US-based boat Alaka'i dismasts off Spain, abandons racing

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A U.S.-based crew had to abandon racing in the Transat Jacques Vabre after its 60-foot boat dismasted off the coast of Spain.

Co-skippers Simon Fisher of Britain and Justine Mettraux of Switzerland were not hurt when the 95-foot mast on 11th Hour Racing Team Alaka’i came tumbling down in 23 knots of wind and choppy seas on Wednesday about seven miles off A Coruña. They were four days into the Transat Jacques Vabre, a race of 5,800 nautical miles from Le Havre to Martinique in the French Caribbean.

Fisher said he and Mettraux were under cover in the cockpit while sailing downwind with one reef in the mainsail when the boat nose-dived into a large wave and they heard a loud bang.

“It was fairly obvious from where we were sitting inside as to what had happened,” Fisher said in a statement released Thursday. “The mast had gone down over the front of the boat and then as a result of that, the boat drifted over the top of the rig — we had a long battle ahead to try and get the rig back onboard.”

Fisher said it became apparent the two wouldn’t be able to save the rigging, which began to sink. He said they had to cut it away to avoid the risk of further damage to the hull and the foils. The crew then motored to shore.

Alaka’i was seventh among the 22 IMOCA 60 boats when it dismasted.

“This is obviously a huge disappointment for the sailors, and the wider team. However, what is most important is that Simon and Justine are safely ashore,” said Mark Towill, CEO of 11th Hour Racing Team, which is based in CEO Mark Towill.

Damian Foxall, sustainability program manager at 11th Hour Racing Team, said the sailors made the right decision to cut away the rigging but added: “Clearly it is best for the environment that nothing is lost overboard. We will be taking the environmental aspects into account as part of our campaign footprint.”

Fisher and Mettraux’s teammates, Charlie Enright of Bristol, Rhode Island, and Pascal Bidégorry of France, are racing in the team’s newly launched 60-footer, Mālama.

Mālama was in fifth place overall on Thursday.

The fleet is due to arrive in Fort-de-France, Martinique, around Nov. 25.

11th Hour Racing Team will sail Mālama in the round-the-world Ocean Race that will begin in late 2022 or early 2023.

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