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 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.
ABN AMRO ONE under jury rig heading towards Sydney. 27 December 2006. Photo copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster
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.
Rescue operation underway with MAXIMUS. 27 December 2006. Photo copyright ROLEX/Daniel Forster
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.