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Veteran sailor pulls the plug on record bid

MAY 14 — Just 10 days into a bid to top the record for the fastest solo circumnavigation, British sailor Tony Bullimore decided last week to head for shore and call off the journey after discovering that a pin holding the forestay on his 102-foot catamaran had worked loose.

“If the pin had pulled out completely, the rig would have fallen down and I would have been left adrift,” Bullimore, who is 68, says in a statement. Bullimore changed course Thursday to head for New Zealand where he hoped to repair the cat, named Doha.

“When I found it during a daylight check of the rig a few days ago, my heart almost stopped,” says Bullimore, who had been attempting to beat Ellen MacArthur’s record time of 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes. “With the rig under so much tension there is no way of banging the pin back in place. In fact, it is the tension that has stopped it from falling out altogether.”

This is the latest in a string of setbacks for Bullimore over the last decade. In 1997 the veteran sailor spent five days trapped in the hull of his capsized yacht, Exide Challenge, in the Southern Ocean during the Vendee Globe. He survived by resting in a makeshift hammock suspended centimeters above the icy water.

While getting to his start in Hobart, Tasmania, late last year, Bullimore lost communication with his shore team for 11 days having problems with his satellite phone. The lack of communication sparked international speculation that Bullimore had gone missing.

Bullimore hopes to repair the pin and to return to Hobart to re-start the record bid sometime later this year. “All I can say is thank goodness it happened now and not when I was deep in the Southern Ocean or close to Cape Horn,” he says in the statement.

Jason Fell