Despite a punishingly slow final leg from Punta Del Este, Uruguay, nineeuphoric solo sailors drove their yachts across the line in Charleston, S.C., to finish the Around Alone race in May and early June.
The fifth running of the former BOC Challenge offered many surprises, several dismastings, a dramatic capsize and rescue in the Southern Ocean, a grounding, and a record-time win for Giovanni Soldini in his Class I 60-footer Fila. The first non-French sailor to win a solo round-the-world in 30 years, the Italian came from behind to win; on Leg I from Charleston to Cape Town he had taken fifth place. But in the Southern Ocean, the leg in which these sled-like boats typically soar, Soldini made up for lost time. His overall time, 116 days, 20 hours, 7 minutes, and 59 seconds, was more than four days ahead of the previous record held by Christophe Auguin in 1990-91.
Jean-Pierre Mouligné, who took first place in Class II in the 50-foot Cray Valley, broke no time records, finishing almost a day behind David Adams’ time in the last running of the race in 1994-95, but he consistently held position at the top, winning all but the last leg, taken by Briton Mike Garside. The
race included three dismastings: Marc Thiercelin continued the race, coming in second in Class I after a pit-stop in the Falkland Islands for a downed rig; Josh Hall withdrew from the race after losing his mast in the Southern Ocean; and Brad Van Liew’s mast splintered shortly after leaving Uruguay. But he continued the race after receiving a new spar. Mike Golding withdrew from the race after Leg 2 because of serious damage to Gartmore Investments in a grounding off New Zealand. And Isabelle Autissier lost her second vessel when PRB capsized and failed to right despite employment of the supposedly self-righting feature on the canting keel.
In post-race debriefs, race committee members will discuss possible safety changes: “The big question is what happened to Isabelle’s boat. But otherwise it was a very safe race,” said spokesman Dan McConnell. “Everyone survived.”
Sailing the extremes of the Southern Ocean often makes a solo sailor’s mind wander, as exhibited here in this photo, right, of British Around Alone participant Neil Hunter after his arrival in Punta del Este, aboard his Class II entry Paladin II. While bound for Cape Horn he said he dutifully shaved the northern side of his face to be warmed by the sun, but that on the right, or southerly side, he kept a thick beard to ward off chilling Antarctic winds.