Sailing: A Heath Robinson approach

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The Independent Online
AS BOTH Group 4 and InterSpray lodge their applications for time redress when going to the aid of the dismasted British Steel II, the last of the nine yachts still to complete the second leg of the British Steel Challenge, Rhone-Poulenc, was battling the last 200 miles to Hobart.

With the wind shifting between west and north-west, they were being given no easy run and the only boost to morale has been looking forward to shore-based comforts like fish, chips and beer, as well as a stable, clean bed, when they arrive.

British Steel II is making good progress from Wellington, New Zealand, having also picked up a temporary wooden mast from a farmer who had half buried it when a friend building his own yacht abandoned the project.

This was added to the existing jury rig in which the boom and a spinnaker pole were lashed together to make a mast which took them 2,400 miles to safety. It was not quite a ketch, not quite a sloop, more Heath Robinson.

The replacement for the mast lost overboard in the southern ocean is being shipped to Hobart. Divers in New Zealand also report a badly scored section of British Steel II's hull, thought to have happened when the mast fell over the side and had to be cut away. It is possible that being a steel hull meant avoiding being holed.

There are many other mast problems to sort out, particularly the badly cracked spar on Hofbrau and the kinked section on Coopers & Lybrand.

It has yet to be seen whether the damage to the mast on Rhone- Poulenc, which was repaired when the yacht called into the Falkland Islands, will require further attention.

All the yachts are being pulled out of the water in Hobart, the rigs checked and new custom-built forestay rigging screws fitted to replace the model of which six broke, contributing significantly to the other problems.

An examination will begin today of the failed rigging screws when Andrew Roberts, the project director, is scheduled to arrive in Hobart.