Sailing: British Steel II loses mast

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The Independent Online
THE charmed life of the 10 amateur-crewed yachts sailing round the world in the British Steel Challenge was given a severe jolt yesterday when the sponsor's own yacht, British Steel II, was dismasted deep in the southern Pacific Ocean. None of the crew were injured as the rigging screw on the starboard lower shroud failed, causing the 85ft mast to break at deck level.

Most of the rigging had to be cut away and the mast with the mainsail and headsails still attached dumped in the water, as the crew also coped with big seas and strong westerly winds.

The skipper, Richard Tudor, was able to salvage the boom and, as he began to turn north away from the dangers of icebergs, he reported that they required no assistance, although other yachts had offered to go to their aid or to donate food for what will now be a much longer passage at sea. He feels he has enough food, and enough diesel to run the fresh-water maker for the three to four weeks before reaching port.

Tudor is fortunate that his communications have not been wrecked as he was able, via the duty yacht, to contact race control in England within 12 minutes of the incident. He rejected the option of returning to Chile and plans to set up a jury rig, possibly using a spinnaker pole as a mast, and to use the storm trysail and jib to begin the long slog to New Zealand 2,400 miles away.

Chay Blyth, the race organiser, said: 'We are of course extremely disappointed but the boats have been driven extremely hard and fast, taking its toll on both the crew and the boat. I am delighted that nobody has been injured in this incident, and with all communications still operative we are able to stay in touch and ensure they make safe progress to New Zealand.'

Peter Blake, the Whitbread round-the-world winner, yesterday displayed the 85ft twin hulls of the catamaran in which he and Robin Knox-Johnston will team up for an attempt to sail round the world in 80 days, starting on 15 January, and snatch the Jules Verne Trophy recently put up by the French government.

BRITISH STEEL CHALLENGE ROUND-THE- WORLD RACE (Second leg, Rio de Janeiro to Hobart) Leading positions (with miles to Hobart): 1 Commercial Union, 3,002; 2 Nuclear Electric, 3,034; 3 Hofbrau, 3,121; 4 Coopers and Lybrand, 3,208; 5 Heath Insured, 3,211; 6 Group 4, 3,232; 7 Pride of Teesside, 3,385; 8 Interspray, 3,504; 9 Rhone-Poulenc, 3,716. Dismasted: British Steel II.( Information supplied by BT)

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