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Southern Ocean drama

NOV. 27 — Less than 24 hours after a dramatic rescue in the Southern Ocean of fellow British sailor Alex Thomson, the mainmast of Mike Golding’s Open 60, ECOVER, broke in two places, forcing the men to head to Cape Town, South Africa.

“During the past 48 hours I have enjoyed the greatest feelings of success and joy at the successful rescue of a fellow competitor and then, just hours later, the crashing despair brought on by a mast failure which effectively puts me out of contention in the Velux 5 Oceans,” Golding says in a news release.

Pushing hard southeast of Cape Town on Thursday during the first leg of the solo round-the-world race Thomson’s yacht, Hugo Boss, suffered damage to her keel and capsized, according to information on Thomson’s Web site . Golding, who had been in second place and less than 100 miles ahead of Hugo Boss, was contacted by race organizers and decided to head back to rescue Thomson.

Weathering sleet, snow and 15-foot seas, and experiencing engine problems, it took Golding nearly two hours and four attempts to rescue Thomson from his life raft, according to another release. Only a matter of hours later, in a 40-knot squall, ECOVER’s mast broke twice; once about 5 feet above the third reef and another on the first reef.

Leg 1 of the yacht race has the seven yachts sailing from Bilbao, Spain, in October south along western Africa, around Cape Town and east to Fremantle, Australia. As of Monday, Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm, aboard Cheminées Poujoulat, had a 960-mile lead in first place, according to the race Web site. British solo sailing pioneer Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, aboard SAGA Insurance, who has been plagued by autopilot problems, was in fourth place.

Golding says he expects to put in at Cape Town in the next few days but has not decided whether he will continue to compete. “As for the future in this race,” Golding says in a release, “the team is exploring all the possibilities. We have a mast in Southampton [England], it is possible to ship it but this would take time … For now I think we need to concentrate our thoughts and efforts on getting safely to shore, only then can we make a proper valued judgment on what sensibly comes next.”

— Jason Fell