Incarcerated adventurers freed

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MARCH 28 — The crew of a wave-piercing biodiesel-powered trimaran, that had been attempting to set a new round-the-world speed record when it collided with a fishing boat off Guatemala earlier this month, has been told it can leave the country after a judge ruled that the collision was an accident.

The 78-foot trimaran, Earthrace, will leave Guatemala as soon as its damaged propellers are replaced and legal documents are signed, news reports say. The crew and captain, 41-year-old New Zealander Pete Bethune, had been detained on a naval compound there since the March 18 collision.

“Right now he’s biting at the bit to leave,” Bethune’s wife says in a news report, admitting that her husband was frustrated about how long it took to obtain the release. “He said they are very humble people, very proud people considering there is a lot of poor people there as well. But he said he’s been treated very well.”

Earthrace collided with a fishing skiff, killing one fisherman and injuring another, according to reports. While detained, Bethune met with the family of the drowned fisherman and with the injured fisherman in a hospital. He met also with Guatemalan president Oscar Berger.

The Earthrace crew set off March 10 from Barbados and hoped to circumnavigate the globe in less than 65 days to beat the 75-day record set by British Cable and Wireless Adventurer in 1998. Sixteen hours later, the boat’s carbon-fiber props began to disintegrate, say reports. Earthrace reportedly had only one working engine at the time of the accident.

Jason Fell