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Guo Chuan Racing not Giving Up

As reported in ‘Lectronic Latitude on Wednesday, Chinese singlehander Guo Chuan went missing from his 97-ft trimaran Qingdao China west of Hawaii while attempting to set a San Francisco to Shanghai record. Thanks to the tracker, the boat was located. Crew from the 847-ft Navy assault ship USS Makin Island boarded the boat Thursday morning and could not find the 51-year-old sailor. They lowered the reefed main, and authorities issued a warning to mariners in the area to be on the lookout for the unmanned vessel. Guo Chuan Racing made plans to recover the boat.

Record-setters Guo Chuan and Francis Joyon on the big orange tri.

© Jiang Yongtao

Originally named IDEC, the Irens-designed maxi-tri was built by Frenchman Francis Joyon in 2007 for the purpose of breaking records. "It was with extreme sadness that Joyon and the crew of Idec Sport heard the news," reports that team. “We are concerned on more than one level by this tragedy that happened aboard our former boat,” declared Joyon. "Guo is someone for whom I had the greatest admiration. A former scientist, he wasn’t one with the same background as us. He turned to sailing late on and was self-taught. I watched his attempts with interest and respected what he was able to achieve." This sentiment was shared by fellow team members currently on standby for another attempt at the nonstop around-the-world Jules Verne Trophy — particularly by the German, Boris Herrmann, who recently accompanied Guo on his recent voyage through the Northeast Passage.

The shore team at Guo Chuan Racing speculated on two possible scenarios that might have caused the sailor to fall overboard. In the first, "Guo was sailing with one reef on mainsail and gennaker in about 13-20 knots downwind which is a reasonable sail configuration for these conditions. At the end of the day he decided to furl the gennaker in order to sail even safer for the night. After that he tried to drop it on windward side (which becomes a tricky maneuver in stronger winds for a solo sailor). Holding the halyard and restraining the gennaker at the same time, he lost the control of the halyard and the gennaker finally fell brutally down far away on the leeward side of the boat. As he was trying to restrain the gennaker to fall in the water he got pushed and ripped out of the boat either at the side of the starboard float or in front of the starboard front beam." 

In the second scenario, "Guo was sailing with one reef on mainsail and J1, which is the safest sail configuration for sailing at night. The gennaker was furled and still hoisted. For an unknown reason the halyard or the gennaker cable broke. Guo first furled the J1 in order to slow down the boat before taking care of the gennaker that has fallen in the water. He then began to get the gennaker back on the net close to the starboard float. By manipulating the very powerful gennaker (which was drifting in the water) out of the water, he had at a certain moment to unhook his safety lifeline in order to change his position on the boat. A bad wave throw the gennaker back in the water and pushed Guo out of the boat."

Although the authorities are no longer actively searching for Guo, his shore crew issued this plea today: "Guo Chuan Racing does not prepare to give up rescuing Guo Chuan. We are looking for ships having a platform to land aircrafts and charge fuel near Hawaii. If you have any information about that, please send email to [email protected]."

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After 10 days at sea, 74-year-old singlehander Jeanne Socrates was forced to suspend her latest nonstop circumnavigation attempt and return to her Victoria, BC, homeport yesterday after taking a beating from extreme weather.