American skipper Steve FOSSETT and his international crew of 12 pressed on yesterday despite another serious breakage - one which could threaten their non-stop round the world record attempt.
Yesterday's damage occurred at around 1700 GMT when a section of mainsail track pulled out of the mast at the first reef. The headboard car, carrying the weight of the mainsail, was torn from the mast track along with the reinforced section of track upon which it was riding.
Provisional plans are to effect repairs at sea next week (taking up to a day's time) after crossing Cape Horn, perhaps in the shelter of the Falkland Islands.
Although unable to hoist the main either to full height or to the first reef, Cheyenne continued into Sunday morning on a planned tactical positioning to the NE using only second reef and headsail, logging a useful 438 miles across the water over the past 24 hours. As winds continued from the west at 20-25 kts, Cheyenne and crew conserved their safer northerly position for the run E and SE towards Cape Horn to come.
Steve FOSSETT'S description of the damage which jeopardises their attempt: "While sailing in a sloppy sea, the head of mainsail ripped off the track at the first reef point on the mast. This section of mast track was secured with 13 heavy screws which were sheared".
"With a loss of three hours, we got the mainsail hoisted to the second reef point and we have resumed sailing. The repair requires drilling and using an Easy Out to remove the broken screws. Then we would fit replacement track. Calm water is required to work 120ft up the mast. A preliminary idea is to stop in the wind protection of the Falkland Islands and do this work which is estimated to take up to 24 hours. Rules of the round the world record prohibit outside assistance, so we would not go into Port".
Our record chances are jeopardised. Our 4.5 day lead on Orange will shrink by a day before we can get around Cape Horn and into protected conditions. Then if we lose one day on the repair we are still in the game. If we can't make the repair, the reduced area of mainsail we can hoist would be insufficient to keep up with the record pace to the finish. This is yet another repair challenge for the resourceful Cheyenne crew."
Currently Cheyenne is 2050 miles ahead of Orange's 2002 record after five weeks at sea. Her full position is available on the Fossett Challenges Website at the address below.