Update #39 - 18th November 2000 (7.15am AEDST)
Position - 51°02' S, 113°18' W

We have a huge problem ..... I have just spent last 3 hours fighting to keep the mast in the boat, drifting with no sail up in a 30 knot NW breeze, 1666 nm from Cape Horn. At this stage the possibility of me completing this trip unassisted and non-stop (if at all) is very slim.

The port side chainplate has partially failed and lifted up about 20 mm allowing the tension to go off the rigging. The mast certainly would have gone over the side if the situation were left unchecked. I am very lucky to have discovered the problem and I am not out of the woods yet. There is a very strong chance that I could still lose it all.

The chainplate is a substantial stainless steel fitting that bolts to the boat down below and protrudes through the deck. Above deck level it has two holes in it where the rigging wires attach. I have taken the main and spinnaker halyards, the topping lift and port side checkstay down to the port gunwale and tensioned them up. Down below I have managed to get some spectra rope as well as some other lashings onto the chainplate and tensioned it all up in an effort to stop the failure from advancing any further. The halyards down to the gunwale are doing a good job but there is the possibility of the toe rail giving way, because it is not designed to take the sort of loads now applied to it, over such a long period of time.

I am waiting on Roger Badham to give me a weather forecast. If everything stays stabilised, I am just going to sit here, drift and wait for the wind to abate, no matter how long that takes. I need to do some more thinking about my options, however, at this stage my initial plan is to try and reinforce the chainplate further once I can get some load off it in calmer seas. Then I'll go up the mast, attach some spectra rope in various spots down to the gunwale, hoist a small amount of sail and see how it goes.

No matter what, from now on it is a nursing situation and nothing permanent. It may be that I have to go to the Falkland Islands on the other side of Cape Horn to get some welding done. That would disqualify me from the "non-stop, unassisted" part which is what it is all about for me. I will not do that unless I have to.

How do I feel? After 3½ years of total focus and dedication to one goal, I do feel pretty disappointed at present, but I assure you I will not give in easily! This is another challenge! How do I get around this one?

Take care,

Tony Mowbray