Leg four of the race, predicted to be one of the toughest, claimed its first victim this morning when Green Dragon suffered a broken forestay.
Ian Walker and his crew were in fourth place and sailing in 17 knots of breeze upwind and a short, choppy sea, when the incident occurred.
Quick reactions by the crew, who rapidly eased sheets and secured halyards to the bow, prevented the loss of the mast and the team will continue to race to Qingdao under a makeshift rig.
Green Dragon is now sailing with her small J4 headsail and full mainsail and has 176 nautical miles to the mark positioned off Luzon, which the fleet must keep to the east of. It is unlikely the team will be able to fly any other headsails with just a makeshift headstay, and although they will be handicapped for the final 1500 miles to Qingdao, they still plan to press on.
Walker said: “This is a bitter disappointment just when we were fighting back up with the leaders. It was a brand new stay at the start of the race and I have no idea why it should break now, if at all. I think it is the same as many or all the other boats in the fleet.
”“The important thing is that nobody was hurt and, thanks to the crew's reactions, we did not break the mast. It is especially disappointing as we wanted to put up a strong performance on this leg to Qingdao.
”We will keep sailing as fast as we can without jeopardising the rig. As always we will not give up, however the forecast of gales for the next few days is an obvious concern.”
Elsewhere in the fleet, Ken Read’s PUMA was still leading the way by the 13:00 GMT Position Report with the Telefonica twins – Blue in second five miles behind and Black a further 20 miles adrift.
Ericsson 3 (+34) and Delta Lloyd (+36) both profited from Green Dragon’s mishap to move to fourth and fifth place respectively while Ericsson 4 (+48) rounds out the fleet.