ALICANTE, Spain (Reuters) - Chinese entry Sanya has suffered hull damage and been forced to return to port hours into the opening leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, organizers said on Sunday.
The yacht, the second of the six entrants to be undone by ferocious conditions in the Mediterranean, was some 30 nautical miles south-east of Motril off the Spanish coast and was being buffeted by winds of more than 43 knots and waves of around 10.5 meters when the damage occurred.
"So close to making it through the worst of the big breeze and then disaster struck," skipper Mike Sanderson said on the race website (www.volvooceanrace.com).
"Right now we have no idea how major the damage is, we can however see a puncture wound on the port side and streams of carbon peeling off so it isn't good."
Sanya's shore team were working on a plan to ensure the boat could rejoin the race as soon as possible, organizers said.
New Zealand entry Camper made the best start to the opening leg of the race on Saturday as the teams contesting the eight-month, 39,000-nautical-mile event set off from Alicante bound for Cape Town.
After completing an inshore course, the Abu Dhabi entry became the first casualty when their boat Azzam suffered a broken mast 30 nautical miles south of Cartagena and was forced back to port.
The Abu Dhabi shore team were also working to get the boat back into the race, organizers said.
Writing by Iain Rogers in Madrid; Editing by Clare Fallon