SAN DIEGO — A yacht in the Volvo Ocean Race dismasted Friday in the Atlantic Ocean and another boat slowed to check on unspecified damage to its rigging, bringing more mayhem to a fleet already stunned by the loss of a sailor at sea.
Vestas 11th Hour Racing, a joint American-Danish team, reported its mast broke just above the first spreader while the 65-foot sloop was sailing in 25 to 30 knots of wind and 10-foot (3-meter) waves about 100 miles southeast of the Falkland Islands. The mast had to be cut away to avoid damaging the hull.
The crew was reported safe and motoring to the Falkland Islands. The team will have to figure out how to get the yacht to Itajai, Brazil, where Leg 7 of the round-the-world race will finish.
Not long after Vestas 11th Hour Racing reported its dismasting, Turn the Tide on Plastic informed race control it had slowed to assess damage to one of the top spreaders, which help support the mast.
On Thursday, MAPFRE had to suspend racing for 13 hours near Cape Horn to repair damage to its mast and mainsail. The Spanish-flagged boat, the overall race leader, is more than 200 miles behind Leg 7 leader Team Brunel.
On Monday, British sailor John Fisher was lost in the Southern Ocean in gale-force conditions after getting knocked off Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag. The crew turned back but couldn’t find Fisher, 47.
The boats are all one-design. The damage comes after the boats experienced a rough trip through the Southern Ocean after the start of the leg in Auckland, New Zealand. The masts got a refit while the fleet was in Auckland.
A race spokesman didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment about the damaged boats.
This is the second major setback for Vestas 11th Hour Racing. It collided with a fishing boat off Hong Kong near the end of Leg 4 in late January, killing one fisherman, sinking the fishing boat and damaging the yacht. Vestas 11th Hour Racing, led by Americans Charlie Enright and Mark Towill, had to ship the boat to New Zealand to repair a big hole in its port bow, forcing it to miss two legs.
Enright said he was in his bunk Friday when the boat “healed over the wrong way pretty violently. There was a pretty big bang. Immediately in my head, I kind of knew what had happened. Bombing along at 30 knots, double head reaching next to Dongfeng. That was one second, then the next second we weren’t. Everyone stayed calm, cool, and collected and we were able to get that thing over the side. That was the diciest part.”
Crewman Tony Mutter said this is the third time in six VORs that his boat has lost its rig, including with Puma Ocean Racing in 2011-12 when its mast broke on the first leg and the yacht had to limp to the remote island Tristan da Cunha. The yacht was loaded onto a container ship and taken to Cape Town for repair.
“Now we are going to be in the South Atlantic again in a place called the Falklands. Don’t know what to say. Unbelievable,” Mutter said.
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