At 0230 UTC on February 11, Ronnie Simpson’s Shipyard Brewing dismasted in the South Atlantic. The boat, which was one of the remaining 12 entrants in the inaugural Global Solo Challenge, had been plagued by boat-breaking conditions since rounding Cape Horn nine days earlier. Simpson was in third place at the time of the incident.
“We were launching off waves for the last 24 hours, and I felt the boat launch of a huge wave, I held my breath, and then we landed and bang bang bang, I heard everything come down on deck,” Simpson shared on social media shortly after the incident.
“I can’t recover the rig and the boom and everything right now, but it’s already grinding into the hull. If I cut everything away, I have no chance of setting a jury rig. I don’t have enough fuel to get to shore, and I don’t have enough horsepower to go upwind. And there’s that storm coming. So this is a really bad scenario.”
Though he reported being physically safe and well, there was an immense amount of stress to make fast and smart decisions given a large depression bearing down upon him, promising to worsen the sea state. This is particularly problematic as a boat becomes much more unstable once dismasted. Simpson deployed a drogue to keep the waves on his stern but was still rolling intensely. He ultimately cut away the rig as it was causing the hull to flex, which could have led to a boat-sinking crack or abrasion. Shipyard Brewing, a 1994 Open 50 designed by David Lyons, has raced in two BOC Challenges, once as Newcastle Australia under Alan Nebauer and then as Balance Bar under Brad Van Liew.
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“I was racing to try to stay ahead of that system, and now that’s not going to happen. I have requested a rescue, I have activated my EPIRB,” he reported a few hours later. “At this point unfortunately, I do feel like getting off the boat is the best scenario. There’s a very dangerous storm coming.”
Shortly after dismasting, Simpson was in touch with the United States and Argentinian maritime authorities to try to coordinate help. At some 700 miles from shore, another ship was his best hope for rescue. However, despite four ships being in the vicinity, neither Simpson nor the authorities were able to get in touch with any of them for 11 hours. Ultimately they reached the parent company of the Pakistani ship Sakizaya Youth, which was able to divert its ship to Simpson’s location. Fourth-place competitor Andrea Mura, who is over 600 miles behind Simpson, is also on standby as a last resort.
“I’m only moving about 2 knots because of the waves, but Sakizaya Youth is going 14 knots towards me, so it should be a closing speed of 16 knots. Hopefully we’ll come together in six or seven hours, which gives us a fighting chance at getting this done before dark,” Simpson said in a post on Instagram this morning in which he also thanked everyone for their supportive messages and noted that once rescued he might not be able to send an update for several days.
“It’s immensely frustrating. It’s very sad. I’ve put my heart and soul and finances, every moment for the past year and a half, into this race. I was around Cape Horn, I was coming back up the Atlantic. It is incredibly challenging, a heart-breaking scenario. But I want to live to fight another day.”
For more on the Global Solo Challenge, visit globalsolochallenge.com.