Boats in Clipper take some hits
Hull & Humber, the first of 10 identical 68-foot boats competing in the Clipper 07-08 Round the World Yacht Race, arrived in the Ala Wai Harbor early Tuesday morning. Since then, eight other yachts, including one that had been dismasted several days earlier, have arrived as well.
The final boat in the fleet, which also had been dismasted and was forced to make an emergency stop for fuel and other provisions at Midway Island, was eventually forced to return there due to a gearbox failure. Its future in the race remains unclear.
As noted in this column a couple of weeks ago, the Clipper 07-08 began last September in Liverpool, England, with the fleet racing east around the world over a 10-month, 35,000-mile, 14-leg route.
So far, they have visited France, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Singapore, China, and now Hawaii. Next, they will be off for California, Panama, Jamaica, New York, Nova Scotia and Ireland, before finishing back in Liverpool.
The yachts -- each with professional skippers, but amateur crews -- are rewarded points for their place in each leg of the race, with the overall trophy going to the one with the highest total points.
This recent and longest leg of the race (4,400 miles) from Qingdao, China, to Honolulu -- with two of the 10 yachts losing their masts -- apparently took the heaviest toll on the vessels, even when compared to their earlier experiences in the Indian Ocean's infamous Roaring Forties.
The first dismasting came on the 11th day of the race as the yacht Western Australia was sailing under a spinnaker in 10 to 15 knots of wind. Suddenly, the mast snapped about halfway from the top.
"Today was a major disappointment to our race, completely unexpected, and a blow to morale," skipper Martin Silk told race organizers. "Cutting away a mast and watching it sink into the ocean is a very sad thing to endure."
The action was necessary to protect the boat's hull from being damaged.
The second dismasting occurred on the 19th day of the race -- some 780 miles from the Diamond Head finish line -- when the 81-foot mast on the yacht representing Durban, South Africa, fractured at deck level and collapsed with little warning.
Durban's skipper, Ricky Chalmers told organizers, "The conditions were bouncy, but we weren't slamming. Just before the mast broke, the helm said he bore away from a wave. I think there was a slam, but not major, then a double crack and then lots of shouts ... from on deck."
Durban's dismasting was not thought to have been caused in the same manner as the previous one, however, with 85 percent of the race completed, the race committee took the precaution of telling the entire fleet to stop racing and to proceed to Honolulu.
The order officially ended the racing, but it did not eliminate this leg. So now it may go down in history as the first race to Honolulu from anywhere that did not finish offshore of Diamond Head.