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Peyron's yacht starts to break up

Peyron battles the breakers, before disaster struck
Peyron battles the breakers, before disaster struck

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ST MALO, France -- Race favourite Loick Peyron's 60-foot trimaran Fujicolor started to break up as North Atlantic storms created more havoc in the Route du Rhum fleet on Wednesday.

Peyron is the latest trimaran casualty as severe winds and waves have already caused three 60-foot trimarans to capsize and forced 14 of the 58 boats in the fleet to retire. (Full list)

Peyron, sailing with bare poles in a 45-knot wind, told race headquarters that his starboard float was broken in half between the two crossbeams.

Speaking by satellite phone he added: "I have to bring the baby back home with the least damage possible, and in order to do so, I have a big day ahead of me. Since the float broke between the two crossbeams, the whole structure is moving and I have to try to stop the mast falling over."

Peyron fought a losing battle to make repairs in the difficult conditions as he tried to nurse his stricken boat back to Portugal, and two hours later reported that his mast had fallen down.

"The waves are six to 10 metres high, it's white everywhere, really beautiful. I have to remember my boy scout years to make the repairs. The front part of the float is starting to tear apart, it will be interesting to see where the crossbeams will break afterwards."

Peyron, one of the most experienced and cautious skippers on the ORMA 60 trimaran circuit, has finished second twice in the Route du Rhum.

On Tuesday he reported: "It's like hell out here. I have to reduce sails early, because there are a lot of gusts, and it's impossible to sleep.

"Each time we pass a front, we're caught by squalls, it's quite scary. The autopilot must not be really trusted, the wind shifts a lot. We have to be extra, extra careful, and that's why I remain up on deck."

Soon after Peyron reported his problems, there was news of another dismasting to Jean Pierre Dick in the Open 60 monohull Virbac.

Nobody has been hurt in this year's race but two leading French sailors have died in its 24-year history.

In the first race in 1978 Alain Colas and his boat Manureva disappeared in a tropical storm and in 1986 Loic Caradec was lost overboard when his 26-metre (85-foot) catamaran Royale capsized.

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