Stanmore-Major beset by problems

British solo sailor Chris Stanmore-Major has been hampered by spinnaker problems in the Velux 5 Oceans race.

In his debut singlehanded race Stanmore-Major currently lies fourth out of five after the fitting attaching the spinnaker to the bow of his Eco 60 Spartan shattered as the 33-year-old sailed past Gran Canaria.

The incident happened at 0800 this morning, destroying several stanchions and leaving Stanmore-Major wondering how to retrieve the sail from the top of the 28-metre mast.

He said: ‘I was coming down the eastern side of Gran Canaria with the reacher and the full main up.

‘I was hooning along at 18 to 20 knots. Everything was fine and I was just starting to think “I have to quieten all this down a bit, it was just getting a little bit too much.”

‘Just as I was thinking that a massive gust came off the top of Gran Canaria and it just floored the boat.

‘The main powered up and we rounded up into the wind. At the same time the tack fitting on the furler – the bit that holds the reacher onto the bowsprit – gave way and the sail carried off into the sky, attached only by the sheets and the halyard.’

After a frustrating spell becalmed off the Portuguese coast last week, the former Clipper skipper was finally enjoying fresh conditions through the Canary Islands and was hoping to catch up race leader Brad Van Liew, who is more than 400 miles ahead.

It was the second time the fitting has broken in two days, but Stanmore-Major was eventually able to get the sail back on board.

He said: ‘I managed to slowly ease it down and I got the sail to drop into the water and then pass down the starboard side and then stream out behind the boat.

‘Using a combination of halyard height and boat speed I slowed the boat down and increased the speed of the sail in the water until the sail caught up with the boat and I could put a line round it.

‘In the sail loft it’s 70-80 kilos of deadweight. It’s full of water and the boat is still moving just from the windage on the mast – it’s an absolute pig.

‘It looks like my opportunity to catch up with the other guys just fizzled out and instead today has become another frustrating day of problems and going slow.’

The other competitors have also had their share of problems with Van Liew suffering his second knockdown in four days.

The 42-year-old American said: ‘The seas are so confused that the autopilot just can’t steer.

‘The wind picked up to 40 knots and it was just like ‘bam’ and the boat was on its side. I am so tired of this low pressure, it’s unbelievable.’

The fleet have now been at sea for eight days and have more than 4,700 nautical miles to sail before they reach their first stop in Cape Town.

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Picture courtesy of onEdition.