At the time Graham Dalton, Grant's elder brother, was less than a day into his qualifying passage across the Atlantic from Plymouth to Newport, Rhode Island for the start of Around Alone on 15 September. The incident took place 250 miles south west of the Scilly Isles as Dalton was sailing in 15-20 knot winds at 55deg apparent.
The mast snapped between the 1st and 2nd spreaders, about one third of the way up, and fell onto the deck. In order to prevent further damage, Dalton cut the rigging free of the yacht. At the time Dalton reported that on preliminary inspection the hull was undamaged. The exact cause of the damage is a mystery.
"We're all mystified," Hexagon's designer Merfyn Owen told madfor sailing of the consultation he's been having between the mast's manufacturer Southern Spars in Auckland and Tom Hutchinson of Future Fibres who made the boat's PBO rigging. "Southern are doing some work on it. In the span between the spreaders, the tube is the same as Kingfisher's. At the same time, we have ultimate confidence in Tom's rigging. No one's pointing the figure at anyone. It may take a while to find out what happened and we may not come up with an answer. It is not very satisfactory."
Graham Dalton commented: "The great challenge of sailing is that it's man against the sea. That's what makes it so addictive. On this occasion I've come off worse, but big boys don't cry, and I'll be there on the starting line for the race."
Tthe HSBC-sponsored yacht reached Brest at the weekend and is currently being towed back to the Solent. The team are currently looking for a temporary replacement rig - Kingfisher's original Vendee mast is one option, while Bertand Stamm also has a spare mast. Conveniently Dalton has a second mast already in build at Southern Spars which will have to be shipped to Newport prior to the start of Around Alone.
An HSBC spokesman commented: "We're obviously relieved that Graham is safe after such a dramatic incident. We will now concentrate on doing everything possible to get him back on course for Around Alone."
This incident follows a spate of carbon masts failing. Last week the wingmast on Alain Gautier's new trimaran Foncia II also broke.