• CODE RED ALERT after GGR fleet hit by massive Southern Ocean storm
• Abhilash Tomy and Gregor McGuckin rolled and dismasted
• Mark Slats experiences two major knock-downs
Solo sailors in the 2018 Golden Globe Race have been hit by a vicious storm mid way across the South Indian Ocean. The 70 knot winds and 14m seas have left India’s Abhilash Tomy and Ireland’s Gregor McGuckin dismasted.
And twice knocked down is the yacht of 2nd placed Dutchman Mark Slats.
Both McGuckin and Slats report that they are OK, but 39-year old Tomy, a Commander in the Indian Navy making his second solo circumnavigation has been injured. A CODE RED ALERT was issued after Race HQ received this message: ROLLED. DISMASTED. SEVERE BACK INJURY. CANNOT GET UP.
The nearest yacht happens to be Gregor McGuckin’s Biscay 36 ‘Hanley Energy Endurance’, some 90 miles to the SW of Tomy’s ‘Thuriya’, but she too was dismasted in the same storm and the Irishman is battened down waiting for the storm to recede. Gregor reported earlier that his yacht is a mess below, but providing his diesel supplies have not been contaminated, has sufficient fuel to motor towards Tomy’s position if conditions allow.
McGuckin first alerted Race HQ at 05:40 today: ROUGH NIGHT. KNOCKED DOWN. MIZZEN MAST GONE. ALL ELSE GOOD. Then In a satellite call shortly before losing his main mast, the Irishman told Race HQ:
“Massive sea and wind from the SW. Now struggling to keep the boat facing downwind. We took a really bad knock when we lost the mizzen mast. It went off like a bomb and also hit the wind vane and the main backstay, I wanted to keep [the mizzen] but was forced to cut it free, Now sailing under bare poles and towing warps, and still making over 6 knots. Getting knocked hard by waves. This sustained force 9 is incredible. The barometer dropped off the scale from 1015 in just a few hours.
There is no real water below since the hatch was shut but there is crap everywhere. My AIS went with the mast. I will need 36 hours to regroup and sort the boat properly in good weather after the blow.”
Then at 11:00 UTC McGuckin called the GGR Hotline to say: “Rolled and dismasted. Cut mast away…no hull damage…no water below…safety gear and sat comms secure…hatches and ports secure… towing warps.”
Don McIntyre, who took the call, says “Gregor has not asked for any assistance at this time. He plans to ride out the rest of the storm which is expected to recede, then reassess his options. He now has only one spinnaker pole because the second one was carried away with the mast, so setting up a jury rig will be more challenging.
Both Tomy and McGuckin are some 1,900 miles west of Cape Leeuwin, West Australia.
Danger remains even when the winds reduce. Dutchman Mark Slats in 2nd place, reported: ‘WINDS DROPPED FROM 60KT TO 0 IN 15MINUTES. HORRIBLE SEA. 2 KNOCKDOWNS IN NO WIND’
Concerns Also for the Tail-enders
There are concerns also for the tail-enders within the fleet now stretched 3,500 miles behind Race leader Jean-Luc Van Den Heede. A second storm has been building for several days and is forecast to overrun them within the next 24 hours, bringing the potential of 10-14m swells for 48 hours.
McIntyre adds “Race HQ has been advising the middle fleet to head south for the past two days and tail-enders to move north as fast as possible to minimise the impact of these two storms. The skippers succeeded in doing this, but these weather systems still have an impact. I and GGR team are living these storms with the entrants 24 hours a day. These are tough sailors; they are our family, and while we know they are well prepared to manage this, we also know the Southern Ocean is a powerful place.”
The only person unaffected by the storms is Jean-Luc Van Den Heede whose yacht ‘Matmut’ is running towards the Cape Leeuwin longitude in a different weather system to the rest. This morning, the Frenchman reported: “QUIET SUNNY DAY. LUNCH ON THE TERRACE! WHAT A CHANGE!”