From on board the crippled Gartmore Investment, Josh Hall wrote on 12 February:
As you can imagine I am devastated – we had the boat running so sweetly – the pilots were A1 again and I could push her hard in some pretty rough conditions. When disaster struck we were closing on Isa again; she was 20 miles ahead, and had just overtaken Gio again.
The whole of the leg since Auckland had been difficult strong headwinds and seas but for 24 hrs we had been in power reaching conditions with 35kts wind, 20-30ft seas and a wind angle just forward of the beam. The boat eats that stuff up…I had just put 3rd reef in and was below plotting a position, boatspeed buzzing around 16-22 knots and spray hosing everywhere on deck, when kahbang! like a shotgun in my ear. I looked out of the window and watched in disbelief as the whole rig went over the side. It seems to have broken just under the lower spreader: that was all that was visually left. The retaining lashing on the mast base kept that part and the boom onboard, though the forward pad eye simply ripped out.
I scrambled the grinder together and spent a couple of hours cutting the rest away and just managed to keep the mainsail sort of onboard for the time being at least. Later I winched the whole lot onto the foredeck which now resembles a carbon fibre junkheap.
With my flu, that exhausted me so I motored and slept a bit thru the night then today, with it still blowing a SW gale, I managed to raise the spinaker pole as a mast and we are now under a scrap of canvas making 6kts towards the Chathams which are 230 miles away. Scott, my project manager is there already and our plan is to try and get a tow to Auckland asap and then I suspect we’ll be shipping Gartmore home, though I have to discuss with the insurers. Certainly no NZ spar maker can deliver a mast for 3 months.
Now we are under a bit of sail the motion onboard is much better but also now there is little for me to do except watch the miles slowly click off. The reality is settling in rather heavily. I am still in shock and disbelief and feel quite numbed by it all. I felt so strongly that we could pull this race off in the second half and that was certainly starting to happen, but then the whole thng was taken away in a split second. I cannot deny that I feel angry and upset but overall I feel totally bewildered.
We had the best boat in the fleet, had ironed all her teething problems out and I felt on top of the whole wide world as we left Auckland. Yes, we had a deficit but I like a challenge and I knew we could do well on this leg and was convinced we could win the last leg.
The boat was meticulously prepared – we had the mast down just 10 days ago and it was expertly inspected by the millimeter. Indeed, our mast and its light elegance was the envy of the fleet. So for this to happen is bizarre in the extreme and because the whole lot is 3000 metres under the surface we will never be able to say that this fitting or that part failed – we simply will never know and that makes it even worse.
I feel so deeply for the so many people who have lived and breathed this for so long – especially Claire, from Gartmore, Scott, and my enduring family. It was almost exactly a year ago that Scott and I moved to Cherbourg to work on bringing the boat to life….such a short time that seems to have been forever when I think of all we have done. The boat’s log already shows enough mileage for a circumnavigation. This is our beautiful creation – all of ours and I hate even looking out of the window and seeing her so wounded.
However, whilst our current venture has been cut short this boat and this project are bigger than just one event. The boat has been the most impacting yacht I think the world has ever seen due to her amazing graphics. She has inspired awe in professional sailors and photographers and the public wherever she has been so far. The manager at the Auckland yard where we hauled her out 2 weeks