Anti-whalers fight to save stricken superboat
Thu, Jan 07, 2010

SYDNEY - Anti-whaling activists worked through the night to save the wrecked Ady Gil superboat, whose fate remained in the balance Thursday after a dramatic collision with a Japanese ship.

Crew scrambled to salvage fuel and electronic equipment from the high-tech vessel, one of the world's most celebrated craft, which had its front sliced off in Wednesday's clash.

The carbon-and-kevlar trimaran, which smashed the round-the-world record for a powerboat in 2008 under its former name, Earthrace, remained stranded off Antarctica's Commonwealth Bay and in danger of sinking.

"They basically stayed up for 36 hours alongside the Ady Gil retrieving as much as they could," said Locky Maclean, first mate of the Steve Irwin anti-whaling ship.

"The central hull is flooded. The nose of the vessel, the front four-and-a-half metres (15 feet) has sunk."

Maclean said the Bob Barker, another anti-whaling ship operated by the Sea Shepherd group, had tried and failed to tow the two million US dollar craft from the area.

"She can't tow it forward because there's no front of the boat, if they start towing it frontwards it'll just fill with water," he said. "They're trying to tow it backwards and it's proving very, very difficult and there's still water coming in.

"So at the moment they're getting all of the fuel, the batteries, the oil and all those types of things pumped out of the Ady Gil as quickly as possible to ensure that if they do have to abandon the vessel because it sinks there won't be anything inside to cause any pollution."

Video of the incident shows the Japanese security boat ploughing over the bow of the sleek, matt-black Ady Gil, as crew members scramble for safety. One of the six on board received broken ribs in the incident.

The activists hope a nearby French research vessel carrying a crane may be able to rescue the craft. They remained determined to pursue the Japanese fleet, which has already left the area.

"Initially the crews were shocked, thankfully everyone's OK on board the Ady Gil besides a few broken ribs," Maclean said.

"But at this point everyone's more determined than ever to continue chasing the fleet. The entire crew is extremely motivated now."

Steve Irwin captain Paul Watson shrugged off the loss of the vessel, bankrolled by Hollywood businessman Ady Gil, as the fall-out of the "war" on whaling.

"It handicaps us, it's a two million dollar hit on our organisation, but this is a war," Watson said.

"It's a war to save the whales and we're going to have to take our hits as we go along... As far as I'm concerned these whales are worth far more than our ships."

The wave-piercing vessel, capable of speeds up to 50 knots, powered round the world in just under 61 days in 2008, two weeks faster than the previous record circumnavigation by a powerboat.

French sailor Bruno Peyron and his crew in 2005 set the circumnavigation record for a windpowered vessel with a time of 50 days, 16 hours aboard the catamaran Orange II.


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