"We gave it our best shot"

The Earthrace team have abandoned their bid to break the Round the World Speed Record.

The trimaran suffered stress damage to the main hull during a storm in the Med and repairs would have put them too far behind record pace.

The decision comes after a disaster-laden voyage that has left one man dead.

The original aim of the voyage, to break the record using biodiesel, is also in tatters after the team were unable to source the alternative fuel in the remote archipelago of Palau. They filled up with standard diesel instead.

Nevertheless, skipper Pete Bethune says: “We can all feel proud of what we have achieved with the limited resources we had, and we do take some heart from that.

“We gave it our best shot.

“The Earthrace project was created to promote the awareness and use of alternative fuels such as biodiesel. And whilst it is disappointing to miss out on the world record, we have certainly succeeded in our overall aim of promoting biodiesel, and we will continue to build on this success during our upcoming European promotional tour.”

The New Zealand-based team will take the boat, which is in Malaga, to Valencia to support the New Zealand entry in the America’s Cup, before heading north for a promotional tour of the UK and Northern Europe.

The storm that battered the boat during its Med crossing from Egypt was the third severe weather system that Earthrace endured in three weeks, following a monsoon off the southern coast of India and 50-knot head winds up the Red Sea.

Before arriving in Malaga, the crew noticed the boat was taking on water in the forward section of the main hull. A 2m crack was found in the floor of the hull. While in Malaga the crew made an initial repair, and it was thought to be sufficient to finish the race; however, shortly after the boat left for the Canary Islands the crew concluded that the repair would not hold and so the decision was made to return to Malaga to undergo more substantive repairs.

But a closer inspection revealed the time needed would put them too far behind the pace of current record holder, Cable & Wireless Adventurer.

The British boat took 75 days to make the circumnavigation in 1998, a record that has now withstood several attempts to break it.

Earthrace began their attempt in Barbados in February, but during a night-run on the second leg up the Guatamalan coast, the boat collided with a local fishing skiff. One of the fisherman died in the crash and another was hospitalised with serious injuries. Bethune and the boat were held in the Guatamalan military base for 10 days before a judge allowed him to go free without charge.

That and other early time delays forced the Earthrace team to move the start point round the track to San Diego. There, they started afresh on April 7 and had to make it back there on or before 21 June to break the record.

Pete says: “The whole team is pretty devastated right now. We have all put so much time, money, and effort into this record attempt; it is pretty upsetting to have to abandon the race.”

He has not ruled out having another crack at the record sometime in the future, perhaps as early as March 2008.

“Our focus right now is to repair the boat and come to terms with what has happened.”

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