Oyster Chairman dismasted in ARC
At the end of the first week of this year’s ARC Richard Matthews, owner and chairman of Oyster Marine, was dismasted when taking part in his new 72-foot Oyster, Oystercatcher XXV. He was sailing with a crew of 11 in a confused sea when, at 2.00am, there was “a loud bang, a sound like a thunderclap,” he says. “We could see a massive structural failure. We were reaching in 15 knots of wind and the mast was swaying and we could see that it was going to come down. What we didn’t want was for [it] to come down on the boat with the potential damage to the boat and the crew. We furled the genoa, let go the back-stays clevis pins, cut both sets of shrouds with an angle grinder and let the mast go over the forward port side of the vessel. We did think of trying to save it but it was too dangerous and not necessary. We knew we had enough fuel, so we motored back to the Cape Verde Islands. Fortunately no one was hurt.”
Oystercatcher XXV is still down in the islands and will be shipped to the Caribbean shortly. The carbon mast was made by Formula Spars of Lymington. “The jury is still out on what happened to the mast,” adds Richard Matthews, “but Formula are making a new one which will be shipped out to Antigua and we hope to be sailing again by the end of February.”

Cruising World MagazineOystercatcher was one of a number of boats taking a more southerly route to avoid the effects of tropical storm Delta. “It’s been a rally of two halves,” said Jeremy Wyatt of World Cruising, organisers of the Rally. “It was very light at the beginning, with lots of motoring for the 224 starters, but after the first week the trade winds settled down and boats are now finishing with a flourish.”

Richard’s namesake, Mark Matthews, also had severe problems when he faced the anguish of abandoning his Sweden 42 Caliso after problems with her keel box. Following discovery of the leak, he changed course and started motoring for Cape Verde, but in a freshening breeze the skipper became concerned that the keel might suddenly fall off and capsize the boat. He made the decision to abandon ship and several other ARC competitors stood by until the crew were taken on board by a bulk carrier, Endless. The crew has now arrived safely in the US while a tug has since towed Caliso to Cape Verde.

Competition corner

The competition in our last issue, held in association with La Perla Living, was a great success. The prize, a week for two in Antigua, was won by Sue Drew of Somerset, who reacted with delight when we told her the news.

“I picked up a copy of Cruising World at the Southampton Boat Show and thought I might as well enter the competition. It’s quite a coincidence that I work at the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office where I edit three of their cruising and communication guides. This often involves telephone or e-mail contact with marinas in some beautiful parts of the world, but I never expected to be visiting any of those places for real. As the prize is for two people, my husband, who also works at the UKHO, was equally delighted when I told him where our next year’s holiday would be.”

Sue edits the Hydrographic Office’s cruising guides for the UK and Mediterranean, Baltic and the Caribbean, so she should have a pretty good idea what to expect when she arrives in Antigua.

Hope still alive for red diesel

There was relief in the UK’s boating world when Gordon Brown announced in his Pre-Budget Report that he “is minded” to extend the existing regulations to allow continued use of red diesel for pleasure boating. The special arrangements permitting the use of low-duty fuel have been an important boost for the domestic boating industry, which has been lobbying the Chancellor to keep the arrangements against opposition from Brussels.

In a joint statement, the RYA and BMF welcomed the Government’s statement but added, “We are conscious that this battle is not over yet. The next step is to persuade the EU Commission to accept the UK’s application to renew the derogation and that is a significant challenge. We will continue to work together with the UK Government to put forward the strongest possible case to win the argument in Europe.”

Red Sea update.

Cruising World MagazineThe high profile given to the recent pirate attack on a cruise ship off Somalian coast has revived concern about yachts in this region. Although the attacks were off the east coast of Somalia, considered a no-go area for yachtsmen, there is some evidence that pirates are now operating anything up to 100 miles offshore. The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur deals principally with commercial shipping and yachts do not often make contact. Much of the information is therefore anecdotal and many people make the passage without incident, thereby giving undue prominence to people who do experience problems (see Thane Roberts’ article on page 26). Confirmed reports form the waters off Venezuela suggest that these waters are, if anything, more dangerous than the Red Sea passage.

Noonsite.com has recently announced that it will help co-ordinate convoys assembling in Salalah, Oman.

2005 SailAsia Rally

The new SailAsia Rally has been guaranteed sponsorship by Tourism Malaysia for the next ten years. Building on the previous success of the Darwin-Indonesia rally, SailAsia’s new management have extended the route to end at Telaga Harbour Marina on the island of Langkawi, on Malaysia’s north-western coast. This year some 32 of the yachts arrived at Telaga in time for for the official welcoming ceremony (above), provided by the Rally’s joint sponsors, Telaga Harbour Park.

“We hope the Rally will become an automatic choice in the cruising calendar when considering visiting South East Asia,” said Alistair Campbell, Director of SailAsia. “There’s a need by cruisers to have an organised infrastructure which gives them a focal point. We’re also looking at the possibility of extending the rally to Langkawi from other parts, perhaps even the Mediterranean or Middle East.” Many of the cruisers were starting to plan their next passage across the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea, where they hoped to be able to form a convoy (see opposite).

Cruising World MagazineAt the World Travel Mart in London, Malaysia’s Minister of Tourism, Dr. Leo Michael Toyad, told Cruising World that his government is now taking cruising income very seriously and hopes to encourage visiting yachtsmen by sponsorship such as SailAsia. They are also working on plans to upgrade and expand the country’s marina facilities in the hope that Malaysia will soon become established as a recognised cruising area.

The ceremony also gave the opportunity to the German members of the rally to present a cheque for RN17,000 (£2,600) to the head of the nearby Langkawi fishing village that was severely damaged by the Christmas tsunami. The money was raised by a series of auctions held in Germany, and was handed over by the organiser, Hans Schubert, of the catamaran Cinderella.

The 2006 SailAsia Rally will leave Darwin on the 22nd July and is expected to arrive in Telaga by the 27th–29th November. Although the final itinerary has not yet been fixed, registrations of interest can be emailed to www.sailindonesia.net