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Ocean Planet Report
Oct. 1, 2002
Finished Leg 1. by Brian Hancock



1st October 2002 Torbay England When Bruce Schwab sailed across the finish line off Torbay this evening, he accomplished more than just finishing a leg of the Around Alone race. He finally made it into an exclusive club joining a small fraternity of American solo sailors who have completed a leg of this gruelling circumnavigation race. And to make his accomplishment that much more compelling, he sailed the last half of the leg without a mainsail having broken his boom 8 days ago. This evening as Bruce guided Ocean Planet across the line, the yacht looked like a large bird with a broken wing. It was a sad sight to see this unique sailboat crippled, but it was clear that while the boom might have been in two pieces, neither the yacht not the skipper had lost their spirit. This is a plucky sailboat captained by a plucky skipper and the front of the pack has not seen the last of this duo.

The leg to England started out well for Schwab and Ocean Planet. Riding the edge of a large front that rode up behind the fleet, Bruce pushed the boat to see how it would fare against the European designs, and must have smiled to himself when three days into the race he was up with the leaders and sailing fast. Too fast maybe. In a terrific piece of video sent back from the boat, web watchers could see a narrow rocket ship hurtling down large waves sending spray ten feet into the air. The boat was sailing at 20 knots, seemingly with ease. Bruce takes up what happened next in an email sent the Race Operations.

“At 35 knots of wind the boat was flying at a steady 16 to 20 knots with several bursts to the upper 20’s characterized by the unearthly shriek of “speed howl” from the keel,” he wrote. “The boat was handling beautifully sailing “laser style” with just enough water ballast to heel it a bit to windward which resulted in a nearly neutral helm, even at these still scary speeds. Then the wind picked up to over 40 knots. I was below as the boat went on a tear at 28 knots with a deafening howl. I was scared and thinking about how I would go about putting in a second reef in those conditions. I guess I waited too long and my hand-wringing was put to an end by a loud (and I mean LOUD) explosion that I felt straight in the heart. I knew exactly what it was.” 

Seconds later Bruce realised that his fast and furious run across the Atlantic had come to an end. Once Schwab had the recovered the bits of broken boom and secured his mainsail, he sat below wondering how he was going to pay for a new boom. You see, unlike his competitors, Bruce cannot pick up the phone and order a new one. Well he could, but then he would have to figure out how to pay for it out of his limited resources. That’s what makes the story behind this sailor and this campaign more intriguing. Schwab is a rigger by trade, an occupation that does not make a man rich. It does, however, provide him with an understanding of boats and by any measure Bruce understands boats. He also understands how to sell his dream, and his campaign to build Ocean Planet for the Around Alone was funded by private donations, and to a lesser degree, the sale of merchandise. Corporate sponsorship in America is hard to come by, but Bruce has shown the sailing world, and indeed the world at large, that he is a unique and determined individual. He really does exemplify the spirit of America ingenuity. He deserves to be sponsored so that he can shrug off the financial worry and concentrate on winning the race. The Around Alone fleet is lucky to have Ocean Planet among them, and for sure, we have not seen the last of Schwab and his pencil-this race boat at the front of the fleet. 

—Brian Hancock great.circle@verizon.net 


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