'Twister' horror for Sydney-Hobart yachts
SYDNEY, Australia -- The Sydney-Hobart race is living up to its fearsome reputation as severe gusts up to 80 knots, thunderstorms with hail stones the size of golf balls and violent waterspouts take their toll on the 75-boat fleet.
SAP Ausmaid was among three more retirements on Thursday, taking the toll to 12, as the fleet continued to battle strong winds off the New South Wales coast.
SAP Ausmaid, the overall handicap winner in 1996 and 2000, lost her mast, as did Secret Men's Business half an hour later. The third retirement in the early hours of Thursday morning was Broomstick, the former Vendee Globe Race competitor which pulled out with damaged rigging.
Last year's line honours winner Nicorette on Wednesday was hit by what skipper Ludde Ingvall described as a "twister." The crew dropped her high-tech sails as hail the size of golf balls pounded the boat.
Despite their quick thinking, the mainsail was severely damaged. Nicorette continued to race with her spare mainsail.
Grundig, another line honours candidate, looked to be out of the race late on Thursday when skipper Sean Langan issued a standby emergency call to nearby vessels. Reports indicated the yacht suffered a major bow damage and was taking on water.
The eight Volvo 60s, taking part in the Sydney-Hobart as part of their Sydney to Auckland third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, have also taken a beating, although some of it self-inflicted.
Tyco was disqualified by the race committee and will not be recorded as a Sydney-Hobart finisher after failing to make a mandatory safety radio check-in with Race Control on time.
Tyco reported her position seven minutes late when abeam of Green Cape, approaching Bass Strait.
The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia introduced the mandatory reporting rule as an additional safety requirement following the tragic 1998 Sydney Hobart Race when six competitors were drowned. The decision does not affect Tyco's standing in the Volvo Ocean Race.
Team News Corp was hit by a waterspout that left broken battens and blocks in its wake. The tornado swept over the leading boats leaving Kiwi offshore racing veteran Ross Field on Team News Corp reeling.
"It was an unbelievable sight and nothing like anyone has experienced before," said Field. "A waterspout -- tornado -- came through illbruck, Assa Abloy and ourselves giving us wind up to 58 knots.
"It was really scary to see this long vertical round spinning cloud charge towards us with the bottom of it sucking up water. There was nowhere to go. We dropped our main and left up a small headsail and in the meantime broke battens and blocks."
Illbruck and News Corp have been locked in a very close battle with Assa Abloy and Tyco fighting it out together further inshore. Only two miles separated the leading four boats on Thursday.
Djuice lost some ground to the leading pack when a leaking hatch was discovered causing the bow compartment to flood. Djuice and SEB were tracking slightly further offshore about 10 miles behind the leading group.
Grant Dalton on Amer Sports One and the all-women team on Amer Sports Too were beginning to lose touch with the rest of the Volvo 60s and on Thursday were 20 and 30 miles behind respectively.
Amer Sports Too was sailing under bare poles in the middle of the Bass Strait as the crew worked to save the carbon mast.
Skipper Lisa McDonald said the yacht was not in danger. The crew had considered returning the 110 nautical miles to Eden, New South Wales, to make repairs, but decided to continue to Hobart, 310 nautical miles away, where shore crew are waiting with a replacement strop.
The line honours winner is expected to arrive on Saturday morning.
Silent fear: Fighting the 'twister'
December 28, 2001
Thunderstorms hit Sydney Hobart fleet
December 27, 2001
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