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2 March 2003, 03:56 am
Hexagon Dismasts
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Around Alone - Leg Four
Tauranga (NZL) - San Salvador (BRA)

Just when it looked like things may be back on track after a short pit-stop in Tierra del Fuego, life took a massive turn for the worse aboard Hexagon when the mast came toppling down ending Leg 4 for the New Zealand skipper.
It was mid-morning aboard Hexagon and Graham Dalton was going about his usual routine navigating, analyzing weather charts and planning a way to get past Emma Richards, when the boat suddenly lurched and the mast fell down. With a crash it landed in the water bringing with it the hopes and dreams of the skipper. Dalton immediately sent a message to Race HQ and then phoned his partner Robbie to tell her the news. To say the skipper was upset and disappointed was an understatement.

Dalton's immediate concern was to get rid of the mast before it punched a hole in the boat causing more damage. A dismasting is one thing; holing the boat and having it fill with water is quite another, but cutting a mast away is easier said than done. The wind was picking up and the boat was lurching around in the lumpy seaway without sails to steady it. Race HQ immediately contacted fellow competitor Brad Van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America and asked him to divert to Hexagon's position to offer assistance. There was not much Brad could do to help Graham get rid of his mast, but the concern was that the boat would be holed and Dalton might need rescuing. In the true spirit of the race Brad altered course without a blink, and moments later was heading for the stricken yacht on a close reach.

With Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America diverted and Graham cutting away at his rig, there was not much for the rest of us to do other than sit and wait. For race organizers it's nail-biting time. The phone went unanswered while Dalton slogged away on deck so we polled Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America to check on Brad's progress and noted that at the speed he was sailing it would take 10-11 hours to reach Hexagon's position. Finally Graham called back with the news that the mast was gone and the boat was relatively undamaged. He had started his engine as was heading for Mar del Plata in Argentina. With that news Van Liew was asked to resume racing and was told he would be given compensation for the time spent sailing towards Hexagon.

For now the future of Hexagon's participation in the Around Alone is sketchy. This is the second broken mast, the first happening right at the start of Dalton's qualifying sail across the Atlantic last summer. Mar del Plata is about 650 miles away from Hexagon's current position and Graham is not sure if he has enough fuel to motor the whole way there. He is safe, the boat is sound and despite the grim circumstance those are two important pieces of information. Tomorrow will be a new day for Dalton. He and his team will be looking at various options for continuing in the race, but as always the clock keeps ticking. Making it to Salvador in time for the restart on April 13 with a new mast will take more than a giant influx of funds. It will take a highly coordinated effort, but if there is one thing Graham Dalton has shown us over the last few months it's that he is no quitter and if it's at all possible he will be there to race to the finish in Newport. We wish him the best and offer our condolences for this misfortune.

Mary Ambler/ISAF News Edior
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