News Corp arrive...

News Corp finish sixth after an eventful 6,700 miles...

Wednesday February 20th 2002, Author: John Greenland, Location: Transoceanic
Limping home under her emergency rudder Jez Fanstone's News Corp crossed the finish line here in Rio de Janeiro at 21:55:10 GMT this evening.

It's been a tough leg for the News Corp team, a collision with a growler resulted in a 100 mile northerly diversion downwind to affect repairs, and then the loss of the rudder just 1,250nm from the finish when lying third overall and gaining.

"An unbelievable trip really, not only for the ice, but also sheering the rudder," said co-skipper Ross Field. "It's a trip we don't want to remember."

On day nine Field reported the worst the team, while charging through the Southern Ocean at breakneck speeds, had hit ice. Fortunately the ice ran along the side of the boat, however it was a little too close for comfort, and certainly sent a message to the seven other teams to be on their toes 24 hours a day. "Four years ago we didn't really see any ice, this time we clocked at least 50 icebergs either by sight or on the radar," said Fanstone.

The collision damaged some of the boat's rigging, forcing the team to sail downwind for over 100 miles while they fixed the problem. Initially this appeared to put them out of the running, temporarily dropping them down to sixth place. However, as time passed the News Corp boys slowly started making up ground, the northern side of the course was paying.

When the boats converged at the famous maritime landmark of Cape Horn the team had already pulled back up to third place, in fact, Field believes the team could have lead round the 'Corn' had they been able to hoist a spinnaker during their diversion north after hitting the ice. "We had wrecked the halyards and a spinnaker so we had to sail the northerly course with a jib. It was quite windy, but we just weren't going as fast as we would have done with a chute up."

But, as both Field and Fanstone agreed, this leg just wasn't meant to be. Again the team were gaining on the fleet on the western side of the track, but while sailing through a heavy seaway on a shy reach the rudder simply gave way. "I was on the helm at the time," explained Field. "We had 25-30 knots of wind, doing 20 knots, and quite a difficult sea. I remember I just leaned on the helm to correct the boat a bit and bang, up she came head to wind. I thought shit the rig's coming down, but no. Then I thought we had just broken a wire, so I dived to the other wheel, but no - it was the rudder."

The team are just happy to be back on shore with beer and food in their hands. It's been extremely tough sailing, two weeks in the Southern Ocean, and five days of wrestling with the emergency rudder - a device not designed to be used for racing, simply to get the boat to safety. Both Fanstone and Field are keen to focus on the rest of the race. They may be down, but it's not all over yet. "We'll get back into it," said Field.

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