Hexagon and Ocean Planet have lost their booms in 40 knots of wind in the Southern Ocean

In the pitch dark of the Southern Ocean 900 miles from Cape Horn, Hexagon skipper Graham Dalton, currently lying third in Leg 4 of Around Alone, reported that his boom had snapped during a gybe at 2359. A disappointed, but determined skipper immediately dropped the mainsail and secured the broken boom as best as possible in the prevailing darkness in this part of the ocean. Despite losing use of his mainsail, Hexagon is still making good progress at 16 knots in the 40 knots winds under her solent jib, and makeshift plans are underway to potentially re-enable sailing under her mainsail.

Over his satellite phone, Dalton has arranged for a repair mission to take place over the next 30 to 40 hours. A carbonfibre sleeve, essentially a splint’, is currently being built in New Zealand and this will be riveted and glued onto the existing boom to pull it back together. Richard Bearda, Hexagon’s shore manager, commented, “Dave Peterson and I will be in Argentina 24 hours from now where we will rendezvous with Graham at Cape Horn. Our aim is to affect the repair in under 12 hours. We know we can fix the boom, but our biggest concern is getting the glue to dry as conditions out there are very cold and wet.”

The wind is expected to pick up over the next 24 hours, but as Hexagon is sailing downwind, this is not considered to be a major problem. The crew aim to complete the repair ahead of the next low pressure system due into Cape Horn the middle of next week. Dalton continues to keep in constant communication with his shore crew and the Around Alone race office.

Not long after this news came in American skipper Bruce Schwab, currently lying in fifth place in Leg 4, reported at 0756hrs GMT that while he was taking a nap Ocean Planet was laid out by a big breaking wave, which lead to a disastrous sequence of events for the Tom Wylie designed boat – and his second boom break in this race after Ocean Planet’s boom broke midway across the Atlantic in Leg 1.

His log explains what happened Tom Wylie designed Open 60, which has an unstayed rig: “It knocked stuff everywhere and woke me up, but I was groggy and realised too late that my autopilot had lost its marbles and was headed for a crash gybe in 40kts of wind. I scrambled for the tiller when I became aware of what was happening, but only made it to the vestibule when the 35ft boom came over and crashed into the runner. A lot of stuff broke all at once. The boom broke right where it hit the runner, the runner deck block exploded and then the runner jammer ripped out of the deck leaving a good sized hole. Just what I needed. It has taken me several hours to clean up the mess as best as I can for now, and am sailing under headsail alone. A fair amount of water came in through the hole in the deck. If I can get some supplies sent to the Falklands, I will stop there and see if I can fix the boat. I’m ok other than being dispirited and tired. And broke. Bruce.”

Positions at 0600 (22 Feburary)

Class 1 Boat, Lat, Lon, AvgBsp, AvgHeading, DTF

1 Bobst Group-Armor Lux, 56 57.750 S, 80 34.650 W, 90.41 nm, 11.31 kt, 83 °T, 3389.88 nm

2 Solidaires, 55 55.280 S, 85 43.070 W, 106.69 nm, 13.33 kt, 100 °T, 3564.34 nm

3 Hexagon, 55 31.930 S, 92 49.560 W, 71.28 nm, 8.89 kt, 106 °T, 3804.58 nm

4 Tiscali, 54 46.330 S, 95 15.140 W, 91.61 nm, 11.47 kt, 114 °T, 3896.55 nm

5 Ocean Planet, 53 24.550 S, 97 25.500 W, 85.72 nm, 10.70 kt, 116 °T, 3995.06 nm

6 Pindar, 53 18.140 S, 101 02.160 W, 111.59 nm, 13.96 kt, 127 °T, 4117.88 nm

Class 2

Boat, Lat, Lon, AvgBsp, AvgHeading, DTF

1 Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America, 53 08.900 S, 104 15.780 W, 87.60 nm, 10.95 kt, 93 °T, 4228.63 nm

2 Everest Horizontal, 52 36.260 S, 120 04.520 W, 94.76 nm, 11.86 kt, 101 °T, 4772.77 nm

3 Spirit of yukoh, 51 17.620 S, 125 01.180 W, 78.21 nm, 9.77 kt, 107 °T, 4971.68 nm

4 BTC Velocity, 51 02.500 S, 134 55.040 W, 70.05 nm, 8.75 kt, 72 °T, 5318.19 nm

5 Spirit of Canada, 49 29.500 S, 141 20.550 W, 56.78 nm, 7.09 kt, 129 °T, 5580.16 nm