Dismastings, injuries and sinking in this year's race

Steep seas and unforecast winds gusting up to gale force strength
resulted in two of the potential line honours contenders dismasting
last night in the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

At 0308 (Australian time) the crew of Volvo Ocean Race winner ABN AMRO One advised the Race Committee that they had dismasted. Despite a forecast indicating there would be no more than 20 knots, ABN AMRO One were experiencing
30-35 knots of wind gusting up to 37-38 at the time, making 10.5-11
knots to the east of the fleet.

“It was all familiar territory,” commented skipper Mike Sanderson, who skippered the boat through considerably worse conditions to a decisive victory in the Volvo Ocean Race earlier this year. “There were two big bangs and it all came tumbling down. Something broke which had just worn out. Maybe we were lucky it didn’t go in the Volvo Ocean Race. All we have left is up to the first spreader.”

Being pitch black in the early hours of the morning at the time of the incident, the exact cause of the breakage remains a mystery. With the mast flailing around the crew were concerned about damaging the carbon fibre hull of their boat and hurriedly set about cutting through the carbon fibre spar, PBO rigging and numerous thick ropes,in order to free the rig from the hull.

Fortunately no one was injured in the incident. “The boys are a bit shaken up and disappointed – we were going well,” said Sanderson. At present ABN AMRO is motoring back to Sydney and their present ETA is 24-48 hours time.

In an altogether more serious incident that resulted in six casualties, the 30m line honours contender Maximus skippered by co-owners Charles St Clair Brown and Bill Buckley dismasted shortly after ABN AMRO One at 0300 local time. At the time they were closer to the shore than ABN AMRO, sailing in 28 knots in a sea that was lumpy but nothing extraordinary. “The boat was going very nicely,
we’d been sitting on 12-12.5 knots and we were in good shape, just trucking down the coast,” recounted one of the injured crewman, Ian Trelaven.

On Maximus it was a forestay fitting that broke, resulting in the towering carbon fibre spar crashing directly backwards into the cockpit. At the time the crew were preparing for a tack and the falling spar nearly crushed several crew at the aft end of the cockpit, thankfully saved as the fall was broken by the twin steering wheels and the handles for the grinders. “I think we were incredibly lucky no one was killed,” said Treleaven.

In the dismasting Trevalen had suffered a head injury which briefly knocked him unconscious. “I was down to leeward getting ready for the leeward traveller and heard the crunching. I hit the deck and the boom must have got me in the back of the head and just pushed me into the deck. I landed on a winch and it stopped doing any serious damage to me.”

Others hurt were Glenn Attrill, George Hendy, David Mundy and Martin Hannon suffering a mixture of injury to their lower back, head, ribs and pelvis. Most seriously hurt was New Zealander David Mundy who broke his leg and some ribs and was airlifted off in a stretcher. At first light this morning three crew were taken ashore to Moruya Hospital by helicopter while two were transported ashore to Batesman’s Bay by police launch.

In the dismasting Maximus’ rudder was slightly damaged and a sail became wrapped around the propeller. These have since been cleared and this morning Maximus was making for Jervis Bay, steered by the remaining half of a wheel.

In total from 78 starters, six have so far retired including Endorfin
and Sailing With Disabilities suffering steering problems and the Cookson 50 Living Doll with radio problems. Most dramatic is Mike Freebairn’s 1968 Sydney Hobart race winner, Ray White Koolmooloo (pictured)that is sinking. At the time of writing she was 60 miles off Narooma and two rescue helicopters along with the British services former Challenge 67 yacht Adventure, were en route to rescue her eight crew. Adventure rescued the crew from the sinking Koomooloo this morning, in 6 metre seas and 30 knot winds. A life raft transfer was effected and all the Koomooloo crew are now safe aboard the Adventure.

Meanwhile the race continues with Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats 5.5 miles ahead of Skandia. At 1000 local time the race favourite was approaching Gabo Island making 10.8 knots. Under IRC handicap, several of the ‘classic boats’ are doing well with the 1973 built two-time overall winner Love & War of Simon Kurts leading Lou Abrahams’ Sydney 38 Challenge and Impeccable sailed by John Walker,at 84 the oldest skipper in the Rolex Sydney Hobart.