Always Macho Turns To Suicide As
Five Are Dead, Perhaps More To Come.
(Photo above: dismasted
maxi boats and life-saving rescues made the 1998 Sidney-To-Hobart
one to remember. )
Leading maxi yachts Brindabella, Sayonara and Marchioness were
locked in a three-way duel down the New South Wales state coast
Saturday as the Sydney to Hobart fleet faced deteriorating weather.
The yachts were bracing for a tough night with thunderstorms
predicted ahead of a west-southwesterly change expected to lash
the south coast by Sunday morning. And then, British sailor Glyn
Charles was missing and presumed drowned -- becoming the third
fatality in the Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race -- while five others
remained stranded in a raft in rough seas overnight.
"It was as if I were on a wild bronco and 60-mile-per-hour
fire hoses of water were shot at me,"
said Bill Erklens, captain of the 80-foot American yacht Sayonara,
the first to finish the race. The Sydney Morning Herald said
that they informed the race organizers 24 hours before the storm
hit that severe weather was approaching. But even so the scale
of the winds caught many by surprise. "I didn't think it
would get much worse than 50 to 55 miles per hour," said
Roger Badham of Maritime Weather systems, the meteorologist for
20 boats that all made it through the race. "By Sunday at
9 a.m. it was clear that it would be horrendous. The land-based
lighthouse reporting 100 mile per hour winds was shocking. I
was a bit nervous then." Erklens, the Sayonara's skipper,
described the conditions at sea. "A solid wave would come
in the black night in unexpected moments and knock you flat,"
he said. "It hits hard and bruises your ribs. One crewman
broke his ankle when he was pushed off the high side of the boat."
(Photo above: rescued crew member
returns to solid land.)
But with waves running three and four stories high, towering
over the racing vessels, 70 boats
abandoned the race and sought shelter. Six were abandoned or
sank and 39 finished the race. Among those stuck in the tempest,
Royal Australian Navy helicopters plucked almost 60 people out
of the ocean. For some the help came too late. Three of the sailors
were lost from the yacht Winston Churchill, a 56-year-old vessel
that sank; two were confirmed dead and one was missing. Two Australian
sailors were found dead after their yacht, the Business Post
Naiad, capsized. The other missing sailor, Glyn Charles, 33,
was swept off the Sword of Orion. He had been a member of Britain's
sailing team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
(Photo above: crew members bracing
against hurricane winds and 50 foot seas)
The Business Post Naiad crew
posing this month, from left: Steve Walker, Peter Keats, Bruce
Guy, Rob Matthews, Phillip Skeggs, Jim Rogers and Matt Sherriff.
Guy and Skeggs died.