Outside Online Archives

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Game Over for PlayStation

By Tim Zimmermann

Official Race report

Mark Pepper-Marinepics-Pixsail.com
0700 GMT Mission Control (UK) Sunday 14.01.01: After the port daggarboard was shattered late on Saturday night, Skipper Steve Fossett of the 125' maxi-catamaran PlayStation advised The Race officials early this morning that he has reluctantly decided to withdraw from the 23,000 mile race around the world.

Key problems with the old 1998-2000 'delivery' mainsail showing serious signs of wear—and ongoing breakage—coupled with the daggarboard breakage last night—have lead Steve (after consultation with and fully supported by his crew) to take the difficult decision not to pursue The Race into the Southern Ocean.

Here's what happened:

At about 21:40 GMT on Saturday night 13.1.01, maxi-cat PlayStation and her 13-man crew received a jolt as the port daggarboard was shattered and broke off at the waterline. They had just gotten back up to speed, having spent much of the day at second reef during rapid repairs to a 3 ft (1m) tear in the mainsail (at the first reef clew) from earlier on Saturday. The sail repair was working well when the daggarboard incident occurred.

It is not yet known what was struck. Inspection of the remaining part of the port daggarboard may subsequently point to the cause.

Steve Fossett sent the following e-mail message to the race directors at midnight on Sunday:

"Now it's the daggarboard. Just after we hoisted the mainsail after a day of repairs, the port side daggarboard was shattered and broke away. I suppose we probably could sail around the world with just the starboard daggarboard, but the real issue is the sails:

We bought a new set of sails for The Race because we doubted our old sails were fit to make it around the world. When the new mainsail and solent broke before we got out of the Mediterranean we knew we were in trouble, but we were game to give it a try with the old sails. Today's repair of the first reef clew by Nick Moloney looks good, but then the second reef clew looks like it is starting to fail. We are destined to be struggling with sail repairs for the rest of the way.

We just aren't prepared to tackle the Southern Ocean.

I laid out my reservations about our continuing in The Race and asked the crew to tell me what they thought. They have thrown their every effort into this project for months and in some cases years. Some of them would like just to finish the passage even if we were uncompetitive. I get to make the tough decisions. Unless the crew could offer a persuasive argument to continue we would have to turn back.

The crew talked it over and came back to tell me they all supported my decision. I turned the boat around and we're heading for Miami.

I doubt that it is the way a Skipper is supposed to make a decision, but that is how it was done on PlayStation.

Steve Fossett—Skipper"

In a further conversation with Mission Control this morning, Steve advised that all was well onboard and that they would arrive in Miami/Ft Lauderdale in ten to 14 days time. The mood onboard is "one of disappointment, of course, but morale is pretty good, considering. We are still very confident in the boat and her structure —and in her tremendous speed and record-setting potential."

Following replacement of the daggarboard and refitting of new sails in Miami/Ft Lauderdale, Steve, PlayStation and crew are now looking at targeting the Miami-NYC record and the TransAtlantic records—beginning this May.

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