One dismasting that nearly led to a rescue

I’ve had quite a number of very interesting comments from readers about dismastings and abandoning yachts at sea, and this week I’ll add these here. This one from Scott Cavanough bridges both subjects and proves that perhaps it is less unusual than you might think for a dismasted skipper to consider getting in a liferaft.

Scott was one of the crew on Mustang, a Canadian-flagged 25m C&N sloop that did the ARC in 2006. Some 1,500 miles from the finish, her mast broke above the first spreaders when the starboard V1 rigging screw broke. This is Scott’s account:

‘Now this is where the story starts. After being a yacht rigger for a well known company in Australia for over 5 years I managed to keep the mast standing by getting ropes on to the stay and back on to winches to keep it upright. Twenty minutes later, when I thought the skipper was driving the vessel, he allowed her to go beam on. That’s when it failed.

‘The skipper wanted to let a flare off (though there were no boats on horizon) and launch the liferaft. You will see in the footage [below] that no-one really tried to help in getting rid of the mast and I have never been so scared on the water as when I was almost taken out by some rigging and a spreader when it broke while I was working on the forestay pins.

‘You will see also the skipper watched me a lot in the footage. He is an international Yachtmaster instructor. Make up your own mind.

‘This is when the rig cutters came in. Well, this rusty old hydraulic one that barely opened due to the rust, the second that pressure went on it the blades shattered. The skipper now called for a deep sea resue and a ship diverted.

‘Then I found the perfect solution for cutting the piece of 25 rod, just a 220v 4 inch angle grinder. Despite half a broken disc I managed to cut halfway through. Thanks to another yacht doing the ARC, Petite Lune, which had a small hydraulic cutter, I finished the job. Then I dived to check to make sure nothing was on the prop and we cut the ropes that were holding the broken mast.

‘Two days later and a few freeclimbs to set some sails and we were off again. Time from the Canaries to St Lucia? 15 and a half days.’