Distress in the Atlantic

As Gartmore is dismasted and Leopard abandoned

Friday April 5th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
Severe conditions in the Atlantic have been taking their toll on vessels returning to Europe for the summer.

Yesterday afternoon Josh Hall's Open 60 Gartmore dismasted on a delivery trip back to France, where she was expecting to take part in the Open 60 circuit this year.

A distress call from Hall's boat was put through to the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre yesterday afternoon at 1516GMT. At the time the yacht was lying 450 miles NW of Cape Finisterre and conditions were reported as being 40 knots from the west northwest.

Hall and his two crew have got rid of the broken mast and have erected a jury rig. They are currently making 2-3 knots towards the Spanish coast. At present there are no details about why the dismasting occurred, although some will no doubt suspect her hi-tech PBO rigging.

Three years ago Gartmore dismasted during the Around Alone race and had to put into the Chatham Islands in the south Pacific.

Worse news for Mike Slade's immaculate Leopard. On Tuesday her rudder broke - it is believed there was a problem with one of the bearings - which caused the boat to take on a considerable amount of water. A Mayday was put out and several ships stood by, but at the time the crew believed they had stemmed the flood.

However on Wednesday morning the MRCC in Falmouth had a discussion with the crew about the deteriorating weather conditions. At 1237 the call was made to abandon ship. The seven crew were later transferred to the tanker Kurzeme via liferaft. They left Leopard at 1813GMT and were all safely brought on board at 1858GMT.

At present an EPIRB is still signalling Leopard's position while a tug is due to rendez-vous with her at 1800 tonight (Friday). Whether the tug will find her afloat remains to be seen. It seems odd that a boat of this calibre should not have adequate water tight compartments to allow her to remain buoyant in the event of such damage.

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