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Yacht limps into SF bay with broken mast

April 6, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Crew members competing in a grueling around-the-world yachting race are in San Francisco, but stormy conditions at sea caused at least one boat to limp into the bay with a broken mast.

There is only half of the mast of "The California" left. The rest of it lies in sections on deck. The California is one of 10 identical 68-feet racing yachts in the 10-month 35,000 mile global clipper race, but the boat encountered rough waters 2,200 miles out on the way from China.

It sees many of the boats had some trouble, but The California got the worst of it from the huge waves.

"The full force of the wave knocked the boat right over, rotated it over about 120 degrees, so the mast went right into the water," said crew member Graham Patrick.

Coming back up, the mast snapped in half. Crew member Raiya Fels was on deck in darkness when the rogue wave hit, throwing her overboard.

"The next feeling was of being underwater and actually drowning. I guess what you can think in these conditions is yeah, that's actually it, you're not coming back. Yes, it's terrifying," said Fels.

"Stuff got thrown around like you wouldn't believe. One guy came out of his bunk on the port side, went through the bunks in the middle, and onto the other side," said Patrick.

It got even worse. Water knocked out the computers, the crew had no electricity, no way to communicate, but a satellite system worked, and the U.S. Coast Guard flew them supplies. The Coast Guard was a welcome sight.

They slowly motored into the San Francisco marina and now in the Golden Gate Yacht Club, accolades were given to the crew.

It's not over. There are more legs of the race to go and for these sailors, it is the challenge and the adventure of the sea that keeps them going.

"I think when you start doing this, it's a bit scary. But you end up with such confidence in this boat," said Patrick.

"There's no doubt I'll carry on," said Fels.

A new mast is on the way and the boat should be repaired in the next few days. All of the boats will leave San Francisco on April 16. They will finish in the UK in July.


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