Sailing: EF Education loses mast in heavy seas

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The Independent Online
THE 12-strong, all-woman crew of EF Education were dealt a second hammer blow on the Whitbread Round the World Race yesterday when their mast buckled and crashed on to the deck.

Already crippled by damage to the rigging which had left them at the back of the nine-boat fleet 1,400 miles behind the leader and sister yacht, EF Language, the latest setback raises serious doubts about whether they can reach Brazil in time to start the sixth leg to Fort Lauderdale, which starts on 14 March.

Neither skipper Christine Guillou nor any of her crew, who were left trying to retrieve the tangle of heavy rig in difficult southern ocean conditions - steep waves, strong winds and extreme cold - were injured.

Their progress will now be further hampered by the small sail area that they will be able to carry on a jury rig and they do not have enough fuel to motor continuously for the week it would take to reach port at Ushuaia near Cape Horn. Extra fuel may have to be dropped to them from the air.

Chessie Racing may also need help from the sky because they cannot start the main engine which powers their water-maker. The food on the Whitbread boats is mainly dehydrated and is useless without water. The crew are being rationed to three cups a day. "We are looking for land and sailing hard to shorten the time of our thirst," the watch captain, Dave Scott, reported.

The frustration of being becalmed at Cape Horn came to an end for the group chasing Paul Cayard and EF Language. A 15-knot north-easterly breeze took them all round the notorious landmark, with Gunnar Krantz reclaiming second place in Swedish Match and Grant Dalton taking Merit Cup up to third, just three miles behind. Cayard, meanwhile, was 274 miles ahead, making 12 knots.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE (fifth leg, 6,670 miles, Auckland, NZ, to Sao Sebastiao, Bra): 1 EF Language (Swe) P Cayard 1,877 miles to finish; 2 Swedish Match (Swe) G Krantz 274 miles behind; 3 Merit Cup (Monaco) G Dalton +277; 4 Toshiba (US) P Standbridge 283; 5 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) K Frostad +288; 6 Brunel Sunergy (Neth) R Heiner +412; 7 Chessie Racing (US) D Smith +444; 8 Silk Cut (GB) L Smith +1,013; 9 EF Education (Swe) C Guillou +1,454.