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Trouble before the race even starts

NOV. 23 — On Oct. 12, Fedor Kunyukhov, 56, set sail from Falmouth, England, with high hopes. His plan was to sail to Albany, Australia, to prepare for his 14,600-mile trip around Antarctica starting in January 2008 as a prelude to the staggered start Antarctica Cup Race in 2008-’09.

What he didn’t count on was his 88-foot yacht, Trading Network Alye Parusa, failing him.

Kunyukhov’s main hydraulic autopilot failed a week ago and he is caught in a full gale in the South Atlantic 3,000 miles from the Cape of GoodHope, South Africa, according to recent report from the Antarctica Cup Management Pty, Ltd. He does have backup, but the secondary unit is being maxed out with the drastic weather conditions, according to the report.

In addition, the inlet valve controlling the starboard water ballast tank had become blocked. Already 10 days behind schedule, Kunyukhov may be forced to

make a pit-stop in Cape Town, South Africa, if he cannot repair the main autopilot, according to the report. However, that would delay the journey by a month. Kunyukhov took Alye Parusa out on sea trials in Falmouth during the first weeks of September, where everything was, at that point, working properly, according to Kunyukhov’s site.

Known for daring expeditions, Kunyukhov has completed four global circumnavigations and crossed the Atlantic 14 times, once in a rowboat.

“This weather pattern comes as a reminder that the Southern Ocean is close,” stated Kunyukhov in the report. “The one good thing is that the rain has filled the shelf at the bottom of my mainsail. There must be at least 300 liters of fresh water there — so at least I can refill my fresh water tanks!”

— Elizabeth Ellis