New Zealand solo sailor sets off to qualify again for Around Alone with a spare mast from Kingfisher

New Zealander Graham Dalton leaves from the Solent this afternoon on his second attempt to cross the Atlantic and qualify for the Around Alone single-handed round the world race next month. Dalton’s last bid came to a premature end two weeks ago when his Open 60 Hexagon was dismasted 250 miles south-west of the Scilly Isles. The mast broke between the first and second spreaders and Dalton was forced to cut it all away before motoring to Brest.

Dalton took a stoical approach. “Big boys don’t cry,” he commented. “I’ll be there on the starting line.” Fortunately, a spare mast was already being built in the US by Southern Spars and this will be ready before Dalton arrives in Newport – hopefully in a couple of weeks. To get him there, he and his team have stepped a spare mast from Ellen MacArthur’s Kingfisher, which is a good match for the fixed carbon spar that was lost.

Although Hexagon’s rig is taller than Kingfisher’s and the foretriangle smaller, the spreader postions and lengths are the same. The heel fitting and athwartships rigging are a fit, though Dalton has had to fit a new backstay and forestay. He will be using spare sails from Kingfisher for the Atlantic crossing.

The parts of the mast cut away were salvaged by a Breton fishing crew and will be examined by Southern Spars. But no conclusion has been reached about why the rig failed, says the boat’s designer, Merfyn Owen. “He was sailing at 50-60° in 20 knots apparent, so it didn’t fail in an overload situation. We don’t know what went wrong and can’t see any reason for it, so as far as the [mast] design is concerned, we’re not making any changes.

“It’s sad to say this,” he added, “but it’s not an unusual situation. This is a race boat and it’s par for the course.”