More attrition as four-boat Oryx Quest fleet is reduced to two

Cheyenne, the giant catamaran owned by Steve Fossett and being skippered in the Oryx Quest by David Scully, has been dismasted 200 miles from the Falkland Islands. In an official report the race organisers have confirmed: ‘The lower shroud broke which caused the mast to buckle and come down. All crew are safe and the boat is intending to rendevous tomorrow morning with the Argentinian Navy to effect a tow into port.’

A more detailed report was later sent by navigator Wouter Verbraak, who wrote:

‘It is 7:09 local time when disaster strikes on the maxi-cat Cheyenne. With a loud bang and the sound of cracking carbon the mast falls over the side. Five seconds that bring an end to our non-stop round the world race.

‘Having conquered the Southern Ocean and rounded Cape Horn just one day earlier, we were well on our way to the waypoint in Punta del Este with favorable offshore winds. Nothing to hint at what was coming. We are devastated….

‘After having gathered all crew on deck, we make sure we are not making water and the hulls aren’t in any immediate danger. Nobody got hurt, that is most important. The mast is hanging down on the starboard side and is making awful cracking sounds, but it is in no way damaging the hull. Seas are flat and winds are around 25 knots, which makes the cutting of the rig and running rigging easy.

‘The on-watch is relating that they saw the lower shroud give away, after which the rig fell to leeward. Closer inspection of the terminal shows that the aluminum is completely sheared off. We are very lucky that it didn’t give in a week ago in the Southern Ocean. It could have happened any time.

‘At the moment we are 240 miles to the east of the Argentinean coast awaiting a Argentinean naval vessel which is intending to tow us to the closest port. David’s [Scully] Spanish is crucial in communications with the coast guard and captain of the naval vessel. They are 140 miles south of our position, and are expecting to arrive this same evening.

‘Mark [Featherstone] is working hard to get an emergency antenna for the SSB radio rigged, while others connect the emergency navigation lights. Not much else to do but wait. We take out food bags from days 45 and 46, surely we are not going to have any use for them, so we might as well take out the goodies; freezed dried yoghurt and strawberries! Normally regarded as the best food we have on the boat, at this moment it just doesn’t taste good at all. All the hard work of the last month has gone over the side with the rig, and the faces of the crew tell it all.

‘Have we pushed the boat to hard? Was there anything we could have done to avoid this? These are questions that are going through everybody’s minds, but probably will never be answered. We have made a strong effort to nurse the boat around the course, but the immense strains on the boat cannot be avoided. At the time of the dismasting we were not in any boat breaking conditions, that is sure. We can rest our minds with the knowledge that we have put in the maximum, but it will be hard on us in the next weeks I am sure.

‘Everybody is safe, and that is the most important thing.’

With Cheyenne sadly out of the running it is a case of ‘and then there were two’. Olivier de Kersauson’s trimaran is also out of action following structural problems, so only Brian Thompson’s crew on Doha 2006 and Tony Bullimore’s on Team Daedalus are left. As Bullimore is trailing by over 3,000 miles the Oryx Quest has effectively become a one-horse race.