Thiercelin dismasted in Around Alone race

Sailor not injured, making for islands for repairs

Sailing

February 26, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Somewhere, the 60-footer sailed by Marc Thiercelin of France, was dismasted yesterday northwest of the Falkland Islands during the Around Alone race.

Thiercelin, the leader in Leg 3 before the mast toppled, was not injured in the incident, and race officials said he is making for Port Stanley in the Falklands for repairs.

Last night, Thiercelin was making 4 knots before 30-knot winds from the northeast. However, weather forecasters expect the wind to move to the south-southwest over the next 10 hours, which would mean Thiercelin would have to battle head winds for at least part of the trip to Port Stanley.

At about 5 a.m. (EST) yesterday, Thiercelin was battling head winds of more than 30 knots and heavy seas when the base of the mast apparently bounced out of its step on the deck. He was sailing under triple-reefed mainsail at the time.

"Marc has reported that the mast has put a hole in the deck," race director Mark Schrader said. "He said he wasn't worried. He doesn't think the boat is in danger."

Italian competitor Giovanni Soldini, who last week rescued French sailor Isabelle Autissier from her sinking racer, was diverted toward Somewhere's position to assist Thiercelin, if necessary. But two hours later, Soldini was cleared to continue racing to Punta del Este, Uruguay.

About 8: 30 a.m. yesterday, Thiercelin sent an update to race headquarters, reporting he had cut the mast loose "because he was afraid it might poke a hole through the hull."

Thiercelin also said water was coming through the hole in the deck and flooding the electronics at his navigation station below deck.

"He's trying to plug the hole but it is difficult to work on deck, and it's too rough to attempt a jury rig," Schrader said.

The COMSAT MobileTrac satellite tracking system placed Somewhere at 49.24 degrees south and 61.15 west late yesterday morning.

"He's about 180 [nautical] miles northwest of Port Stanley," race coordinator Mark Dunning said. "That's his nearest sensible [landfall]."

Dunning said port authorities and the navies of Uruguay and Argentina have been notified and are standing by to assist, if necessary.

The Falklands Defense Group has asked that Thiercelin activate his emergency satellite positioning system so his progress can be closely monitored. The FDG is within two hours of Somewhere if rescue becomes necessary.

With the dismasting of Somewhere, three of the four sailors who started Leg 3 from Auckland, New Zealand, to Punta del Este now are out of the running.

Autissier's boat sank during a gale last week and Josh Hall's Gartmore Investment Management was dismasted a few days earlier.

The competitors in Class II of the race, meanwhile, are running from a hurricane-strength storm on their way to Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America.

Ken Campbell of Commanders Weather, which provides weather information to competitors, said the storm would hit the seven Class II boats last night and could last 18 to 36 hours.

Brad Van Liew, on Class II Balance Bar, reported gusts of 70 knots last evening.

"This will undoubtedly be the strongest storm this fleet has experienced in this race so far," Campbell said.

Pub Date: 2/26/99

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