Race Future Uncertain After Disastrous Week

Published on April 28th, 2013

American Jeffrey MacFarlane grew up in western Michigan along the shores of Spring Lake, but had progressed far from those summers of Sunfish sailing. After launching his professional sailing career over a decade ago in Australia, he was either been racing, building, modifying, or preparing some of the elite high performance sailboats in the sport.

During the summer of 2011, Jeff raced Oakcliff Ker 11.3, double-handed, in a number of New England regattas. Throughout his first shorthanded sailing season, Jeff finished first in the double-handed divisions of the Marblehead to Halifax Race, the Ida Lewis Distance Race, and the Greenport Ocean Race. He finished second in the New England Solo Twin Championship and the Vineyard Race, and third in the Indian Harbor Stratford Shoal Race.

Already in 2012, Jeff has completed two transatlantic crossings. First, on the Open 60, Le Pengouin, and most recently aboard the Class 40, EDF Energies Nouvelles, while competing in the Transat Quebec St-Malo Race, finishing second in the Vintage Class. And now he was eager to take on the Mini Class.

The 4000 mile biannual Mini Transat race is the most extreme single handed race. It is the longest transatlantic race of its kind. The boats, while powerful and fast, are only 21 feet (6.5 meters) long, and sailors cannot use computer navigation or any outside assistance.

But if Jeff is to fulfill his goal of competing in the Mini Transat Race this October, he will need to overcome the events of the past week.

Jeff’s success in the Mini Class thus far had earned him the #1 ranking in the world. His latest endeavor was his required 1000nm qualification course, a trip he estimated would take eight days. On April 22, Jeff set out from Genoa, Italy, but on April 25, at 11:00 local time, almost half way through the course, disaster struck.

While sailing with heavily reefed sails in 35 knots of wind, in quick succession the deck structure, keel box and mast failed. Subsequently, the boat rolled twice, once laterally and then she cork-screwed. In this process the longitudinal structure that holds the keel box in place failed and crushed Jeff’s hand.

Jeff activated his EPIRB and tried to raise assistance from other vessels in the area to no avail. At approximately 7:30pm, a Spanish Coast Guard helicopter lifted Jeff off of the deck of his stricken Mini and transported him to the island of Menorca where a cast was put on his left hand, which has multiple broken bones.

By the morning of April 26, his boat was located approximately 15 miles from the island of Menorca and the Coast Guard towed it to shore where it will be hauled and a determination made as to if the boat is salvageable. This will be critical in deciding if Jeff will need to postpone his dream of being the first American in over 30 years to win the fabled Mini Transat race.

Full storyJeff’s website

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