Skipper's efforts save stricken sailboat

The Royal Gazette, Hamilton, Bermuda--June 28, 1996--Devastated owned of the Triad Tom Cox pulled out all the stops to retrieve his 42-foot racing trimaran after she dismasted at sea. And he learned last night that his efforts had paid off.

Mr. Cox got word that the air and sea search team he hired had sighted his $80,000-plus wooden-hulled sailboat and was on the way to salvage her.

Mr. Cox's joy over finishing second in the New England Multihull Race last week soured when Triad's mast collapsed on Monday in rough seas on the return voyage to Massachusetts, forcing him and his three-man crew to abandon ship.

The Sailors were rescued on Monday by the Bermuda-bound cruise ship Royal Majesty which the US Coast Guard had diverted to the scene. They remained on board Triad until the ship arrived and then motored up to the ship's cargo port where they were assisted off the disabled trimaran.

Mr. Cox, who brushed with death when the mast crashed onto the deck, yesterday praised the Majesty's crew for their assistance in getting his crew safely off the trimaran and for their hospitality on board the luxury liner. He noted how the Majesty's "attentive" crew had found a harness to help get a crew member suffering from the disabling disease multiple sclerosis off the trimaran. Nick Bryan-Brown, of Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, wears a leg brace and carries a cane for support. The other crew members were Daren Donovan and Rich Schnure.

Mr. Cox refuted reports by the Boston media including the Boston Globe that the Majesty had recklessly damaged his boat in the heavy seas rescue. "Splinters were flying and we were banging into the boat," he said, "but the damage was no greater than we suffered after the mast collapsed."

Recounting the tragedy, Mr. Cox said they were sailing in six-foot seas and high winds of 20-30 knots into the seas during gusts. "We were doing our best to keep her in check but I believe the repeated launching off of the waves and crashing down backside ... shattered the base of the mast," he said. "We tried to stabilize the mast after it case off the step and were successful for about an hour at which time the lower section of mast started to zipper ... and the unsupported deck beneath it gave way. The mast came crashing through the deck moments after I snatched the life raft out of the fore peak."

Mr. Cox noted had he been a minute slower in getting the life raft, "I'd be dead." The rest of the crew were out of its reach, steering and handling halyards. In retrospect, Mr. Cox said he might have let the mast go, thus saving the deck from being ripped apart. There was also damage to the hull; it was holed above the waterline.

Mr. Cox said he had set off the EPIRB emergency signal and was in the process of cleaning debris off the boat and securing it when a Coast Guard C130 appeared overhead, some four hours later, to advise a ship was on its way.

After Mr. Cox arrived safely here on land on Monday morning, he immediately hired Newport-based marine salvage firm Ocean Response's vessel Osprey and a private plane to scour the water where Triad was abandoned -- roughly 252 miles northwest of Bermuda. Another firm, Weather Windows, was calculating the likely location using meteorological information.

"I left nothing to chance. I hope to have the vessel in sight by the end of the day." Mr. Cox said yesterday.

He said the boat, which he bought second-hand in 1992 and refitted was valued at $80,00 but to replace it would cost in the region of $300,000. The Newick "Creative" design trimaran was fully insured, he added.