Competitors diverted to help British skipper Chris Stanmore-Major as he feared he was sinking
Skipper Chris Stanmore-Major (CSM) feared his yacht was sinking after finding the cabin flooded with hundreds of litres of water in the middle of the North Atlantic. The 33-year-old, competing in the 30,000-mile round the world yacht race, discovered the potential disaster halfway into the final sprint of the event – from Charleston, USA, to La Rochelle in France.
CSM had been locked in battle with fellow racers Derek Hatfield and Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski around 1,000 miles east of the Canadian province of Newfoundland when the drama unfolded. His yacht Spartan had been travelling at around 18 knots in strong winds when he returned to the cabin following a sail change to find it flooded.
“My immediate thought was that something had breached the hull,” CSM explained. “I have literally never seen that much water inside a boat before. I informed race control that I thought I was dealing with a hull breach. I started to pump out the water then carried out a full check of the boat and found there was only one place the water was coming into the cabin, and that was by the rear bulkhead.”
It was a huge shock for the Spartan skipper, an experienced yachtsman but a newcomer to solo sailing. “When it happened it was like that feeling when you know you are going over the handlebars of your bike and everything goes out of your control. It’s that kind of trapdoor feeling where you think ‘ok, this is serious’. I have enough experience of these situations to know the difference between having a bit of water inside the boat, and actually thinking I am sinking.
“As the water levels started to go down I could see better what was going on. I found there was a 3ft crack in the hull by the bulkhead. Thankfully, there was no hole in the hull – the water had flooded in from the back compartment of the boat which had been full of water to weigh the back of the boat down.”
Eventually all the water was pumped out of the cabin but the flooding had completely soaked the contents of Spartan including CSM’s computer and all his clothing. It also accidentally triggered his emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) which sent out a distress signal to rescue services.
Race control were then contacted by Falmouth Coastguard, and Derek and Gutek were diverted to CSM’s position. When it became clear the situation was not critical they returned to racing mode. Both skippers will be afforded redress by the race committee for their part in the incident.
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