May 9, 2007 Fortune has not been smiling on solo yachtsman Tony Bullimore in his latest attempt to break the solo round-the-world sailing record of 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes 33 seconds set by Dame Ellen MacArthur in 2005. Battered by strong winds and suffering the loss of his heavy-weather staysail, Bullimore has been forced off course to preserve his boat. Only on day six of his journey, he's already behind the record pace - but the 69 year old Brit is confident that once he's past Cape Horn his boat will have the speed to make up lost time under the light winds of the Atlantic ocean.
After a promising start, disaster struck on the third day of the Blue Ocean Wireless Round the World Challenge. Bullimore's boat the Doha was making good speed through the night as he rounded the southern tip of New Zealand when the staysail came crashing down. "It was devastating", Tony reported, updating his website through a wireless Internet connection, "Doha was doing around 20 / 24 kts when there was a bang and the staysail fell in the water. This is one of the real workhorse sails in heavy weather and it took me an hour to pull it back onboard."
This setback was compounded when day 4 saw strong winds gusting up to 50 knots and waves constantly broadsiding the Doha. "At the moment, I only have the mainsail set and am trying to nurse the boat through without breaking anything," he reported, "The boat is being tossed around so violently, I can't even type on the computer!"
While day 5 was a respite from the 40-50 knot winds, Tony's pace suffered again yesterday on Day 6 as he was forced north on weather guru Lee Bruce's advice to avoid another battering. It now looks unlikely that he will get back on the world record pace before rounding Cape Horn.
Still, it's very early days yet and Bullimore remains confident that his large multihull has the legs to catch up on Dame Ellen Macarthur's time when he hits the friendlier, lighter winds of the Atlantic.
Bullimore is best known for being rescued during the 1996 Vendee Globe round-the-world solo race, surviving in an air pocket trapped under his capsized boat in pitch darkness for 5 days with nothing but a bar of chocolate to sustain him while Australian Navy rescuers searched for his boat. He isn't taking any chances on being similarly left adrift this time out, taking along advanced satellite and GSM communications equipment from Immarsat and Blue Ocean Wireless.