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Throwing in the towel

JUNE 4 — A problem-plagued attempt to set a new around-the-world speed record aboard a wave-piercing biodiesel-powered custom trimaran was officially called off last week.

The crew of the 78-foot Earthrace announced Thursday it would abandon the record bid after the boat sustained “structural damage to its main hull” in a storm on the Mediterranean between Port Said, Egypt; and Malaga, Spain, a statement on the project’s Web sitesays. It was the third severe storm the boat had weathered in as many weeks.

“The whole team is pretty devastated right now,” Earthrace’s skipper, 41-year-old New Zealander Pete Bethune, says in the statement. “We have all put so much time, money and effort into this record attempt; it is pretty upsetting to have to abandon the race.”

The circumnavigation originally kicked off March 10 from Barbados, according to information on the site. During the first leg west to Panama — only hours after getting under way — Earthrace’s carbon fiber prop began to disintegrate and the crew lost two days making repairs. The crew was hoping to return in less than 2-1/2 months to beat the 75-day record set by British Cable and Wireless Adventurer in 1998.

But, on March 18, during the second leg from Panama to Acapulco, Mexico, Earthrace collided with a fishing skiff off Guatemala, killing one fisherman and injuring another. Bethune and his crew were detained on a naval compound there for 10 days before a judge ruled that the collision was an accident. From Guatemala, Bethune pushed Earthrace to San Diego, where the crew put in for six days to repair a number of mechanical problems related to the accident.

The crew decided to officially restart the record bid April 7 from San Diego, the Web site says, wiping out its prior delays and hardships, but the plug was pulled on the second attempt when the boat began taking on water in the forward section of the main hull.


Earthrace remained in Malaga for repairs and was expected to kick off a promotional tour of Europe, the statement says.

“We can all feel proud of what we have achieved with the limited resources we had, and we do take some heart from that,” Bethune says in the statement.

Jason Fell