Sailing: Italians' distress signal picked up

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The Independent Online
RESCUE services were alerted yesterday after a distress signal was received from the Italian yacht, Brooksfield, competing in the Whitbread Round the World Race. No contact could be made with the 11 crew on the 64ft yacht, racing in gale force winds through the southern Indian Ocean, nearly 2,000 miles from her destination here in western Australia. Two boats, La Poste and Winston, were told to turn back and begin a search.

Winston, sailing at night, later reported 'extreme conditions'. Her skipper, Brad Butterworth, said: 'We have 50 knots of wind and large cross-seas. We are using a storm jib only.' In the earlier strong winds, it would have taken 10 to 12 hours to cover the distance, but a shift in wind direction stretched out the likely rendezvous time beyond the earlier forecast of midnight. A Royal Australian Air Force 707, due to take off at 2am (GMT) today, faced a five-hour flight to reach the area.

The first signal, relayed by a satellite passing over the area, was picked up at 7.18am (GMT) in Canberra. Another satellite picked up the same signal on another pass three hours later. This showed the transmitter had moved at three knots in a south- easterly direction consistent with wind and current-driven drift.

The yacht is skippered by Guido Maisto. Seven of the remaining nine are Italians with one Swede, Richard Brisius, one Frenchman, Jan Herve, and one Dutchman, Peter Tans.

Britain's Dolphin & Youth last night reported that the boat's emergency rudder, fitted when the original broke away from the hull, had also fallen off. 'We are not moving,' the skipper, Matt Humphries, said.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE: Second leg (Punta del Este, Urug to Fremantle, Aus): Positions, with miles to the finish: 1 Intrum Justitia 1,372; 2 Tokio 1,541; 3 Yamaha 1,514; 4 New Zealand Endeavour (Maxi class) 1,534; 5 Galicia 93 Pescanova 1,548; 6 Merit Cup (Maxi) 1,548; 7 Winston 1,801; 8 La Poste (Maxi) 1,867; 9 Brooksfield* 1,948; 10 Dolphin and Youth 2,465; 11 Women's Challenge 2,519; 12 Hetman Sahaidachny 2,616; 13 Odessa 2,987; 14 Uruguay National (Maxi) 2,935.

* reported missing

Dalton's damage limitation, page 22