Yacht race sensation with leader Team Australia dismasted
MULTIHULL record-holder Team Australia is out of the Club Marine Pittwater To Coffs Harbour Yacht Race after being dismasted just south of Port Macquarie around 11am.
The incident happened off Diamond Beach and the crew of eight are all safe but owner Sean Langman can't give a reason yet what caused the dramatic turn of events.
Winds at the time were 17 knots from the north east. "It's a shock given we weren't doing anything unusual," Langman said via mobile phone from 10km out to sea.
"We were just starting to get going properly.
"It's disappointing and not over yet as we still have to get in.
"The decision is to head back south as it's too difficult to motor straight up wind.
"The carbon fibre made a hell of a noise when it cracked.
"It ended up in three bits so it's not really repairable.
"Jimmy (Spithill) was steering at the time and was telling everyone to stay down below.
"It would have been a much worse situation if any of the guys were hurt but we are all good and now playing with jury rigs so we can get going."
Team Australia's crew spent a significant amount of time trying to retrieve the mast and sails and bring all the lines in before starting their engine.
However, this proved too difficult. Instead they made the difficult decision to jettison the broken mast, marking its location with a Dan buoy, flashing light and flag and a spare Yellowbrick tracking device.
The plan is to motor back to Port Stephens where Langman has a boatyard at Nelson Bay.
The race committee will continue to monitor the situation and keep track of Team Australia's position until they are safe at port.
Maritime authorities have been alerted should the crew require assistance to reach port safely.
The rest of the racing fleet heading north has been alerted to the large obstacle drifting on the surface potentially in their path via a sécurité radio message from Water Police Area Command.
The crew includes Langman's son Peter and America's Cup skipper James Spithill, along with Spithill's brother-in-law, Grantley Pellew.
It's been a tough New Year coastal classic so far.
Light winds plagued the fleet for the first 20 hours and just when Team Australia was finally up and moving, its race abruptly ended.
Karl Kwok's Beau Geste, sailing for the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, is the new leader.
At 1.30pm the race leader was 86 nautical miles from the finish and currently travelling at 11 knots of speed in nor 'east winds.
Based on current speed their estimated time of arrival at Coffs Harbour Jetty is around 7pm.