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Crew feared yacht would split in half

Tuesday 5 Jun 2012 5:15 p.m.

By Ingrid Hipkiss

The New Zealand crew of the racing maxi-yacht "Beau Geste" feared she was about to split in half, after they were caught in rough seas, 100 nautical miles east of Norfolk island.

They sent out a distress signal last night - but this morning they managed to limp into port.

After a rough and frightening night the 18 crew members were ferried ashore this morning.

They had set off in calm conditions on Saturday with part of the fleet racing from Auckland to Noumea in New Caledonia.

But the weather turned, there were big waves, and a big bang.

Skipper Gavin Brady says another crew member discovered a crack in the hull.

“As it turned out one of the crew members was walking around the deck and tripped over a crater in the deck of the boat, and that set the alarm bells off, we looked over the side and we had a crack all the way down underneath the boat and below the waterline, and from the inside of the boat it was cracked, so it was cracked on both sides which is pretty catastrophic.”

Fearing the yacht would split in two the crew huddled on deck in the darkness and prepared to abandon ship.

“It's quite a scary thought when you're looking outside and there's no one within a hundred miles of you and you're going to get off a boat in the middle of the ocean,” Mr Brady says.

“It’s a bit different when you're in the swimming pool practising, but when it’s real life it’s quite concerning.”

It didn't come to that, a rescue boat from Norfolk Island responded to their distress call, and helped them make land.

“It was really nice to see them at two o’clock in the morning that’s for sure.”

The crew is disappointed the 180 mile lead they had on the rest of the fleet cannot be salvaged, but hope the yacht can be.

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