Sailing: Edwards feared for crew trapped below deck by fallen mast

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The Independent Online
THE CRIPPLED catamaran Royal & Sun Alliance was heading slowly for Chile yesterday as the boat's skipper, Tracy Edwards, explained why a distress signal had been activated when the boat broke her mast in the Southern Ocean on Wednesday.

"Not only were we faced with the mess of a crumpled mast and all its accompanying rigging, there were several crew members trapped in the port hull," Edwards said yesterday. "It was extremely frightening for the girls below while we tried to move the debris and release them."

The beacon alerted rescue services, but they were not needed and the 92ft catamaran, which had been trying to beat the non-stop round the world record of 71 days 14 hours, has set up a jury rig and small sail on the remaining 30ft of the 102ft mast.

That was enough for a speed of nine knots as Edwards and her 11-strong, all-woman crew decide which port to make for on the coast of Chile, 2000 miles away.

The war of nerves in the sixth leg of the Whitbread Round the World Race from Brazil to Fort Lauderdale in Florida heightened yesterday. Britain's Lawrie Smith, in Silk Cut, was hanging on to a 17-mile lead in stifling conditions as the nine-boat fleet headed north to the Equator.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE (sixth leg, 4,750 miles, Sao Sebastiao, Bra, to Fort Lauderdale, US): 1 Silk Cut (GB) L Smith 3,234.6 miles to finish; 2 Merit Cup (Monaco) G Dalton +17.2 miles behind leader; 3 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) K Frostad + 17.5; 4 EF Language (Swe) P Cayard +17.7; 5 Chessie Racing (US) J Kostecki +18.5; 6 Toshiba (US) P Standbridge +19.2; 7 Brunel Sunergy (Neth) R Heiner +21; 8 EF Education (Swe) C Guillou +33.7; 9 Swedish Match (Swe) G Krantz +43.4.