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Tragedy strikes in the Cape to Rio Race

by Imagina 6 Jan 2014 20:16 GMT 6 January 2014

Crew member dead aboard the Angolan Bavaria 54 Bille - many other participants also in difficulty

The Cape to Rio organisers have sadly officially confirmed that tragedy struck the Bavaria 54 Bille as the race fleet was lashed by a ferocious storm within hours of the start. At around 15.00 hours, the Angolan crew skippered by Luis Manuel De Oliveira Da Silva and with owner Sybille Marion Doeker Correira Da Silva also aboard, informed the race committee that there had been injuries aboard after the yacht dismasted in winds gusting at 50 knots and also that one crew member had died, although the identity of the latter has not yet been announced.

The only other news so far on the tragedy is that a rescue boat has reached Bille off Cape Town. More updates will follow over the coming hours.

Aside from Bille, however, several other boats in the fleet have alerted the authorities to damage caused by the storm and requested assistance.

The South African Miura Ava sent out an SOS via EPIRB at around 16.00 yesterday and the organisers have been unable to raise direct communications with her since. Black Cat (a South African Didi 38) broke a rudder blade and has had to pull out of the race, while Peekay (a South Africa Bénéteau 51) is on her way to Saldanha Bay under engine power after developing problems with her sails, as is the South African Charger FTI Flyer. Aboard Isla (a South African Wilderness) a small electrical fire was quickly dealt with and the Vickers 41 Avanti (South Africa) is making for Cape Town also.

"All of us here aboard Maserati are greatly dismayed by the news," said Soldini by sat phone. "Our thoughts are with all of Bille's crew members and their families. And also with all the boats that were or are in difficulty. Given that the Cape2Rio fleet includes small cruising yachts ill-prepared to cope with such violent ocean storms, it might have been wiser to postpone the start. But it's always easy to evaluate these things in hindsight. On the other hand, this deep depression with winds of 50-60 knots was forecast well in advance of the start."

At 9.00 GMT, Soldini and the Maserati continued to lead the fleet 2,810 miles off Rio de Janeiro (total race distance: 3,300 nautical miles), 65 miles ahead of the South African Open 60 Explora in second, and 80 ahead of the third-placed Australian 52' Scarlet Runner. Maserati is currently reaching in 30 knots of wind which should gradually abate as the day progresses. The Italian boat is making a very brisk speed of 20-24 knots with peaks of 27-28 knots.

Maserati is skippered by Giovanni Soldini and manned by a highly experienced, tightknit international crew: Italians Guido Broggi, Corrado Rossignoli and Michele Sighel; German Boris Herrmann; Spaniard Carlos Hernandez; French sailors Jacques Vincent and Gwen Riou; Dane Martin Kirketerp Ibsen; and, for the first time, Pierre Casiraghi of Monaco.

The current race record of the 14th Cape2Rio Yacht Race is held by Zephyrus IV, a 74' American maxi which completed the dash in 12 days, 16 hours and 49 minutes in 2000, after particularly favourable conditions (a very southerly anticyclone in the South Atlantic) allowed her to take a very direct course.

Updates with video footage and still photographs from the boat and a chart showing Maserati's position can be found at www.maseratisoldini.it and on the following social networks; Facebook and Twitter where the crew will tweet and post images from aboard.

The challenge is sponsored by our main partner, Maserati, after which the yacht is named, and by co-sponsors Swiss bank BSI (Generali Group) and Generali itself.

To follow the race visit www.cape2rio2014.com

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