Sailing: Armada's gear problems

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The Independent Online
A RECOMMENDATION to the whole fleet of 10 boats in the British Steel Challenge to change the bottle-screw which attaches the mast forestay to the bow has been sent out by project director Andrew Roberts after two of the yachts, Coopers & Lybrand and, for the second time, Group 4, suffered gear failure overnight. Neither suffered either consequent or additional damage and no crew members were injured.

On most racing yachts such a failure would lead to the loss of the rig, but a combination of the strength of the sail, the inner forestay, on which staysails are set, and a baby stay kept the mast standing. The 67-footers being used are not set up as racing yachts and the equipment specifications have been very beefy. The relative lack of problems so far has been partly a result of the belt and braces approach to their preparation.

Vivien Cherry, the skipper of C & L, hit on the solution of taking a similar bottle-screw from the base of one of the shrouds and transferring it to the forestay. The shroud was then re-attached by a shackle 'and additional kit'. This solution is the one telexed by Roberts, who is worried about the possibility of metal fatigue.

The same problem hit Group 4 when the yacht was still off southern Brazil, soon after the start of this second leg round Cape Horn from Rio to Hobart. Then, skipper Mike Golding took the yacht into Florianapolis for replacement and repair. Now the fleet is deep in the southern Pacific, hundreds of miles from land.

That first bottle-screw to fail has been flown back to the UK and its manufacturer, Norseman- Gibb, near Southampton for examination and tests. The race office last night said they were still waiting for results.

Russell Coutts, who was the last- ditch switch skipper of New Zealand's bid earlier this year to challenge for the America's Cup, has been named starting skipper for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron next time round in San Diego in 1995. Coutts is preferred over Rod Davis and Chris Dickson.

BRITISH STEEL CHALLENGE ROUND-THE- WORLD RACE Second leg (Rio de Janeiro to Hobart) Positions (with miles to Hobart): 1 Nuclear Electric 4,135; 2 Commercial Union 4,211; 3 Coopers & Lybrand 4,254; 4 Hofbrau 4,259; 5 British Steel II 4,270; 6 Heath Insured 4,277; 7 Pride of Teesside 4,287; 8 Group 4 4,353; 9 Interspray 4.655; 10 Rhone-Poulenc 4,884.

(Information supplied by BT)