Velux Skipper Recounts Yuletide Gale

News brief

January 2, 2007



Graham Dalton arrived in Fremantle, Australia, today with his mainsail in tatters but his spirit intact. The 54-year-old Kiwi solo sailor endured a fierce gale at the end of Leg 1 and currently sits in fourth place in the Velux 5 Oceans Race. He offered the following account of his harrowing experience on Christmas Eve:”I saw a small depression forming ahead of me. I started to [reach] 40-45 knots from the south…I had to drop the main at that stage. But then we got hit. The mainsail was tied onto the boom on the third reef and it rode up the mast and you couldn’t get it down. The wind I saw before my instruments finally gave up was 80 knots and it was still rising! The sea got up very quickly, around 55-60 feet, and was breaking on the boat. There was nothing you could do, to go on deck was really suicide. “I knew it was going to last around eight hours; I called home and said you might not see me again. I started wondering what it would feel like to have the cold salt water go into my lungs. It needed one thing to break and it was basically all over. I got rolled on the side and got knocked unconscious; I doubt if I was out for that long, might have been ten minutes. Bad enough to have double vision and seeing six waves instead of one made it even worse. But like all things, the boat was built for those conditions. And as always the storm passed and we were able to get here. But I’ve never seen a mainsail like that before, ever. It can be best described as a skeleton. If you went through those conditions three times, you are going to die at least once.”For the latest Velux 5 Oceans news, click here.


More Racing