A 40-knot storm caused havoc in the long-distance race of the Rolex IMS Offshore World Championship 2001 off the coast of Spain on Wednesday night.
The Dutch boat Exposure, an IMS 50 just a few weeks old, came off worst when her carbon rig snapped in two. Another brand new 50-footer, Vincenzo Onorato's Mascalzone Latino, saw her mainsail rip as the wind climbed from 12 to 40 knots in a matter of minutes. But unlike Exposure, they were able to complete the 110-mile race that began and ended in Valencia. Bowmen spoke of having to peel one sail after another as the wind climbed above the working range of their equipment. Some changed gear too late, including Bribon, which saw two spinnakers blown to shreds.
Despite all the strong winds at the mid-point of the race, it was probably the last few miles off Valencia that were most decisive. It was here, in the early hours of the morning, that the breeze died away to a flat calm. Niek Lamm and his crew on Exposure had not made a good start to the race but in the closing stages she was thundering downwind under spinnaker, and was pulling within striking distance of the leaders who now found themselves becalmed.
That was when disaster struck. No one quite knows what happened but one crewman thought that a backstay or runner may have been accidentally knocked out of its cleat. With the mast already heavily loaded under a straining spinnaker, it snapped like matchwood, he said.
Alexia, the only Maxi in the event, arrived long before the rest of the 64-boat fleet just before 0200 hours. Tactician Chris Larson (former Rolex Yachtsman of the year) was very pleased with their performance.