Goss braves wild conditions on rescue mission

Pete Goss, the British lone sailor, was last night racing to pick up Raphael Dinelli, a rival in the Vendee Globe singlehanded non-stop round the world race, 1,200 of miles from Perth on the Western Australia coast after the Frenchman put out an SOS when his yacht Algimouss was knocked down and taking water. Dinelli had been spotted by an Australian sea rescue plane, but could not be picked out of the water.

He had reported winds of between 65 and 75 miles and hour when he had been twice knocked flat. "The damage is important, there is a big mess on the deck, but the mast is still there," he said. The 60-foot yacht was slightly wallowing and sunk in the water, and he thought there was a leak.

The rescue would require Dinelli to put on a survival suit, jump off his yacht, and swim through the big seas to pick up ropes trailed by Goss. The conditions are too violent to allow the boats to come alongside each other in case of collision and further damage to both.

The Australian maxi, Brindabella, was one of seven yachts forced to retire shortly after the start of the 52nd Sydney-to-Hobart race yesterday as the German yacht, Morning Glory, took the lead in strong winds and heavy seas.

Brindabella had just taken over the lead from Morning Glory when her mast snapped near its base as the fleet sailed into a southerly front with winds of up to 40 knots and three-metre seas off Sydney's Botany Bay, a race spokesman said.

Three hours earlier Brindabella, Morning Glory, Hong Kong pocket maxi Exile and Australian maxi Amazon - all among the favourites to win the race - had been in a group of 25 yachts forced to restart after prematurely breaking the start line in light northerly winds in Sydney Harbour. Syd Fischer, sailing in his 27th Sydney-to-Hobart race, led briefly but was forced to retire when his 50-footer Ragamuffin tore its sails.

George Steel's 43-footer Quest was forced out with a bent mast.

Quest and Ragamuffin were members of the Australian team which won this year's Kenwood Cup regatta in Hawaii.