race will be shortened to finish within an eight-month time scale. To ensure the best conditions in the Southern Ocean, the event will start in early November 2005, from the Mediterranean. 

The race-track will continue to follow the traditional clipper route around the world, with stopovers in Cape Town,South Africa; Australasia (the exact venue to be confirmed once the America's Cup schedule is known); Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Baltimore/Annapolis, USA; Southampton, UK; Goteborg, Sweden; and a finish at a Baltic port. Pit stops, which will also be scoring gates, will be held in Australasia and North America and in-port races will be held during each stopover.

During the race, on-shore weather routing by meteorological experts will not be allowed, in order to test the sailors' skills and not that of an on-shore team. Weather packages will be provided to the fleet daily and at regular intervals from race headquarters in the UK.

A completely new ocean-racing event, to be held in 2007, has also been announced. The Volvo Pacific Ocean Race will be sailed in the new Volvo 70s and will visit Asian ports, including China and Japan, crossing the Pacific ocean to San Francisco and San Diego.

For more, see

Blows the Head off Your Beer

February 10 - Cyberspace

Latitude reader Greg Sherwood writes, "I've got a question and I'm sure your vast reservoir of knowledge can help. Somewhere, sometime ago I read an article or email that described measuring wind speed based on a scale using beer. I believe it was Australian in origin (but of course) and had things like 'Force 2 - blows the head off your beer' and 'Force 6 - you have to sit on the cases to keep them from sliding across the cockpit'. Does this ring any bells?"

Not with the Webmistress, but perhaps our vast reservoir of readers can enlighten us? email the webmistress.

Geronimo and Kingfisher2

February 11 - Tasman Sea

Geronimo has passed Tasmania at about 0700 GMT yesterday on the 30th day of her Jules Verne around-the-world record attempt. Geronimo continues to clock up the miles and is well ahead of the record, despite the difficult sea conditions that still prevent her from taking a more southerly route.

Geronimo will have to track further south around New Zealand and therefore return to the Howling Fifties. Everyone on board is hoping that sea conditions will allow them to return to the latitudes enjoyed by the current Jules Verne Trophy holder on his record-breaking circumnavigation of last year: At this longitude, Bruno Peyron and Orange were at 54 degrees south.

February 10 - South Atlantic Ocean

Photo Courtesy

Kingfisher2, attempting the same record, is still stuck in the Doldrums just south of the Equator. Air temperatures are in the 90s, and water temperature is at around 85. Crew member Andrew Preece reports, "We haven't actually seen 'the two donuts' yet (all zeros on the speed readout), but we have been pretty close. And with the sun passing just about overhead there is very little shade to be found; below the off watch trying to sleep find themselves swimming in sweat."


February 10 - The Pacific Ocean and Cyberspace

Who is out making passages in the Pacific and what kind of weather are they having? The YOTREPS daily yacht tracking page has moved to

Weather Updates

February 10 - Pacific Ocean

San Francisco Bay Weather

To see what the winds are like on the Bay and just outside the Gate right now, check out

The National Weather Service site for San Francisco Bay is at

California Coast Weather

Looking for current as well as recent wind and sea readings from 17 buoys and stations between Pt. Arena and the Mexican border? Here's the place - which has further links to weather buoys and stations all over the U.S.:

Pacific Winds and Pressure

The University of Hawaii Dept. of Meteorology page posts a daily map of the NE Pacific Ocean barometric pressure and winds.

Pacific Sea State

Check out the Pacific Ocean sea states at:
For views of sea states anywhere in the world, see

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