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Global Solo Challenge: Dismasting in the remoteness of the Indian Ocean

by Marco Nannini / Global Solo Challenge 27 Dec 2023 01:23 PST 27 December 2023
Ari Känsäkoski - ZERO Challenge © Ari Känsäkoski

This past week at the Global Solo Challenge was meant to be just one of celebrations with skippers trying their best to enjoy their Christmas at sea.

Hidden presents, special treats and phone calls with their loved ones made the festive day feel a little less lonely in the vastness of the Indian and Pacific oceans. However, this joyous moment was somewhat shadowed by thoughts that went to fellow skipper Ari Känsäkoski who was certainly not having the best time of his life.

On the night between the 21st and 22nd December, on board ZEROchallenge, Ari Känsäkoski was shocked to see that one of the lower diagonal shrouds, the D1, had broken, with the lower pressed head shearing off at the tip-cup, despite an all rigging inspection just before the Global Solo Challenge. Ari immediately lowered all sails hoping to be able to secure the mast at first light and even, perhaps, manage a makeshift Dyneema replacement D1 to allow him to sail on to Australia.

However a squally front was headed his way and despite winds of just around 20 knots the boat under bare poles rolled violently enough to cause the unsupported mast to break in half in the depth of night. Ari was sailing in an area of the Indian Ocean, just north of the Crozet Islands which is affected by a strong flow of the countercurrent of Agulhas which can cause the sea state to be far worse than it would normally be for any given wind strength.

The deck-stepped mast buckled in half breaking just above the first set of spreaders. Fortunately Ari was not injured and there was no damage to the hull. Ari then proceeded to secure the mast against the boat during the night to ensure it could not cause a waterway by hitting the hull in the rolling waves. When daylight came he passed on to assessing the situation and determined that he did not require assistance. He deemed that neither him nor the boat were under immediate danger and that by having preserved all sections of the mast and the boom on the boat he could work on building a jury rig.

MRCC Finland (as the country of the boat's flag) and MRCC Reunion were informed of the events and have since been in constant contact to monitor the situation with the skipper. As organisers, we have made ourselves available as a bridge for any information that needs to be exchanged between Ari and MRCC and or any other party that may become involved in the difficult task of making sure Ari can safely reach a port.

At the time of the accident Ari was more than 1000 nautical miles south of Madagascar, 1600 miles from Cape Town and over 3000 miles from Western Australia. The Crozet Islands were around 300 miles to his south but after discussion with MRCC reunion Ari opted not to head south as the main island, l'Île de la Possession, offers little more than a bay for anchorage. Ari did not require medical assistance and reaching the island would not have improved his situation much and would have forced him to sail further away from Africa.

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