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Trans-At race carnage

NOV. 9 — Two skippers needed rescuing, one claiming he nearly died, after their boats capsized this week in rough seas and 40-knot winds in the Atlantic during the Route du Rhum yacht race.

Orange Project, a 60-foot trimaran, capsized yesterday in 30-knot winds, according to information on the team’s Web site. Swedish skipper Stève Ravussin calls the accident “a nightmare.

“When the boat pitchpoled, I hung on to [the guard rail] not knowing on which side I was going to come down,” Ravussin says on the site. “The mast held out for a long time, stopping her from capsizing completely, but it finally went right into the water and the trimaran went right over.

“I’m not a good swimmer and I struggled to keep my head out of the water,” Ravussin continues. “For the first time I saw myself dying there. I felt the crossbeam on my back and it was the movement of the swell lifting up the boat that allowed me to breathe.”

Ravussin managed to climb on top of the overturned trimaran and set off his distress beacon, the Web site says. U.S. Coast Guard authorities contacted the crew of the tanker OkhtaBridge which changed course and rescued Ravussin.

British skipper Ross Hobson also saw his trimaran, the 43-foot Ideal Stelrad, capsize and he needed rescuing, according to a press release. “It was blowing 40 to 45 knots, I just dropped the mainsail and I was under the storm staysail when a very big gust caught me on the foredeck,” Hobson says in a press release. “I was trying to get in the cockpit to release the staysail when the gust turned the boat on me, just a slow capsize over the bow.” Hobson activated his EPIRB and was rescued by the crew of Carmen, a cargo vessel, the release says.

On Oct. 29, 74 solo sailors set off from St. Malo, France, to start the Route du Rhum yacht race. The event, raced every four years, is expected to wrap up in mid-November after 3,510 miles across the Atlantic in Pointe-à-Pitre, on GuadeloupeIsland in the Caribbean.

-- Jason Fell