Skandia breaks mast 160 miles from Hobart finish

Skandia at sunrise
At approximately 02.30am this morning whilst under A2 spinnaker sailing off Bicheno (Tasmania) with 150 miles to go, the Skandia super maxi's mast broke between the third spreader and the forestay.

The mast was still standing, with the top four metres dangling on rigging lines.

Bowman Casey Smith has been up four times to tie the rig down and secure all pieces. The crew had considerable difficulty dropping the mainsail as it was still attached to the broken mast tip.

The spinnaker, which wrapped itself around the keel, has now been retrieved and the crew is sailing under jury rig with a storm sail, still heading for the finish line.

'I guess we were about 15 miles from City Index Leopard, doing 22 knots when we had a small broach, the spinnaker flogged twice and we heard the horrific crunch of carbon fibre as the mast snapped,' said Grant Wharington, sounding tired and disappointed.

Peter 'Spike' Doriean was at the helm. 'We have managed to stabilise the rig now and when the sun comes up we plan to change up to a number 4 headsail. Of course we are all extremely disappointed and frustrated particularly given we were doing so well from a handicap perspective at the time.

'A handicap win was the goal for us this year but that's all history now.'

This is Wharington's 20th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and his relationship with what he calls the 'Great Race' has been tested on more than one occasion. Wharington sold his house to build this yacht which won line honours in 2003, but was all but destroyed in Bass Strait in 2004 when her keel fell off and she capsized.

He and his crew went on to rebuild her and claim a podium spot in 2005 and 2006.

After expressing his disappointment Wharington once again showed his dedication and never say die attitude. 'We are still going to finish the race, we haven't retired and intend to make it to Hobart just as soon as we can. We will see you then!'

Navigator Graham Taylor reported Skandia is now sailing at 10 knots towards Hobart.