The former Aqua Quorum has been salvaged but is flooded stripped out and ‘trashed’

The badly damaged carcass of the famous yellow Open 50, formerly Pete Goss’s Aqua Quorum, is currently lying near Recife in north-east Brazil while a legal tussle over salvage fees is settled. Her present owner, Alex Bennett, abandoned the boat near the Canary Islands in December after the hydraulic rams controlling the canting keel sheered. Since then the yacht has drifted, been boarded and stripped, flooded and finally towed to shore.

Bennett flew out to Brazil in March to inspect the damage. “It’s pretty sad, really. The boat’s completely flooded. There’s only about an inch of freeboard. I had to step down into it from the dinghy. The mast was broken at the second set of spreaders.” The boat had been holed in several places, below the waterline at the bow and along the topsides. “There was heavy damage all along the side. Something had cut into the unidirectional fibres in the hull and in parts had punctured it. Some of the keel bulkheads have also given way now. The upshot is the boat is trashed.”

It also appears that the boat was previously boarded, because she has been almost completely stripped out. Alex Bennett says: “The electronics were taken, the deck fittings – blocks and running gear. Every conceivable item has gone: sails, medical kit, charts, bunk covers – even the pulpit and the pushpit were gone. The only thing they’d left was the interior bilge pump, which was underwater, obviously.

“It’s sad. I almost felt like crying when I saw the boat. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. When you put everything into it financially and emotionally you can’t help feeling upset.”

His solicitor is trying to agree a fee with the Brazilian shrimp fishermen who recovered the yacht. They are asking a salvage fee of £50,000, but cannot sell the boat as Bennett is still legally the owner. “It’s repairable, but at such a cost,” he says. “The boat will need £100,000 to £150,000 spent on it and you can buy another one for £200,000. I wonder if it’s financially viable. I would like to ship the boat back, assess the damage properly, dry it out and repair it, but it’s money I don’t have.”

Alex Bennett had been trying to find a sponsor for the Around Alone race last year when he abandoned the boat, and had been hopeful after winning his class in the Transat Jacques Vabre. Now he is without sponsor or boat with time running out before the start of the round the world race in September.