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Italian Yacht Missing In Whitbread Race

December 4, 1993

SOUTHAMPTON, England (AP) _ An Indian Ocean search for the Italian yacht Brooksfield, missing with a crew of 11 in the Whitbread Round the World Race, resumed Saturday when the competing French yacht arrived in the area.

Brooksfield, with Guido Maisto as captain, was reported missing in heavy seas after sending a distress signal Friday picked up by a monitoring station in Australia.

The French maxi La Poste reversed course and reported reaching the approximate area of Brooksfield’s last known position at about 4:30 a.m. Saturday local time.

″La Poste is now in the vicinty and has commenced a search and rescue pattern,″ Whitbread spokesman Jolion Armstrong said from race headquarters in Southampton. ″The winds are 30-35 knots ... They report the sky is clear but the sea is heavy and confused.″

La Poste reported no sign of the missing boat, but a search could take days. The nearest land is more than 450 statute miles away.

Another competing yacht, the American entry Winston, also turned around to join the search. But bad weather has delayed its arrival by five to six hours.

″The conditions are the worst I have ever seen with 39-45 knots of wind,″ Winston captain Brad Butterworth messaged. ″The boat is being battered by big seas.″ Later, Butterworth reported winds of 50 knots, or about 58 mph.

Fourteen boats were in the race. Several offered to turn back and search for the Brooksfield. Race director Ian Bailey-Willmot asked that La Poste and Winston, the two nearest, reverse course and sail toward Brooksfield’s last known position.

At last contact early Friday, Brooksfield was nearly 500 miles east of the Kerguelen Islands, about 2,300 miles southwest of Australia.

The Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Canberra said it picked up a signal from an emergency beacon belonging to Brooksfield. Subsequent attempts to contact the crew failed.

Brooksfield was in sixth place in the Whitbread 60 class and ninth overall in the second leg of the race as the fleet sailed from Punta del Este, Uruguay, to Fremantle, Australia. The leg is the longest, at more than 8,625 statute miles, in the six-leg race and is one of the most dangerous.

The race is Maisto’s first as a Whitbread skipper. The boat, built by Tencara in Venice and launched in 1992, has 10 other crew on board - seven Italians, a Swede, a Frenchman and a Dutchman.

Bailey-Willmot said there were seven similar occurrences in the last Whitbread race four years ago and on each occasion boat and crew were found to be safe.

All boats in the race carry life rafts plus survival and rescue devices.

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