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Crewman Dies as Storm Dismasts Yacht in Cape to Rio Race

The Cape to Rio Yacht Race
The Cape to Rio Yacht Race first took place in 1971. Source: Hoberman Collection/UIG via Getty Images

A crewman on a yacht taking part in the Cape to Rio race died and others were injured as gales damaged at least eight boats in the competition from South Africa to Brazil.

The death and injuries on Bille, which also lost its mast, were reported yesterday, a day after the competition started in Cape Town, race Chairman Ray Matthews said in a statement on the event’s website. The boats sailed into rough seas about 75 nautical miles (86 miles) from the start, South Africa’s National Sea Rescue Institute said in a separate e-mailed statement today.

The boats “suffered damage in what is reported as conditions of up to eight-meter (26-foot) swells and up to 60-knot gale-force winds,” the NSRI said.

This year’s event, with 36 vessels from eight countries taking part, is the 14th edition of the race, which first took place in 1971. The competition ends in Rio de Janeiro.

Seven other competitors reported problems including broken rudders, flooded engines and communication breakdowns, the NSRI said. The vessels are returning to Cape Town or Saldanha Bay, it said.

Another yacht, which isn’t participating in the race, is reported to be disabled 216 nautical miles west of Saldanha Bay and a bulk carrier in the vicinity was dispatched.

Bille’s skipper was diagnosed with broken ribs, while another crew member suffered cuts, Matthews said in a separate statement. The South African Navy sent one of its naval frigates, Isandlwana, last night to assist the yacht.

Helicopter and vessel rescue units, together with the South African Air Force’s 22 and 35 Squadron, were placed on high alert to assist with emergencies, the NSRI said.

The NSRI dispatched a rescue craft this morning to tow the Black Cat yacht, with four people on board, back to Cape Town, the NSRI said. A further six boats are on their way back to the shore, including Isla, which had a fire aboard last night and is now under tow by the salvage vessel Smit Madura.

Most participants continued to experience poor visibility, Matthews said.

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