Sailing: Storm forces Around Alone fleet to seek shelter in Spain

A violent and "potentially treacherous" storm in the Bay of Biscay forced half of the Around Alone fleet to take shelter in Spanish ports yesterday.

A violent and "potentially treacherous" storm in the Bay of Biscay forced half of the Around Alone fleet to take shelter in Spanish ports yesterday. Six boats in the 50ft Class of the single-handed around-the-world race headed for La Coruña or Vigo to avoid a low pressure system producing gale-force winds more than 800 miles from its centre. That left six boats, all further south and all part of the 60ft Class, heading straight towards the worst of the weather last night.

"There's no way out of it and we're unlikely to get round the other side," said Emma Richards, the lone Briton and only woman in the race. The 28-year-old, who is suffering from a lacerated palm sustained this week, estimated that the brunt of the storm would start to hit around midnight last night.

Winds of 40 to 50 knots and heavy seas were being reported in the 29,000-mile race, progressing from Torbay to Cape Town on the second leg of five. Winds of 70 knots were anticipated. "It is a difficult call," Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the race organiser, said of the decision by the smaller boats to head for land.

"They want to race, but looking at the forecast they know that if they do continue they could find themselves exposed on the Portuguese coast... They might well make their way through this system, but the likelihood of damage cannot be ignored." He added that the larger boats have a better chance of making it south, albeit through two or three days of storm weather.

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