Giovanni Soldini of Italy won Leg 2 of the Around Alone sailing race yesterday, slipping across the finish line in Auckland, New Zealand, after more than 7,000 miles at sea since the fleet left Cape Town, South Africa, nearly a month ago.
Soldini said after the finish that Leg 2 was a full-fledged endurance race across the Southern Ocean and up the Tasman Sea.
"You know, you get to Tasmania and you think to yourself, 'I have made it,' " said Soldini, who is sailing a 60-footer in Class I of the race. "I come out of the Southern Ocean, where I saw no sun for days, and now it is sunny and warm.
"But then we had 50-knot winds on the nose for days. I averaged only 6 knots, and it was very, very hard work and very hard on the boat."
The same gale Soldini encountered in the Tasman Sea also hit the fleet in the Sydney to Hobart Race, sinking a half-dozen boats and causing the deaths of six sailors.
Soldini crossed the finish line at 4: 24 a.m. yesterday with an elapsed time of 27 days, 5 hours, 24 minutes, 52 seconds.
Several hours before Soldini sailed into Auckland, however, the second- and third-place boats in Class I collided with objects in the sea, apparently paving the way for fourth-place French skipper Isabelle Autissier to move up in the standings.
But Autissier was slowed later after hitting a whale.
Overall race leader Team Group 4 hit a sand bar just off Cape Regina on the north coast of New Zealand. Skipper Mike Golding of Great Britain reported no injuries in the incident but sent out a Mayday signal because the boat was taking on water.
The grounding apparently ruptured the keel casing on Team Group 4, and Golding was able to close watertight doors and bulkheads and keep Team Group 4 afloat and making 6 knots for a while after the collision.
But during the night, a fishing boat that had responded to the distress signal towed Team Group 4 into Tombowling Bay.
"He is out of this leg, so no time in this leg counts for him under the race rules," Around Alone media spokesman Dan McConnell said today. "He can continue in the race if he wishes, although he now can't win the race overall."
About two hours after Golding's distress signal went out, Marc Thiercelin of France reported his boat, Somewhere, had collided with a submerged cargo container, resulting in damage to its rudders. Thiercelin stopped racing for two hours to make repairs, but reported afterward the steering system was jammed and the boat was difficult to maneuver.
Autissier, meanwhile, had been making up ground against the second- and third-place boats since being forced into Tasmania for repairs earlier last week. The collision with the whale damaged the port rudder on her boat, PRB, and she is steering with an emergency rudder.
Yesterday Thiercelin had a 7-mile lead over Autissier and was sailing 3 knots faster with about 100 miles to go to Auckland.
If Autissier finishes in second place, she will take the overall lead after two legs.
Thiercelin and Autissier are expected in Auckland today.
The lead boats in Class II (40-footers) are expected to finish early this week.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Pub Date: 1/03/99