Major keel problems force crew abandon Skandia while two other maxis suffer major keel problems

The crew of Grant Wharrington’s Supermaxi Skandia Wild Thing had to board the yacht’s two liferafts after a major keel failure. The 16 crew are believed to be safe after having been picked up by the Police launch Van Dieman off St Helens on the far north eastern coast of Tasmania.

A few hours before the disaster struck, the official Sydney Hobart race web site had reported on the problems that the crew of Skandia were facing as it reported that Skandia had lost control of the canting keel and sent out a PAN PAN radio distress call. The report said;

Race Control understands the hydraulic ram controlling the canting keel snapped making the system inoperable. The keel is jammed over to port.

The 98-footer advised Race Control in Hobart at 01:56 hours this morning that the crew were all OK but they required assistance. The boat is currently about 65 nautical miles east north east of Eddystone Point on the northeast tip of Tasmania, but some 60 miles to seaward. The Tasmanian Police launch Van Dieman, which had been on station on the northeast coast, has headed out to sea and is expected to take the yacht in tow.

Owner/skipper Grant Wharington from Mornington in Victoria, skipper and owner of the super-maxi, defending line honours champion by a 14-minute margin last year, expressed his disappointment. ” It is a terrible blow to all of us to have to pull out of the race. We have sustained some irreparable damage to the keel and for safety reasons are unable to continue,” Wharington told the Rolex Media Centre in Hobart.

Nobody is hurt, we are under motor travelling at 7 knots in a NE direction and considering either going back to Eden (200 miles away) or sheltering in the lee of Flinders Island. At the moment these are our only options.”

Shortly after this came the news that Stuart Thwaites’ Konica Minolta (formely Zana) had also retired from the race following keel problems. Considered by many to be a more conservative design in the new breed of Supermaxis, the 90 footer has a fixed keel, but according to early reports the boat suffered a structural failure at the hull to keel point attachment as the boat ploughed into big seas while sailing upwind. As well as the damage to the keel attachment point, the cabin top was also said to be creased suggesting that the boat had faced the risk of folding in two.

Fortunately the boat and it’s crew have reached a safe haven in Tasmania.

The retirement put Ludde Ingval’s Nicorette into the lead.