SAILING: Salvage ruled out on mast

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The Independent Online


Hopes that deep-sea submersibles could salvage the all-important new mast, worth $300,000 (£190,000), which was lost when oneAustralia sank 1,200 feet beneath the Pacific on Sunday were being abandoned yesterday.

The combination of the huge pressure at that depth and hitting the bottom at an estimated 15mph would have done irrepparable damage. The skipper of oneAustralia, John Bertrand, was instead concentrating on the programme necessary to bring his older boat of the same name up to speed, and so keep alive the possibility of progressing through the Louis Vuitton Cup semi-finals, for which he already has enough points, and then through the finals and into the cup itself.

Russell Bowler, chief engineer at the Bruce Farr design office, said that there was not enough time to make major changes. The old yacht has to be measured in and ready to start the semi-finals on 16 March, so the best they could do would be to pick the best keel and rudder combination, and try to find the best sail setting. The boat can change again for the finals, but must be completed by 9 April.

One theory for the breakdown of the hull, put forward by Harold Cudmore, adviser to France's America's Cup challenge, is that when one of the main winches in the centre of the boat broke, the control line for the headsail was taken to a winch, normally used for the running backstay, nearer the stern. That would have put an extra two tonnes of pressure in the opposite direction for which the winch was designed.

Bowler agrees this may have been the straw that broke the boat's back, but says he is more concerned about why the main winch had blown up in the first place. "It might have failed because the deflection was already going on," he said.

CITIZEN CUP Round-Robin Four, Day Five: Pact '95 bt Mighty Mary, 4min 35sec.

LOUIS VUITTON CUP Round-Robin Four, Race Five: France 3 bt oneAustralia, walkover; Tag Heuer bt Sydney '95, 5:15; Team New Zealand bt Bayona Valencia 1:15. Standings: 1 Team New Zealand, 60pts. 2= Tag Heuer; oneAustralia, 43. 4 Nippon Challenge, 23. 5 France 3, 20. 6 Bayona Valencia, 14. 7 Sydney '95, 13.