Sailing: Broken mast sends Tokio limping towards land: Dickson's 14-hour advantage in Whitbread Round the World Race disappears after disaster in the dark

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The Independent Online
A broken mast yesterday turned the Whitbread Round the World race on its head. The incident at midnight in the southern Atlantic forced Tokio to head for Rio de Janeiro some 285 miles to the north where her skipper, Chris Dickson, will decide whether to repair the mast or wait for a spare to be flown from Auckland. Dickson has ruled out attempting to complete the fifth leg to Fort Lauderdale in Florida under jury rig.

The mast broke in two places as Tokio, six days out from Punte del Este in Uruguay and the leading Whitbread 60, beat into 25 knots of wind and choppy headseas. No one was hurt.

'When the rig fell over the side, it didn't make a lot of noise,' Dickson said. 'I was down below and the cries of 'oh no, no]' suggested the worst. It is devastating to know all the months of hard work can be lost in a moment.'

Fearing that the toppled mast would hole the boat, Dickson and four of his crew took turns to go into the water to attach ropes so that the pieces could be winched on deck. It took eight hours to complete the task.

Dickson's mishap left Britain's Lawrie Smith on Intrum Justitia well placed to take the overall lead of the W60s. 'Although they have been our main competitor, we all feel extremely sorry for them,' Smith said. Tokio, who faces at least a four-day delay, started the leg 14 hours ahead of Intrum.

Smith's compatriot, Matt Humphries, is again having problems with Dolphin & Youth. She, too, is heading for Rio after discovering a six-foot crack in the hull's inner skin. The boat, which lost a rudder on the second leg and suffered keel damage on the fourth, is believed to have been damaged after crashing off a wave.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE Fifth Leg (5,475 miles, Punte del Este, Uru to Fort Lauderdale, US): Positions with miles to finish: Maxis: 1 Merit Cup (P Fehlmann, Swit) 4,537; 2 La Poste (E Tabarly, Fr) 4,538; 3 New Zealand Endeavour (G Dalton, NZ) 4,540; 4 Uruguay (G Vanzini, Uru) 4,730. Whitbread 60s: 1 Intrum Justitia (L Smith, Europe) 4,498; 2 Yamaha (R Fields, NZ/Japan) 4,507; 3 Galicia 93 Pescanova (J de la Gandara, Sp) 4,527; 4 Winston (B Butterworth, US) 4,544; 5 Brooksfield (G Maisto, It) 4,545; 6 Heineken (D Riley, US) 4,547; 7 Hetman Sahaidachny (E Platon, Ukr) 4,608; 8 Odessa (A Verba, Ukr), 4,655. Tokio (C Dickson, NZ/Jap) and Dolphin & Youth (M Humphries, GB) heading for repairs in Brazil.