SAILING: Autissier returning to sea of sorrow

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The Independent Online
A MONTH of battling back through the southern ocean may be meat and drink to the 42-year old French solo sailor Isabelle Autissier. But, as she leaves Auckland tomorrow for the third leg of the Around Alone Race to Punta del Este, Uruguay, she will not be able to forget the last time she was in that stretch of water which leads to the notorious Cape Horn.

That was in the Vendee Globe Race of 1996-97 and, already struggling with gear damage, she received a call from the organisers that her friend, the French Canadian Gerry Roufs, was in trouble. She turned back to search for him, but ran into a major storm and had to abandon the attempt. Roufs was lost.

This time Autissier is in the lead of a depleted Class One for 60-footers with her two main rivals, Giovanni Soldini and the Frenchman Marc Thiercelin, breathing down her neck. It is a tough call, but Autissier is a tough lady.

In fourth place is Britain's Josh Hall, well back on time but capable of picking up a top-three place as the weather takes its toll of those ahead of him. Another Briton, Mike Garside, is second in Class II for 50-footers and will need a major breakdown by the leader, Jean-Pierre Mouligne, to move up, as well as a major effort from himself to hold off America's Brad Van Liew in third place.

The race which started with 16 entries is down, officially, to 11, although two more, the Russian Fedor Konioukhov and the Cornishman Robin Davie, who has yet to finish leg two, have said they will keep going as unofficial competitors.

The American George Stricker retired on leg one from Charleston, and the Canadian Sebastian Reidl did not make it to the start line. Already on its way back to Europe is Mike Golding's Team Group 4. In the overall lead of Class I nearing the end of leg two from Cape Town, Golding hit a sandbank off North Island's Cape Reinga, doing so much damage to the keel he was forced to withdraw from the race.

AROUND ALONE RACE Second leg (Cape Town to Auckland): 1 G Soldini (Fila) 27 days 5 hours 24 min 52 sec; 2 M Thiercelin (Somewhere) 28, 20, 42, 00; 3 I Autissier (PRB) 28, 21, 53, 24; 4 J Hall (Gartmore) 33, 00, 13, 31. Class II: 1 J-P Mouligne (Cray Valley) 29, 09, 49, 27; 2 M Garside (Magellan Alpha) 35, 16, 49, 56; 3 B Van Liew (Balance Bar) 35, 16, 52, 17; 4 V Yazykov (Wind of Change) 36, 00, 16, 00; 5 M Saito (Shuton-dohji II) 52, 14, 00, 20; 6 N Petersen (No Barriers) 52, 01, 12, 27; 7 N Hunter (Paladin II) 54, 21, 09, 10.